Saturday, September 30, 2006
The piece below is being re-posted with the author's consent. The content presents a review of the publication "Constitutional Development and the Constitution of the Kingdom of Nepal 1990," by Senior Advocate Mukunda Regmi. This reviewed work was re-published by Mrs. Sita Regmi on the 9th of November, 2004. This review being highlighted here because it holds immense relevance to the debates that should be occurring, as the nation moves toward constituent assembly elections and onward.
Senior advocate Mukunda Regmi was one of the members of the 1990 Constitution drafting committee from the Nepali Congress quota. Other members came from the Palace and the Left quota (including today's Maoists in the persona of the late Nirmal Lama). Regmi has taken eight years to collect all the necessary documents as well as archival tapes and transcripts to produce this massive two-volume work which will stand as the seminal reference long into the future not only for scholars but also politicians and others debating Nepal's governance.
The first volume begins with the rarely available 1948 "constitutional arrangement" promulgated by Rana prime minister Padma Shumshere as well as discussions and statements related to it. It is followed by an account of the events and declarations related to collapse of Rana rule and the promulgation of the interim constitution of 1951. What is interesting in this account is how the author traces the origins of the "constituent assembly" concept that bedevils the debate in Nepal today to Nehru's proposal and not to that of King Tribhuban, the Rana prime minister or the Nepali Congress.
Much of both the volumes then consist of the account of the sixty meetings held by the 1990 Constitution drafting commission. These have been transcribed from the tapes preserved at the National Archives and can be verified by anyone so interested. They are supplemented with the author's commentary essays on the matters raised in the commission meetings as well as some discussion of the previous constitutions. Since many of the other members of the commission as well as the interim cabinet of Krishna Prasad Bhattarai that ultimately finalized the draft are still alive and active in public affairs, Regmi's opinions can hopefully be challenged by these eminences if they have digressed from the truth.
The second volume also contains the 1958 and 1962 constitutions; but the commentaries associated with them, except for bringing to public domain the otherwise unavailable comments of Sir Ivor Jennings, disappoint on several counts. If 1990 was a "restoration" of the multiparty democracy of 1958, there is little explanation of its positive and functional features that needed retaining in the 1990 version. Also, if the aim of the new constitution in 1990 was to do away with the 1962 Panchayat system, it was essential that some of the positive features of the Panchayat that lasted all of three decades should have been better analysed and retained with improvements. Especially inexplicable is why the decentralized village and district units of governance of the Panchayat constitution were done away with in 1990 and not replaced by anything legitimizing local self-governance.
These two volumes are exceptionally valuable for the documented response from political parties, civil society groups as well as the Royal Nepal Army to the request from the commission for suggestions regarding the future constitution. They contain views and arguments on many issues still debated today, from the word 'Hindu' (which Regmi says refers to the king but not the nation which is de facto secular) to the question of provisions for a referendum (which those who today clamour for a new constitution seemed to be then against). Regmi mentions that the tapes containing the commission's discussions regarding the army (its 44 th session) are currently missing from the archives; but he has provided invaluable service to future scholars by bringing the transcripts that were made then into the public domain.
Valuable documentation is available on the two controversial "palace drafts" of the constitution that were at variance with what the commission produced, including the critical article in the official Gorkhapatra that made it public. What exactly transpired between the Palace and the interim Bhattarai government will probably known as more of the actors involved in the high drama bring forth their memoirs; but Regmi has clearly outlined the differences in the final constitution and the commission's draft. While it is wholly understandable that the Palace would do everything it could to maximize its prerogatives, what is inexplicable are some of the changes introduced by the interim Congress-Left cabinet that so militate against a decent democracy.
For instance, the commission's draft had a provision (Article 120(2)) that required political parties to submit annual audited accounts to the Election Commission: it was removed in the promulgated version's Article 113. The draft also envisaged an upper house that would not only have a significant voice in framing legislation, but also required that it have quotas reserved for three women, three dalits and nine marginalized janjatis not represented in the lower house. In the final constitution, the powers of the upper house were massively curtailed and only the quota for three women was retained.
Similarly, given the massive controversy surrounding Article 126 of the constitution and the subsequent Tanakpur/Mahakali treaty, it is a surprise to learn that the original draft was more stringent: it required all such resource sharing treaties be ratified by a two-third majority. The promulgated version eases matters, allowing any government to do so with a simple majority if matters were not of "a serious, grave or long-term nature". Sadly, in the twelve years that the parties concerned were in parliament, no attempt was made to define this provision, thus leaving water resources development cooperation with the lower riparian in a limbo.
Regmi is strongest in the last chapter where he argues against a constituent assembly. First, everywhere in the world constitutions were made, not by representatives elected to draft them but by representatives elected to legislatures as happened in India under its 1935 Act. Second, the Nepali people have already given approval to this constitution by participating in three general elections under it, thus requiring no further popular endorsement. Finally, in all these three elections, no political party ever went to the people requesting a mandate to amend this constitution or any of its provisions.
One only wishes Nepal's political movers and shakers would listen to these arguments so that the rest of her citizens could move on with the country's development.
Thursday, September 28, 2006
The current chorus of "Management of arms and armies, and mainstreaming Maoists" falls silent each time someone asks 'how'. Amidst the confusion of charges and counter charges of delaying the peace process, Maoists seem to be inching towards checkmating the government endangering all the accomplishments achieved so far.
