Lt Colonel Narayan Singh Pun left the Royal Nepalese Army to float his own chopper company, Karnali Airways. The Nepali Congress MP and Minister later began his own political outfit, the Nepal Samata Party. As Minister for Physical Works and Planning in the Chand government, Pun came into the limelight for his role in bringing the rebels to the negotiating table. Excerpts of an interview:
When will peace negotiations start with the Maoists?
The process of dialogue will start from Thursday. A lot of homework has already been done in this regard. His Majesty's Government has assigned the role of convenor of the negotiation committee to me. This committee will be expanded according to circumstances.
What preparations have been made so far?
We have completed the tasks under the first phase. The government and Maoists have agreed to hold negotiations. Now the government will take the initiative to mobilise the political parties, civil society and intellectuals, and unify the whole country in favour of talks. We have already initiated processes in that direction.
When will the talks actually start?
Talks will actually be held under the third phase. The government, political parties and representatives from civil society will take part. It is something like the roundtable conference proposed by the Maoists. The conference will try to find solutions to all problems.
Is the government ready to release Maoist detainees?
There are no problems that can't be resolved if we have an understanding. We are ready to release the detainees and it's not a big deal.
How confident are you regarding the outcome?
It doesn't matter whether I am personally convinced about a positive outcome or not. The talks are compulsory for all Nepalis in the current situation. There is no alternative. We are ready to pay any price but will not allow the peace talks to fail.
Is the government prepared for a constituent assembly?
We will take that decision only after consulting all the political parties. But we [the government and Maoists] have already agreed on a number of theoretical issues.