The state of emergency imposed on 1 February will expire in the next few days. Without a parliament, it will need constitutional contortions to extend it by another three-months. But why bother? After all, it was a stick where a carrot would have sufficed.
We think this emergency has outlived its usefulness, been counterproductive to state security and should be lifted as a genuine gesture to steer this country towards national reconciliation and to break our current international isolation.
Few would dispute that the country is in deep crisis, and drastic action is needed to set things right. Despite serious concern about human rights violations by the security forces, no one should have any illusions anymore that it is the Maoists who as a matter of policy use terror as a tactic of war. They resort to extreme brutality to spread fear, bomb schools, destroy temples and have no qualms in treating children as cannon fodder.
The people who have suffered the most at the hands of the Maoists in the past 10 years have been ordinary Nepalis, grassroots political cadre and social activists-yet it is these very people who are affected by the curtailment of civil liberties post-1/2. Why are we punishing people who are on our side?
The raison d'etre for February First, as laid out in the royal proclamation, was that the political process had gone astray and it was undermining the counterinsurgency campaign. Fair enough. But although a state of emergency was declared in a separate notice, there was nothing in the royal proclamation that said anything about such a harsh crackdown on the press and politicians.
It is our concern that the state of emergency has deeply polarised Nepalis. The middle ground has been removed. The Maoists seemed to be headed towards ultimate self-destruction anyway, now they have new reason to rally against the monarchy and focus their fight. Intimidation of media has tarnished the credibility of the very institution the state needs to put its views to the people. Wild rumours and panic have replaced facts, and this only benefits those who rule by terror. The role of the bureaucracy and constitutional organs have been emasculated by newly-formed authorities with overlapping functions, and the rule of law has taken a hard knock.
Prolonging the emergency will just bolster the argument of those who believe that it was not really designed to curb Maoism, but to put out pluralism.