It is naïve to think that Maoists will just surrender their arms to SPA government and join the democratic political process and will not ask anything in return. Similarly, SPA will not dismantle Nepal army and let the Maoists army take over the country.
An idea suggesting keeping both armies in cantonments with UN's involvement until constituent assembly elections is being resuscitated by members of civil society through a petition addressed to members of political parties including CPN (Maoists).
This certainly is a step forward. But the current problem of armies and arms management will resurface with same intensity once the constituent assembly elections are concluded. One of the most important factors is that security situation is likely to deteriorate the management of two armies is not addressed on time. After the formation of the constituent assembly, the sticky question concerning two armies and their arms is likely to remain same.
Few important things need to be factored in while looking for ways to move ahead. These are deteriorating security situation, inability of the government and Maoists in providing basic services to the people, firm Maoists' grip on and government's absence from the rural areas, and Maoists demands and eagerness to govern
There are virtually two parallel governments in the country; one is mostly confined in urban areas and another in the rural areas. Even cabinet ministers seem have accepted it. Deputy Prime Minister Oli, referring to Rukmangad Katuwal's appointment as Nepal Army chief, asked Maoists not to interfere with the government's decision because the government does not interfere with Maoists' decision to appoint their regional commanders.
In the light of above situation, I would like to propose the following which not only incorporates the idea of confinement of both armies in cantonments but also institutes a temporary functioning government throughout the country until a new government through constituent assembly comes into existence.
Promulgate an interim constitution to:
1. Divide the country into few administrative and political regions (not according Maoists plan) with a separate region for Kathmandu valley (Capital region)
2. Form governments both at central and regional levels including members of SPA and CPN (Maoist). But the central government will also be in charge of capital region.
3. Keep Nepal Army under defense Ministry (central level) to be headed by the defense minister from SPA
4. Keep Maoists army under a special ministry (central level) to be headed by a minister from CPN (Maoist).
5. Put the day to day security of the capital (Kathmandu) region under the central home ministry headed by SPA
6. Put the day to day security in all the regions except for the capital region under regional home ministries to be headed by home minister from CPN (Maoists).
7. Confine both armies in barracks. The central government will pay for both armies (this is already being discussed)
8. Form a new police force at regional levels. Though the regional/local governments will consist of both SPA and Maoists, security will be headed by home minister from Maoists.
9. Conduct constituent assembly election once regional governments formed by Maoists and SPA recommend for it after becoming confident that an appropriate environment has been created.
The purpose of the above suggestions is to start integrating of two sides while maintaining their separate identity until a trust between the two begins develops.
These arrangements will initiate the integration process at least at the psychological level. It will allow the Maoists to be the part of the central government. It will also allow SPA to be a part of the local governments and reconnect with people at grassroots levels.
Also, it will test if the SPA is sincere in mainstreaming Maoists, and if the Maoist are sincere and committed to democracy. The length of this arrangement could be easily extended if needed for various reasons.
Most of all, it will allow to immediately jump start the development work and delivery of services to the people.
However, it requires rigorous analysis and bold political decisions. No decision is risk free, but the risk can be minimized with careful analyses, weighing pros and cons, refinements and fine-tuning.
Wednesday, September 27, 2006
1. In order to become the dominant political and military force in the country, it is in the interest of the Maoists to weaken the army. So during the summit meeting, their drive to force the government to further weaken the army will probably become more apparent. For example, they will press for actions such as budgetary cuts and holding back logistics, reduction in size, and measured chaos in the name of restructuring.
2. It would be in the interest of the Maoists to cultivate naivety and gullibility, and thereby to promote complacency on the part of the parties and the public, for at least a year or two. It is expected that they will present their “soft policy” while maintaining, if not consolidating, their armed power. For this purpose, general policies that stand a chance of winning popularity will be presented with the appropriate rhetoric.
3. The Maoists are now fast consolidating their hold in areas (mostly urban and semi-urban). These were areas that they had intended to seize but were denied access by the security forces prior to April, 2006. It would be in their interest to maintain their present position of strength. During the upcoming meeting, diversionary issues can be expected to be discussed in order to ignore, or at least minimize, their consolidation efforts.
4. As the Maoists have already made claims to the finance of local government bodies, it is expected that they will justify such claims and activities, as well as make a bid to control and expand (or at least to share) other financial / budgetary powers of the government at all levels.
5. The Maoists will try to remove the institution of monarchy altogether by making other parties adopt the same line, while giving lip service to the "decision of the people through a Constituent Assembly" so that there will not remain any possibility to hinder the total dominance of the Maoist power and their ideology.
6. To maintain their ethnic base intact, the issue of ethnic autonomy and federal re-structuring will be made a consensus issue during the meeting.
7. With a view to maintaining complacency amongst international forces, and to buy time, the rhetoric of democracy will be given wide coverage during the meeting. 8. The ruling parties will be subjected to censure for their inability to provide good governance, so as to cast the Maoists in a better light, just as they have been doing during their formal and informal meetings now and before. In another words, the opportunity for propaganda will not be missed during this talk.
All along, it was hoped that the NA -- being able to provide protection – would facilitate the mobilization of able back-benchers. There is no other way to make progress in a corrupt and inefficient system. This has been the problem all along.
