Maoist Chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal announced his much-awaited package on moving the peace process forward at a press conference on Thursday, but it may be too little too late. If it was announced till even last week, there would still have been a chance of a consensus government. The NC and UML had demanded concrete progress on integrating the Maoist fighters into the national army before agreeing to joining the Maoists in a coalition.
Dahal finally came out in public with a one-and-half month work schedule to complete integration and rehabilitation of its combatants and a condition of extending the CA by six months. He also proposed that 8,000 of the ex-guerrillas be integrated and agreed to a directorate under the leadership of the Nepal Army. He would be open to negotiation on the rehabilitation package of Rs 700,000-1 million. "Through this proposal we have shown maximum flexibility in order to save the peace process and request the other parties to show same gesture by trusting our leadership," Dahal said, adding ominously, "if not, we will not be responsible for what happens."
An NC central committee member told Nepali Times Thursday: "The proposal is too little too late for a consensus government, but if one of the candidates agrees to back out we can still work together." He and other politicians agreed that it would not help to keep the Maoists and Madhesis out of government.
The interim legislature has fixed the date for first round of election for prime minister on Sunday, just before the CA's term expires at midnight on Wednesday, 31 August. It is most likely that the UML will back the NC with a faction of Madhesi parties supporting them, and a NC-led majority government.
If the Maoists or NC remain in the opposition, it will not help the peace process. But for this either the Maoists' Baburam Bhattarai or the NC's Ram Chandra Poudel has to step down before Sunday, or agree on a rotation formula. So far, both the leaders are confident they have the numbers.
If only the big leaders think about what their voters want and not what they want, they will see that lasting peace is not just desirable, but actually possible.
Promises to keep, EDITORIAL