|A LONG MARCHPAST: It was drill as usual at the Chulachuli cantonment site two Fridays ago, but the fighters, promised positions in the Nepal Army by their leaders, face an uncertain future.|
The verification of Maoist combatants, stalled for close to three weeks, is likely to resume in a few days. But the underlying problems in verification, namely the future of the people in the camps, will not go away. Neither will the bigger concerns over reform of Nepal's security sector.
The Maoists, who say they see signs of a 'disarmament, demobilisation, and reintegration' (DDR) in UNMIN's verification process, want discussions to start right away on a broader and more equitable model, as they see it, of reform and restructuring of the security sector. The Maoist leadership is concerned it will have less bargaining power in the SSR process if the verification reduces the size of the PLA substantially. Military rank and size will factor in significantly in any restructuring of the security forces.
After yesterday's Joint Monitoring Coordination Committee meeting, Maoist member Nanda Kishore Pun said his party's "disagreement" with UNMIN would be discussed in greater detail at talks between the CPN-M and UNMIN top brass, and after extensive consultation with PLA commanders in the cantonments.
The pressure has also been mounting on the Maoist leadership from their fighters. The combatants have been living in poor and restricted camp conditions through last winter and now the monsoon, and are getting restive. The strict questioning in the verification process is not helping. "Most of our company commanders have been disqualified, and those found qualified have been categorised as recruits.
They feel humiliated and degraded," says an irked senior commander. Pun downplays the tensions within the party but admits there is a lot of "positive pressure" from the camps.
Sources in the Nepal Army and some of the parties say they are not buying the SSR model for dealing with the former PLA. A Nepali Congress leader said his party flat out rejects any suggestion of an integration of the two armies. "The Maoists have been staking claims to senior titles in the Nepal Army for their military commanders," says a former NA major familiar with the SSR discussion, adding "That will be very hard to sell."
The Comprehensive Peace Agreement states that the interim government must constitute a committee to deal with the fighters in the camps. Top Maoist commanders met Minister for Peace and Reconstruction on Thursday morning to ask that the already-constituted Maoist Combatant Integration and Rehabilitation Special Committee be activated.
But there are concerns that this committee too, like the other five headed by Minister Poudel-who is also second in government, his party's general secretary, and head of the government negotiating team-will be slow to act. Critics say Poudel is overstretched, and point to the madhesi and janajati negotiations, which have been stalled for close to six weeks. "Verification may resume, but the sticking points will remain," says an army-watcher.