What went on when Deuba was renamed PM for the third time was revealing, as Koirala pulled out all the stops to keep him out of power. This was more important than moving towards civilian rule. Earlier, when the US government had a number of subject matter experts sent to KTM to meet with the National Security Council, Deuba was so wrapped up in his fight with Koirala that he was not present for even 10 minutes in an evening's session -- and was certainly not focused during that 10 minutes. Afterwards, it was confirmed that even the contents of this meeting were leaked to the left wing Nepali language media, making even a bigger mockery out of this non-event.
Faced with such a situation, one either mobilizes those who are willing to fight for their country, or one simply pulls the plug. For the correlation of forces is headed for a split straight down the left/right divide, with the middle getting completely pulverized.
In Ilam, for instance, where the Home Minister visited, the Maoists had set up three fortified camps. Yet the Home Minister (because he is also the Chief Negotiator) tells the Maoists to carry on and the NA unit in the area to sit tight – risking the lives of government forces while seemingly not risking the illusion of a two-way peace process. The only traffic that can be seen is one way – take, take, and take some more for the Maoists, and pretend, pray, beg from the government. If things go awry, such fortified positions will be unassailable, and the example has been repeated all over the country.
Indeed, the situation is, if anything, worse in Kathmandu, with the Maoists having thoroughly infiltrated forces into the city. "Little people" know this full well, and they send emails to talk of the strange faces, the strange accents, the strange behavior. And what are these infiltrators doing? They are enabling the "protests." In particular, they are preparing for THE protest which seems scheduled for after the holidays. It will follow any result of the summit THAT DOES NOT GO THE WAY THE MAOISTS WANT. In the event, and under even the best of circumstances, the security forces will be hard-pressed, because they have not been allowed to resupply and reequip, even as the Maoists have done both.
There is no longer merely a situation of "well, if things go wrong, we'll be able to pull the bacon out of the frying pan." The Maoists have positioned themselves in such manner that all major transportation arteries will be cut, and within the Valley, government forces will be lucky if they can even move.
Furthermore, a systematic effort has been made to ensure police neutrality or even their support for left wing SPA members. The rapidity with which the police have cut their deals with the new power structure has been depressing and has been accompanied by unfortunate instances of corrupt behavior (Sitaula's #2 in the Home Ministry has been using the police for his personal concerns, such as endeavoring to collect on past loans and such).
The message for the security forces is clear enough: be straight, be transparent, but prepare for the worst. The Maoists are definitely going to undertake street action. It is what their "student" goons have been preparing from the moment the ceasefire went into effect – and this it seems will be the outcome of the “summit talks” unless a total Maoist victory is declared.
At this, the beast of burden will be barking squarely at India. Since Nepal is strategically insignificant to the Americans, they will probably close up shop, pack their bags, and wish the SPA the best of luck as they walk out the door. A non-strategic country with a rabidly anti-American government is not a place that should benefit from US aid or American presence.
The most logical outcome of the upcoming talks will be a continuation of the current trend – the Maoists will take what they want and give what they want. Based on Baburam’s quotes from the Kathmandu Post article juxtaposed against Suman Pradhan’s coverage of Prachanda’s drama, it would appear that the Maoists are poised to enter an interim government arrangement, with arms.
In return, there will probably be some mention of a future concession from the Maoists. For example, they may indicate cantonment or arms management prior to constituent assembly elections. But based on their past performance, the “time value of money” logic holds much significance – any give from the Maoists in the future will hold much less value than anything they give up today. Symbolically or otherwise.
The Maoists have radicalized their cadre to such an extent that for the leadership there is no turning back. There are those apologists who claim there is insufficient analysis of anti-Maoist rhetoric. These are the same people who would make excuses for the Maoist leaders to excuse their past and ensure their place in government, with the hopes of compensation at a later date.
Such people did the same with Girja was playing merry-go-round with Bhattarai in the past and they did the same when the king was playing divide and conquer. But just as there is no sympathy for the king’s failures, the Maoist leaders and the SPA leaders are also prone to similar treatment – if the Prachanda and Baburam claim they have to behave a certain way to placate their cadre, they are fooling only their apologists while trying to excuse themselves. No more double standards after the summit talks. If these idiots cannot deliver, then it would be best to move on and talk to the Maoists who can.
The NC is waiting for the Royalists to join hands. The UML is waiting for the Maoists to join hands. The NC (D) is waiting for Girija to take leave. The RJP is waiting for the NC to move. What do you think will happen? That the sun will rise from the west and the terror will stop once the there are Maoist representatives in the government?
I expect the Maoists to get their way at the ucoming summit talks. TheMaoists will continue to carry weapons until such time as UN monitors arriveand they will carry on with their terror though they will promise to rein intheir militia and thugs, The outcome will be a sugar-coated declaration forpublic consumption and they will also say more summits will be required eventhough Prime Minister Girija Prasd Koirala and Prachandawill give directionsregarding the ceasefire agreement. They will also agree to leave thequestion of monarchy to the Constituent Assembly elections. And they willhail it as a big breakthrough on the eve of Dashain.
As far as Nepal is concerned, I confess that I really don't know what the SPA & Maoist joint meeting is going to decide. There is certain numbness inside me after all the grief that they have put the nation through.
