Nepali Times Asian Paints
Back on warpath


The leaders of the political parties called Prachanda's withdrawal from the peace process this week a "sudden and hasty" decision. They shouldn't have been so surprised.

After all, they took the Maoist war too lightly while in power. When they did get serious, brutal crackdowns were unleashed in the midwest that only fanned the flames. Even today, as they prepare to take to the streets again the parties don't have a viable proposal to end the conflict. They are behaving as if nothing has changed, and will go back to doing whatever they were doing pre-October Fourth if they are reinstated.

For the past seven months, the government-Maoist negotiators were just trying to break the ice. Until Hapure two weeks ago, there had been no discussions on the Maoists' political demands. The government's agenda was little different from what Sher Bahadur Deuba offered in the ill-fated 2001 talks.

The belligerent ultimatum by Baburam Bhattarai and the tough talk of government negotiators Kamal Thapa and Prakash Chandra Lohani this week were indications that never were the twain going to meet. In the countryside, the ceasefire had become a formality, with daily ambushes. The attack on Deuba's convoy was the last straw. It was just a question of who was going to declare the ceasefire over first, and the Maoist beat the government to it.

The ultimate solution to this crisis, one that would take the wind out of the Maoist sails, is to find a political mechanism to bring the people into the mainstream and give them a say. The government in its agenda belatedly addressed some of the issues of political exclusion. But the proposal that would satisfy the Maoists while giving the people full say-a constituent assembly-was unacceptable to the government. In the long run, freely and fairly electing leaders to frame a new constitution may be the only compromise that will work.

The end of the ceasefire, Thursday's attacks on army officers in Kathmandu and the terrorist tag on Maoists have sidelined the political parties' agitation. The poor response from the public to their anti-king campaign should be a wake-up call, and they should reassess their strategy and timing.

It has been nearly one year since King Gyanendra took over. He tried one thing after another, nothing has worked. He and the country can't afford another mistake. Time to prove he means it when he affirms his belief in the constitutional monarchy and parliamentary democracy. Whoever holds power takes responsibility, there is no point blaming anyone else.

It is clear who is going to be the fall guy this time: the Surya Bahadur Thapa government. Just as three months ago it was Lokendra Bahadur Chand and his negotiator, Narayan Singh Pun.

The ceasefire gave the king legitmacy, and without, it he may be weighing his least-costly option, one of which may be to put Deuba back in the saddle.

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)