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From The Nepali Press
Maoists must lead, Kantipur


Kantipur: Is the party dispute settled?
Barsaman Pun
: Most of the differences have been resolved. The ideological
debate is ongoing.

Why are parties mired in internal disputes when there are other national priorities?
There is debate within each party about whether or not to move ahead in a new direction. There is still debate within the NC regarding federalism, secularism and republicanism. There is similar debate inside the UML as well. Even within the Maoists there is a debate on whether to continue with the line of revolt or to institutionalise the achievements we have made so far.

What about the differences between the parties?
The major difference concerning the integration of combatants has nearly been resolved. Everybody has agreed on forming a separate force under the Nepal Army. There is a near consensus on at least 8,000 combatants to be integrated. The parties have also agreed on norms depending on education, marital status and age of the candidate. But the parties are yet to agree on the total number of this mixed force, its duty and the number of personnel to be brought in from other state forces.

What about the issue of rank harmonisation? When will that be resolved?
It's a technical issue and will be resolved after mutual negotiation, probably within a week. By 27 August, those to be integrated, rehabilitated and those seeking voluntary retirement will be grouped separately.

Your chairman has said a consensus government must be formed immediately, will this lead to stability?
Put it this way: in spite of peace process moving ahead, this government has to make way for consensus government after 12 August. It may be led by Khanal, NC or us, but it will be a new government.

Who will lead the consensus government?
We have proposed our vice chairman Baburam Bhattarai as the consensus candidate as per the party's decision.

But NC president has proposed your party chairman as a consensus candidate.
I thank NC President for the proposal, but it is our party's internal decision as to who should lead the party in the government and we have already made our choice.


Kantipur: What has delayed the peace process and constitution drafting process?
Gagan Thapa:
Every party has to bear the share of blame. Internal dispute within the Maoists and CPN-UML as well as failure of NC to ensure implementation of 5-point deal are largely responsible. But the prime minister's political dishonesty is also to blame for the protracted stalemate.

Don't you think the NC is too engaged in power sharing as opposed to peace and constitution?
We should have agreed upon a national consensus in a package. Lack of clarity has wasted two months of the extended CA period. Peace and constitution can only be achieved through national consensus.

How can you have a consensus government when there is difference among the parties about who leads the consensus government?
We have made it clear that the PM has to resign and the NC can't accept Maoist leadership until they take concrete steps towards the peace process. The NC has to take the initiative and convince the other parties and win their trust. The Maoists are free to take initiative so long as they are able to take the NC into confidence by fulfilling the conditions we demand. Unless one of the above happens, this deadlock will not
be resolved.

The NC's role after 28 April has not been constructive. Is the leadership at fault?
I don't think the NC has done anything wrong because it has mostly been a mute spectator to internal disputes within the Maoists and the UML. But failure to play a constructive role itself amounts to a mistake. All we did was complain. And this is not just an individual's failure. This is a collective failure of the party leadership. The party must take initiative to rid the nation of Maoist paranoia and UML's dubious role of cashing in on nation's divided politics. We cannot shy away from our responsibility fearing internal rifts over power.

What will happen after 31 August?
As long as the present coalition continues with NC's role limited to the opposition, the stalemate will prolong. There has been no official debate on what happens after 31 August. So instead of worrying about it, the NC must be clear about the direction in which the nation is headed at this moment.

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)