I can only think that:
(i) They can decide anything, because there is no regard for the Constitution of Nepal, for established institutions of this country, for sacrosanct norms wedded to nationalism, and get away with it, at least for the time being;
(ii) There could be a sell out by the SPA to the Maoists, or
(iii) There will be enough disagreements for the Maoists to be justified in launching the third People's Movement,
Whatever the decisions, there will probably be nine days of national "holidays" immediately after that. Enough time to cook up many more opportunities for more "holidays."
I am not going to be bothered. I am too tired. I feel ashamed to have to write like this at such a festive occasion, thanks to ……………………..!
HAPPY VIJAYA 2063!
Finally, the House of Representative (HoR) has overstepped its boundaries so much that it has stepped directly on the toes of the Judiciary. The Constitution explicitly prohibits discussions and review of Supreme Court (SC) decisions. This provision is being systematically desecrated.
Further proposals from the HOR include: SC activities to be under the scrutiny of the Commission for Investigation of Abuse of Authority (CIAA). It is proposed that there will be a Constitutional Court to deal with all matters related to Constituent Assembly, and the SC will be barred from reviewing the Constitutional Court’s decisions.
The Chief Justice (CJ), unlike before, doesn't have to be a permanent SC judge for five years. It has been proposed that any SC judge will be eligible for the top spot.
On the decimation of judicial independence
The Judicial Council previously consisted of the Chief Justice, two senior judges (according to seniority), the Law Minister and a nominee by the king. The newly proposed council is to include the Prime Minister, the Chief Justice, the Law Minister and one person nominated by the Bar.
Divesting the king from the judicial process appears in line with on-going trends. But instead of taking the king out and maintaining judicial independence (by filling the spot with an independent candidate), the process of erecting a new king has moved ahead; the new king will be the Prime Minister with not even a hint of independence that accompanied previous appointments.
Finally all SC judges are due for reappointment. Politics, nepotism and favoritism are to be permitted to play out in full? All nineteen SC judges (there were twenty, but after Parmanand Jha's term wasn't extended there are only nineteen) are up in arms except Anoop Raj Sharma (who is hoping to be picked up by the government) as Chief Justice and Balram KC (also hoping for a reappointment).
For the first time in Nepalese history there is going to be a national convention of judges on October 27-28, 2006. However, the Speaker Subash Nembang is threatening the Judiciary with street protests, should the convention propose legal challenges to any of the HOR’s proclamations. Judicial review and independence are to be out the door.
In the meantime the government has been asked to prove the constitutionality of the HoR declaration of May 18, 2006. The concept of the division of powers is all but dead. The nation is heading down a course of illiberal democracy (also know dictatorship of the democratic kind).
On a monumental loss for Nepal
The Nepalese environmental protection movement has suffered irreparable losses through the helicopter crash in Gabla, Taplejung. This crash resulted in the deaths of prominent environmentalists like Dr. Harka Gurung, Dr. Chandra Gurung, Dr. Mingma Norbu Sherpa, Dr. Tirtha Man Maskey and others.
Kantipur Television launched a poll. The question asked was why are there so many air crashes in Nepal? The overwhelming response was “geographical and weather conditions.” The Kathmandu Post, owned by the same media house, stated that "99% of air accidents due to pilot error." Whatever the cause behind the tragedy may be, the fact remains that Nepal is left intellectually poorer after this devastating event.
On the Chinese taking sides
Maoists overtures to the Chinese are no longer clandestine. The Nepal China Society, a China friendly organization, arranged a get together in Hotel Annapurna between Chinese dignitaries and the Maoists.
There, First Secretary of the Chinese Embassy, Jhang Jun had a high profile tête-à-tête with grey safari clad Maoist leaders. The Ambassador was also around. The coverage in the 'Nepal' magazine is worth reading and the Chinese breaking their foreign policy traditions is probably not something the Americans should take lightly.
On the Indians running being behind as usual
Such coziness is not something that Indians are likely to take note of because it would cause an unnecessary uproar within the Indian Parliament. The Indians will however, take note of this meeting when the realization dawns on them that the Chinese are doing with the Maoists, exactly what the Americans are doing with the Indians – erecting political proxies to defend national security interests.
Baburam Bhattarai said, "We are grateful to India for their help and even when we come to power we would respect the security sensitivities of India, but the development of new Nepal would be in consultations of both Chine and India."
In the meantime, C.P. Gajurel, the Maoist ideologue freed from Chennai was accosted by the West Bengal Government. It is rumored that the Maoists woke up to the fact that their old masters are poised to extract ever penny worth of investment in the Maoists by retaining Maoists assets as collateral should the Maoists decide to “bite the hand that previously fed them.”
On alternative security arrangements
Given the inability of the SPA government to provide security, the Maoists are going to provide the same. It has already started in Bhaktapur with armed Maoist patrols roaming the streets and “arresting” criminals – mostly those from other political parties.
However, it is assumed that the Maoists will be a lot more successful than the SPA since most of the problems originate from their own cadre who can be moved from location to location, thus giving the impression that crime has gone down in any particular spot.
On a confused RPP
Pashupati Shumshere claims proximity to the Monarchy, but at the same time he publicly stated that his party would go for republicanism.
During the war between birds and animals the bat said it belonged to whichever group that appeared to be winning until both groups realized that the root cause of the problem they were fighting over, was the bat. Such tendencies are referred to as chamero niti (bat's policy) in Nepal and “flip-flopping” in America.
Aside from struggling to find an identity for his Party, the RPP Chairman should probably be struggling to quickly reconcile differences with the RJP and unite to face the inevitable leftist onslaught – now isn’t this a novel thought?
