Nepali Times
Super parliament

The national mood tends to swing from euphoria to hopelessness. We are swayed by media headlines that magnify the messy indecision of the seven party alliance government and chronic Maoist sabre-rattling.

The media can't seem to get enough of Maoist talking heads and gives their fiery rhetoric wide play. Much of it is posturing or meant for internal consumption, but the press is hardwired to cover only quarrels. Thus, it spreads the perception in the public that the peace process is always on the verge of collapse.

It isn't. After coming this far, the comrades aren't about to go back to the jungle. Why should they, their soft landing has after all gone much better than they expected. Their rejection of any suggestion of renuncing violence is no surprise because they worry about being chased out of villages when the fear of the gun is gone. A premature laying down of arms could prompt a hardline faction to splinter off. Hence their allergy to the word 'decommissioning'.

But the Grey Shirts know as well as anyone else that ultimately there can be no participation in an interim government and elections without effective demobilisation-call it 'arms management' or whatever you like.

Even so, the prevalent paranoia that the Maoists are ready to go back to war after the monsoon is misplaced. Those who think the Maoists have been handed concessions on a platter must bear in mind the alternative: a return to brutal conflict that was killing 40 plus Nepalis a week. Peace is about compromise, and offering the armed protagonists (however misguided they may be) an honourable exit to a parliamentary path.

The Godavari Summit this month saw an interim parliament as a compromise between those who want to keep the house and those who want to scrap it. This is a feasible path to an eight-party government to prepare for constituent assembly elections. There will be haggling over numbers, but the proposal to set up a 'super parliament' with 42 additional seats for the Maoists seems feasible.

The Maoists want civil society activists included in an expanded parliament, and a section of our self-proclaimed civil society has responded by giving the Maoists unquestioning support. How could activists who were so right about the king be so wrong about the Maoists, and so forgiving of their methods? In fact, it is only the NGOs (and not civil socialites) who are raising issues of transitional justice and human rights.

Civil society stalwarts did well to keep out of the interim government even when offered portfolios as a reward for their role in the April Uprising. They must also keep out of the provisional legislature. When civil society joins the executive, judiciary or legislative arms of the state, it is no longer civil society.

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)