The budget has come and gone, as has the much hyped but ultimately disappointing (for all sides) Maoist plenum. With a flurry of international (and completely pointless) junkets under their ever-stretching belts, our politicians are delaying getting down to brass tacks. As the High Level Taskforce continues to sift through the bones of constitutional contention (with mixed results), we may say at least something is getting done, even though the biggest battles will be over federal restructuring. But a more pressing headline now looms â€" the departure of UNMIN come 15 January, 2011.
Integration of the Maoist ex-combatants has been the sticking point ever since the peace process began, and is the root of mistrust among the political parties. All manner of numbers have been bandied about, but the reluctance of the Maoists to commit to a figure has stymied progress. The PLA's participation at the Gorkha plenum has all but convinced the mainstreamers that integration is the do-or-die issue.
But criticism from the PLA itself for the party's inability to decide on integration and rehabilitation, amid suspicions that it is being used for political gain by the Maoist leadership, should hearten those who lamented their presence at the plenum. This, along with the appointment of retired general Balanand Sharma as head of the Special Committee Secretariat, provides just the sort of momentum we need to resolve the major issues of integration, and could pave the way for a smooth transition once UNMIN leaves.
If we fail to even decide on numbers and transfer the chain of command to the Special Committee by 15 January, then the departure of UNMIN could lead to chaos. It will encourage the resurgence of hardline factions within the Maoists and the other parties, who will either continue to make unfeasible demands of the integration process, or dispense with the principle of integration altogether.
Madhav Kumar Nepal is the head of the Special Committee. It is incumbent upon him to step up to the plate and step it up. If he wants to have anything of a legacy at all, then successful integration will prove he has more cojones than what he has demonstrated so far as a lame duck prime minister.