On rumors of a turn in politics of illogical kind
Rumors hold that a secret understanding has taken place to enable Girija Prasad Koirala to be booted out, Sher Bahadur Deuba to take over and the Maoists to join an interim government.
The logic runs that Madhav Kumar Nepal will then be the next Prime Minister during whose time Constituent Assembly will be held. While MKN is busy basking in the glory of his repeatedly denied PM post, Pushpa Dahal will continue demolishing the NC and stealing support from the UML.
With all the rumors that are flying around, the idea is to make hey while the sun shines and enjoy the Dashain holidays because there is every indication that after the holidays are over, complete chaos is coming back to town!
Friday, September 22, 2006
Private sector management consulting is a business that thrives on three demand attributes: First, the requirement for specialized skill-sets; second, the requirement for credible facilitation (implementation); and third, the requirement for a “whipping boy.”
From an economic perspective, consulting business models works well because consultants and their employers are guided by similar incentive structures – consultants by lucrative fees and the prospect of add-on business and executives by perceived success and associated increases in compensation.
This implies that each task undertaken by consultants involves a careful analysis that weighs the perceived costs of failure against the benefits of success. In conducting such pre-contractual due diligence, consultants perform internal analyses that weigh the probability of success against the consulting firm’s exposure to failure – this exposure is often referred to as reputational risk.
If a desired reduction in reputational risk cannot be attained, even lucrative contracts may be rejected – at least by consulting firms that have market brands worth more than the size of the fees in question. The logic is that the long-term cost of failure to the service provider’s brand name (and associated losses in future fees) often out-weigh the benefits of accruing non-contingent, short-term revenues.
What does all this have to do with Nepal’s peace process? A lot. In many ways, the functions performed by the United Nations (UN) in conflict situations are very similar to services provided by private sector management consultants. The only significant difference is that the cost of employing the UN in Nepal will not be borne by the Nepalese government, but by the international community.
With recent statements made by Maoist leaders, the very rationale for UN involvement in “arms management” has come under serious speculation. Even before the Maoists reversed their commitment to having their arms managed, the absence of a high-level roadmap to constituent assembly elections already presented a significant risk to UN operations.
Many would argue that the UN system needs success in Nepal just as much as Nepalis needs success in their endeavors for peace. Given this particular view-point, there is a very strong correlation in incentive structures for both the Nepali Government and for the UN to make Nepal’s peace process a success.
Unfortunately, there is less of an overlap in incentive structures for ALL internal parties to Nepal’s conflict to engineer a situation that allows effective UN involvement. Although publicly, every group claims that it wants to see peace in Nepal, the Maoists in particular, demonstrate a documented pattern of behavior that implies they want peace under one condition – Maoist victory. Naturally, such a condition is unacceptable to the Maoists’ partners in the April movement.
So far, the UN has carefully managed perceptions by assuring the government and the rebels of its willingness to help solve Nepal’s conflict. Official (and unofficial) UN emissaries have also repeatedly highlighted that the UN’s involvement in Nepal will be a process – one that is subject to bureaucratic “red-tape” within the UN system, similar to pre-contractual due diligence in management consulting.
More to the point, viable UN involvement will be a process that can only be initiated once the government and rebels have acceded to peace on mutually acceptable terms. Similar to a strategic roadmap that management consultants are empowered to work toward, the UN needs a clearly outlined set of rules, regulations, standard operating procedures and metrics for success before it can do anything meaningful in Nepal. The UN needs a detailed mandate and the 12, 8, 25, 10, 15 however many points, aren’t it.
The UN may recommend different models of peace making to the concerned parties in Nepal, but it will never advocate a single model. Doing so would be a cardinal violation of the UN’s own operating procedure. Plus, this is a decision to be made by the SPA and the Maoists – not any external third party. The UN will be happy to provide its organizational expertise backed by its unique charter. But for obvious reasons, the UN will not want to position itself as a “whipping boy” for a peace process that by any meaningful account, is yet to kick off.
The next round of “summit talks” needs to focus on producing a detailed roadmap that convinces the UN that its role is desired and a necessary complement to peace in Nepal. Anything less will almost certainly result in the resumption of violence – either as “peaceful” street protests or all out urban combat.
Which way the situation steers is completely up to the SPA and the Maoists. This time, there’s no “whipping boy” in sight.
On Pushpa’s presidential candidacy
- The CCOMPOSA meeting just concluded at an “undisclosed” location, somewhere in India. This secrecy is necessary for groups that pledge democratic allegiance when they’re trying to come to power because everyone knows that after they make it, it’s back to complete secrecy again. You’ll know if you need to know and if you don’t know that means you don’t need to know. In our case, we don’t know and neither do the Indian authorities.
- The extremists vowed to make South Asia a “flaming field.” Apparently, Indian intelligence is too busy guarding its nuclear facilities these days and was not aware of the meeting.
- Hopefully, the Indians will wake up soon and realize that the next war they fight is going to be on their own soil – nuclear weapons won’t be of any use. Such weapons will actually be liabilities after India becomes a red state and Chinese ally in the region. Have the Americans war gamed this scenario yet?
- More interesting for Nepalis is that we finally have a presidential candidate – possibly two. Pushpe has offered Girja’s legacy to be Nepal’s first President (and Girja’s seriously considering it) while Pushpa has decided to run for President of the Revolutionary International Movement (RIM).
