Nepali Times


19 MARCH 2006 | 4.25 PM NST

After being stalled, an agreement between the seven-party alliance and the Maoists has been rescued, and tyhe Maoists have called off their blockade of the country\'s towns from Monday. The two sides issued separate statements Sunday saying their December pact is on track and pledging "continued negotiations and search for common ground".

The seven parties after a meeting of their leaders in Kathmandu issued a statement saying the two sides would build on their pact and work towards reinstatement of parliament that would set up an all-party government to talk with the Maoists and work towards constituent assembly elections so that sovereignty is restored to the people. Soon after, Maoist leader Prachanda emailed a similar statement to media saying his party would like a political conference of all democratic forces to set up an interim government to organize constituent assembly polls.

The parties have also agreed to push ahead with their plans to have a nationwide general strike 6-9 April and a massive rally in Kathmandu on 8 April as part of a reinvigourated "people\'s movement" to forfce the king to restore democracy.

The government has already harshly criticized the party-Maoist talks warning it would announce curfews to foil any anti-government rallies because of the fear of Maoist infiltration. Sunday's agreement was expected on Friday, but it hit complications when the NC-D's Sher Bahadur Deuba refused to back the pact and there was opposition from the parties to a joint statement with the Maoists which the rebels wanted. It took a day of intense behind-the-scenes talks to rescue the talks.

Analysts say the agreement to stay on course means the Maoists want the legitimacy that a joint "people\'s movement" with the parties wouild give their struggle. Meanwhile, the parties have been under pressure from their own cadre who accuse the Maoists of continued violence and from sections of the international community who are opposed to parties agreeing to Maoist demands without the rebels first renouncing violence.

17 MARCH 2006 | 6 PM NST

The party-Maoist pact which was expected to be signed on Friday has hit a roadblock after both sides back down at the last moment.

After a day of hectic back-and-forth with negotiators in New Delhi, the meeting of the seven party alliance in Kathmandu was put off for two days pending further talks with the rebels. The door has been left open but it looks like the deal is off for now.

In the end, the gulf between the parties and the Maoists was just too wide. The parties felt the Maoists were asking for too much by pressing for a common anti-king front and a joint statement. The Maoists for their part felt the parties were getting cold feet and were not responding to what they considered major concessions of withdrawing the blockade and strike call.

The parties were under tremendous pressure from India and the US not to sign a joint communiqu?. In addition, the speech by Chinese State Councillor Tang Jiaxuan in Kathmandu on Friday in which Beijing took the unprecedented step of calling for "unity between constitutional forces" probably made the parties hesitate. The US, India and China now have a common public stand that the king and the parties should patch up their differences to restore democracy ands stability in Nepal.

Tang also had a separate meeting the NC's Girija Koirala on Friday. Meanwhile Home Minister Kamal Thapa made a strong statement warning parties not to join hands with the Maoists otherwise they would be treated like criminals.

Sources say there were rifts within the seven parties as well with the UML willing to give in more than the two NCs.

When King Gyanendra flew back from Pokhara on Thursday for the weekly cabinet meeting and an audience with a visiting Chinese official he must have looked down and seen the deserted Prithbi Highway. The Maoist blockade has brought the kingdom to a complete standstill while the parties and Maoists patch up their differences in New Delhi.

After some initial confusion, the seven party alliance and the Maoists have come to a deal. It just needs the stamp of approval from a meeting of party leaders on Friday after which the Maoists are expected to lift their blockade and retract the indefinite shutdown planned from 3 April. In return, the parties promise to intensify this month a 'people's movement' for a constituent assembly.

The central committees of the seven parties were meeting late into Thursday to discuss this formula but even the most sceptical of the lot (the Deuba Congress and the NWPP) were said to be onboard. The 12-point agreement has been boiled down to seven and will be signed on Friday in Kathmandu. But some party seniors are worried the pact is fraught with dangers. "We are riding two horses-one is the king and the other is the Maoists," confided one, "and they are galloping in opposite directions."

In secret talks in New Delhi, mistrust between the parties and rebels was ironed out and the parties appear to have convinced the comrades that the compromise formula is the only path to the mainstream.

In the midst of negotiations, Prachanda had to douse home fires and expel two central committee members after an unsuual public display of disunity. That immediate crisis seems to be over but Home Minister Kamal Thapa's offer on Tuesday of amnesty and rewards to defectors may be counterproductive if it would hardens the beleaguered rebels.

Meanwhile, King Gyanendra's strategy seems to be to ride it out till the monsoon washes away the people's enthusiasm for a movement. And he is also trying to chip away at New Delhi's opposition by lobbying with Indian kinglets, the Hindu right and some of his grandfather\'s old buddies. Also meaningful is the presence in Kathmandu this week of former Indian ambassador K V Rajan who is said to be lobbying for the palace in New Delhi.

However, these efforts may be cancelled out by Chinese State Councillor Tang Jianxuan on Friday, who is expected to convey Beijing's message that it is worried about instability in Nepal if the king keeps to his roadmap.

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)