Nepali Times
In a spider’s web


The present situation in Nepal is similar to an insect caught in a spider's web. Whatever it does to fly free, the insect gets more entangled in the sticky silk. The problem is that the ruling Nepali Congress has abandoned even the effort that a fly caught in a web exerts.

The government has shed its responsibility to resolve the country's problems, and has handed it all over to the security forces and the army. In fact, the activities of the prime minister and the cabinet seem to be confined to heaping indiscriminate taxes on the Nepali people and justifying it by saying they need to pay for security, using the emergency to muzzle the press, and restricting human rights.

Our country's problems are no longer confined to law and order. We now face an economic crisis of unprecedented proportions. In fact, it is the current recession and unemployment that may bring Nepal to its knees, not the security situation. Uncertainty, drift and anarchy threaten Nepal and Nepalis. Will the present wave of murder, mayhem, violence and insecurity persist? For how long? Will the blood and tears ever cease? When will we start to see the beginnings of a revival in business climate, in investment, in tourism? How can we get out of this trap? What will it take to set us free?

Many Nepalis are asking these questions, and they are at a loss to find answers. Like it or not, we are caught in a vicious cycle of violence. There is no point blaming it all on fate and shaking our heads, the time has come to band together to jointly find answers and work towards a solution. For this, the government must first abandon its selfish, venal and inhumane response to the sufferings of the Nepali people.

The political leadership must take the initiative to look for solutions to the present crisis-in fact that responsibility falls on the shoulders of the president of the ruling part and the prime minister. This is no longer about who becomes prime minister, and who gets to stay on the chair. It is about who is best capable of solving the problems we face. All political parties that believe in the Constitution must unite and work together.

Even though the Maoist threat did require the military to be mobilised to restore order, the situation did not warrant the declaration of a state of national emergency. The government could have taken the political parties into confidence and deployed the army and declared an emergency only in certain areas. Although the army has achieved some successes, the terrorist activities of the Maoist have not abated.

On political, economic and social fronts, the emergency has not yielded the desired results. In fact, the possibility is growing that the emergency may actually turn out to be counterproductive for the nation and the people. The biggest negative impact is on the economy-the emergency has virtually killed off the tourism industry. Domestic transport, especially the night bus services are severely limited, industries are closing down, people are losing jobs. And at a time like this, the government is using the excuse of falling revenues to raise the tax burden. It is not addressing its own profligacy, inefficiency and incompetence, but is instead squeezing people who are already squeezed enough. If things go on at this rate, the people's patience may soon snap.

There is therefore no alternative but for the government itself to lift the state of emergency. It must begin a dialogue with the opposition parties before the next parliament sitting to discuss ending the state of emergency. It is becoming obvious that the Maoist plan now is to prolong the conflict by sowing more violence. Since they cannot take on the army, the Maoists are now brutally murdering unarmed civilians and innocent citizens, keeping up the level of violence to force an extension of the emergency.

The Maoists have escalated these assassinations and murders of non-combatants in the past few weeks, and the question that must be asked is this: is the Nepal Communist Party (Maoist) turning from a political group with terrorist leanings into a terrorist group with some political leanings? The Maoists fashioned themselves after the Shining Path and used to say that they wanted to turn Nepal into Peru. Their wish may come true because their latest actions invite the fate of the Shining Path and its leader, Comrade Gonzalo. The Prachanda Path is now headed towards the same dead-end as the Shining Path. Don't Prachanda, Baburam, Kiran and Badal see this?

Maybe they are too busy trying to destroy what remains of the government's legitimacy and standing, drag the army into controversy, and engineer a split among the constitutional parties. A rift between the army, political parties and government, fomenting distrust between political parties and the monarchy, this is what they want. It is important for all political parties and individuals to be vigilant to counter this conspiracy to undermine our nationalism, democracy and constitution.

The international political mainstream is firm in its belief in multiparty democracy, an open society, a competitive political and economic system, freedom and human rights. Any political party that ignores these values is not true to the peoples' wishes. The Maoists are defying this world trend.

You cannot have a revolution by just lifting the jargon of "new socialism" from Mao Zedong's little red book. In fact, our Maoists have gone against the basic tenets of Maoism by carrying out activities that can only be called terrorist. Could it be that Prachanda and Baburam are powerless and are forced to say these things at gunpoint by their own comrades?

What should the government do? One decision it can take immediately is to reduce the size of its jumbo cabinet, and cut unnecessary expenditure. Every ministry must have only one minister, all hangers-on and advisers must be removed. All foreign travel at official expense must be curtailed, receptions, parties and other unnecessary expenses and perks restricted. If the government doesn't make cuts in its own bloated ranks, it has no right to pass the burden to the people. Other immediate steps that need to be taken:

A constitutional and legal framework must be set up to curb corruption.
Investment and business must be protected to spur economic growth.
Development work must be unleashed.
Socio-economic reform must be introduced.

To make these things happen, it is vital to garner national consensus. Prachanda, Baburam, Sher Bahdur and Girija Prasad have to change the way they do things. Time allows everyone an opportunity to reform, but time doesn't wait. The prime minister, the Nepali Congress president and the Maoist leadership should know this. But do they? It is already getting late to cut ourselves free of this spider's web.

Raghuji Pant is a former journalist and a CPN-UML MP from Lalitpur District.

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)