- The idea here is GPK, being the fool he is, will become President of Nepal and PKD will become President of the extremist leftists who rule South Asia.
- In essence, after making Girija President of Nepal, Pusha will then become President of an organization that controls Nepal. At the end of all this, whoever takes over Girja’s Presidency (GPK probably won’t live forever), will be reporting to Pushpa. Brilliant if I may say so!
On the House versus the Judiciary
- Finally, the House of Representatives (HoR) having broken all constitutional, legal and technical norms, is now at loggerheads with the Judiciary. The parliamentary Public Account Committee (PAC) of the HoR has started questioning the verdicts of the Supreme Court judges and when the Chief Justice took a firm stand, the PAC started rumors of impeaching judges.
- In January, a division bench of justices (Arjun Prasad Singh and Badri Kumar Basnet) had issued a verdict, scrapping the decision taken by the Astray Anaya Bank, the Credit Information Centre and Bankers' Club, to blacklist the Mahalaxmi Sugar Mills (owned by businessmen, including Binod Chowdhary) for willfully defaulting on loans.
- Just for the record, the above verdict was probably one that should be questioned. But is there no legal precedent, no appeal process in place? Do judges have to be threatened in public with possible impeachment (probably via another proclamation from the House) for legal issues to be handled legally? Is there no due process left in Nepal?
On the Maoist rehearsal
- On September 13, 2006, suddenly tires were seen burning on the roads and streets of Kathmandu; schools, colleges, banks, casinos and business houses were forced to shut down and employees were forced to come out on the streets to participate in a protest rally.
- Traffic flows were disrupted and “chakkajams” were enforced in several places. Similar protest rallies were also held in different cities all over Nepal by the Maoists under the pretext that the Army was importing weapons into the country.
- In reality, the Army was transferring trucks and small APCs from Birgunj to its barracks in Gajuri. This equipment was being transferred for Nepalese soldiers to deploy to Lebanon, at the request of UN Security Council.
- Maoists called off the protest rally only after an Inspection Committee went inside the Gajuri barracks and announced that the Maoists’ claim was false.
- But for the Maoists, finding weapons wasn’t really the point. Yet again, they demonstrated to Girja and the SPA government how quickly they can bring the capital to a complete stand still. This was a clear indication to Girja that he’s in thick soup.
- The irony of course, is that the Maoists are the ones who are transporting weapons from different parts of the country into Kathmandu. How about some Congress and UML supporters try and launch a rally to protest Maoist arms being brought into major cities? Is that the sound of chickens in the distance?
On the Thai Coup
- On hearing news of the military coup in Thailand, Girja Prasad Koirala asserted that a military coup in Nepal is “out of the question.”
- This was the correct thing to say, for as long as Girija understands that he and his fellow politicians are not in office to surrender to Pushpey and his henchmen, the only coup to worry about is from within the SPA alliance – and this coup, if the NC doesn’t quickly combine, is not far down the road.
- Such a merger will take place in one of two scenarios: If GPK passes away or if Deuba comes to his senses.
- On the other hand, if Girja is dreaming of bringing the Maoists into an interim government (many signs indicating this presently), then he is inviting a coup. As a man infamous for saying one thing and doing the opposite, his logic may be to let the leftists and rightists fight it out amongst themselves so he and his family can stay in the game.
- Members of the SPA alliance were also quick to express solidarity with former Thai PM Thaksin’s camp. If one studies the reasons behind why Thaksin was so unpopular in his own country, the rationale for our politicians’ expression of solidarity becomes clearer – anyone hear “corruption” in the air?
- It was a nice gesture on our politicians’ part to feel the Thai democratic forces’ pain. Not that Nepali politicians crying foul play about a situation in Thailand, has any relevance to any analyst covering Thailand, but the political drama by our very own, was amusing!
- Our politicians should probably do a little more research before jumping to conclusions; Thailand’s democracy is strong and it’s monarchy is revered. The coup in Thailand was backed by Thaksin’s opposition, much like our own “coup” was backed by our Maoists –time for all the conspiracy theorists to do some soul searching.
On predictions of another coup
- On September 13, 2006 during an interview with the Voice of America, the International Crisis Group’s Rhoderick Chalmers made the following statement: “I believe there is already underway a rearguard action, by the palace, by the people who depend on the palace, the powerful feudal elites in the country, who retain all sorts of leverage behind the scenes. And I think it would be very naïve if we imagine that the king's unconditional surrender, as was announced on television, means the end of the game for them.”
- In response to such a strong statement by Mr. Chalmers, no reaction from the leftists in the SPA alliance was available. Naturally, they did not ask for him to be taken out of his role, conducting “impartial” coverage on Nepal – and no norms of “crisis prevention” were subverted, because there are none. (Being political, being politically (in)correct, and being part of an INGO certainly comes with advantages!)
- This could imply a few things: One, no one really cares about Mr. Chalmers’ gloomy prediction; Two, Mr. Chalmers’ prediction has some merit and will serve as the backbone for the next Leftist conspiracy theory; Three, his friends in Nepal’s civil society will leverage the ICG’s reputation to validate their claim that a breakdown in law and order in Nepal is being committed by “feudal” and “reactionary” forces, backed by “certain foreign powers.” This song and dance has played a few too many times.
On business models and conflicts of interest
- Back to Rhoderick; we think he’s right. We think he’s pointing out the obvious. We believe the overlap in terminology he uses (with the Maoist vocabulary) serves a purpose beyond “impartial analysis” on Nepal and, at times, does not help “prevent conflict.”
- Consequently, his reactionary statements help widen the gap Nepalis are trying desperately to close. His words (with his organization’s credibility behind them) dangerously border on crisis escalation. Instead of helping heal Nepal’s war weary polity, his predictions pour salt on already open wounds.
- The International Crisis Group is a solid organization. The material they produce is exceptional. Not that they have actually prevented conflict anywhere, but they certainly do a great job of making a laundry list of recommendations and helping various parties figure out alternatives after conflict has broken out.
- Their business model is a bit strange – they work to prevent crises, but they get funded to produce material on crises? So what would happen to the ICG if the world was at peace and conflicts were non-existent? Isn't it ironic that an organization whose material existence thrives on conflict is “working to prevent conflict worldwide.”
On the lack of international standards/regulations that govern the activities of INGOs
- If there was a regulatory body like the American Securities and Exchange Commission that oversaw organizations like the ICG, it would probably introduce legislation that at a minimum calls into question the apparent conflict of interest between the ICG's business model and mission statement. The conflict is glaringly apparent to us.
- On Nepal, every policy the ICG has advocated since its coverage began has overwhelmingly tilted the balance in the Maoists' favor. Their criticisms of past governments are warranted to a degree, but their lack of criticism of the crimes committed by the Maoists is anything but impartial.
- We are eagerly awaiting a new report from the International Crisis Group. They published reports and gave statements on Nepal almost every month after “February-1.” No analysis has been made available since their last report in May – it is nearing October.
- A word of advice to ICG’s Board: Sometimes, it’s best to change things up a bit. After covering the same company for 20 odd years, even Wall Street analysts tend to develop unofficial relations with groups within the firm – groups with interests. How does Wall Street avoid such conflicts of interest? They have high churn amongst their Analysts and this keeps them off the SEC’s radar.
- The INGO community has no SEC. But since the INGO community rides high on morals, self-regulation would probably be the best remedy. Send 10 new Analysts to cover Nepal – the funding can be easily obtained since the “rearguard” and the “feudal elites” are bound to start trouble again!
- Or, if the ICG’s Board wishes, a verifiable list of “contacts” it’s Nepal Analyst uses, can easily be produced. A report on these “contacts’” backgrounds (specificially their political affiliations) can also be provided with a long list of recommendations on how to maintain complete impartiality and avoid conflict proliferation.
- Where was Rhoderick when the Thai coup happened? There’s a lot of funding to be sucked out of that crisis!
On Hindu solidarity – not necessarily of the democratic kind
- MP Swami Adityanath of the Bharatiya Janata Party, in a press conference has said that the BJP is in favour of multi-party democracy and constitutional monarchy in Nepal.
- He said that Nepal, the only Hindu nation in the world, has kept the pride and identity of Hindus alive and well, around the world.
- The MP expressed his party’s readiness to pay any price (even use arms) to protect and preserve Hindu dignity. He claimed that the king of Nepal is king of not only of 80 percent of the Hindus in Nepal, but also of 1.5 billion Hindus in 47 countries.
- On September 15, 2006, approximately 150 different associations led by World Hindu Federation organized a protest rally in Kathmandu.
- The sign on the wall reads as follows: “ethnic violence around the corner and separation of “church” and state, turning into a nightmare.”
Wednesday, September 20, 2006
A short piece on http://www.nepalnews.com/ published on September 18 was titled “Lawmakers criticize Moriarty’s statement; demand his expulsion,” Another blurb from http://www.kantipuronline.com/ read “MPs flay Moriarty for his political statements, ask govt. to send him back.”
How many "Lawmakers" and "MPs" from the entire House of Representatives are we talking about? An overwhelming minority of two!! – Mr. Lilamani Pokhrel and Mr. Narayan Man Bijukche.
Let’s try and piece this puzzle together. When one of India’s top communist leaders (Sitaram Yechuri) arrived to inaugurate the first session of Nepal’s re-established parliament, this was deemed a good thing and all our politicians were ecstatic. When an official Chinese delegation arrived in Nepal and spent more time with “terrorists-turned peace-loving Maoists” (than with the ruling SPA government) this was no big deal.
But when an appointed emissary from a third country traveled to the most remote and desolate parts of Nepal, in an attempt to ensure that funding his country generously provided the Nepali people, was being put to good use, the media cries bloody murder!!
Why? Apparently because Ambassador Moriarty happened to drop in at an Army barrack or two, (probably the only infrastructures within 100 mile radii of where he was), to greet Army personnel and express gratitude for providing the security that enables America’s generosity to reach its intended target; without being siphoned off by Maoist parasites.
Instead of highlighting the funds that Moriarty secured to help Nepal’s flood victims or the funding he has lobbied for, to help spread democracy in the country, reports from Nepali media remained fixated on the army barrack(s) that the Ambassador visited.
Judging by the nature of the mainstream media reports, it was as if Moriarty’s sole purpose was to visit Army installations in the remotest parts of Nepal which makes absolutely no sense because if the military was what Moriarty was interested in, the Army HQ is a 10 minute drive from his residence. Why travel to the corners of Nepal to visit army personnel when the majority of armed Maoist combatants are in and around Kathmandu?
Instead of the asinine questions the media asked in support of ludicrous conspiracy theories, here are some relevant questions (the answers to which can be authenticated by hard numbers and facts): How many so-called student leaders has America hosted over the past five years? How many Nepali students have had the opportunity to obtain world-class educations in the US? How many professors and doctors and civil servants and politicians has the American Government partially subsidized (or completely sponsored) to the benefit of Nepalese world-wide? How many Army lawyers and mid-career Officers have received the benefit of an American Staff College education that stresses above all, human rights, the rule of law and the function of security within democratic frameworks?
To contextualize this issue further, what number of Nepalese received aid from American funds that James Moriarty provided to flood victims? How many Nepalese received something at a time when our government provided them nothing?
Questions such as these seem to have missed the media’s attention. Instead, the media focused on comments that Lilamani Pokhrel and Narayan Man Bijukche (both hardcore communists and known Maoist sympathizers) made in Parliament. A question from one of these MPs was whether the Nepali Ambassador to the US is “allowed to go on an inspection visit of the army barracks there and make political statements?"
Just the manner in which this question is phrased erases any hope of common sense (or intellect) in Nepal’s top communists. Capacity to thrive off of conspiracy theories? High. Ability to demonstrate appreciation of common sense? Nil.
Let’s get the facts straight. First, in case the MP who asked the question hasn’t noticed, the government he’s in has been so busy making earth-shattering progress on the peace process that they haven't had time to appoint a Nepali Ambassador to the US. This aside, hypothetically, if the Nepali Ambassador to the US was on a visit to Nepali government sponsored projects (or relief efforts) in some remote part of the US that relied completely on the presence of an army base for area protection, the odds are pretty high that that installation would be where the Nepali Ambassador would go, to catch a breath and perhaps a cup of tea or coffee. No violation of diplomatic norms here!
Second, it is highly unlikely (a complete understatement) that the army barracks visited by Ambassador Moriarty was housing Nepal’s nuclear stockpile – a direct threat to American interest in South Asia??? Judging by where he was, the most Moriarty could have “inspected” would have been a few brick buildings (if that) and a barbed wire perimeter housing a group of salt-of-the earth, dedicated and selfless individuals who by the way, are also Nepalis, not Americans (if this is where the conspiracy theory is meant to go).
Third, if the MPs consider Moriarty’s observation (that the Maoists are not playing by the same rules as the SPA), a politically motivated or a biased statement, they need to do a couple of things: One, they need to visit their constituents outside of Kathmandu and inquire for themselves, what the situation is like (side note – they shouldn’t forget to take permission from the local Maoist Commissar before visiting their districts); Two, they need to pick up yesterday’s paper and make an honest determination whether Moriarty is creating a “political statement” or repeating documented facts; Three, if they have any self-esteem or courage or even an ounce of self-respect, these MPs need to come clean and admit that they are Maoist agents in the SPA government. Why else would these two cry foul, hyping a non-event that exposed (perhaps negatively impacted) a single group – the Maoists?
Neither the American government nor its emissary in Nepal was under any compulsion whatsoever to travel to the remotest parts of the country to give hope to Nepalis who had lost everything.
The Chinese, the Indians (our closest neighbors), the British, the Finns, the Norwegians, the Germans..… no media reports on what their Ambassadors did to help Nepal’s flood victims and this is fine. Such unconditional support is a luxury, not a right and our clueless MPs should appreciate this fact more than anyone else.
Nothing on the UN with all its might either. Apparently, there’s enough funding to support a UN team to help with the refugee crisis (on-going for nearly a decade), another team to bring the human rights situation under control (human rights after the April movement tip top according to Maoist "victims" who provide the underlying data) and a third team to help with the peace process (moving ahead at lightning speed). Unfortunately, no help was available to uphold the most basic human right – the right to life – or to relocate internally displaced persons. Any wild guesses on what it costs to employ a P4 or P5 UN Officer? And yes, people do get displaced when natural disasters occur.
The shameless display of ingratitude and ignorance by Lilamani Pokhrel and Narayan man Bijukche is a dismal microcosm of the larger leadership crisis that Nepal faces. Hypocrisy oozes out of these individuals as they criticize Moriarty for highlighting the root cause of Nepal’s lawlessness while simultaneously calling for the Home Minister’s resignation. Is this not a contradiction?
Even as these sorry excuses for elected officials hide behind a pretense of in-action based guilt, (what material contribution did either make to victims of the flooding or the victims of any tragedy in Nepal?), they demonstrate an utter inability to refrain from carrying out public stunts that detract attention from the real issue at hand – the management of Maoist arms.
These are supposedly die-hard Nepali communists, fighting entrenched feudalism in Nepal. The same feudalism that confuses individuals with the policies of nations (Moriarty with American policy) and representatives with the functions of their organizations (Ian Martin with the UN). It will be a miracle when Nepal’s communists actually practice what they preach and dispose of their own feudal, individual-based mindset, in favor of modernity.
Aside from the hypocrisy, the propagation of idiocy and the downright disgraceful conduct of Mr. Pokhrel and Mr. Bijukche, there is a silver lining in their wild allegations. How funny do accusations of violations of diplomatic norms sound, coming from two MPs who in all likelihood, probably don’t even have Nepali passports? Can anyone recall the last time either of these buffoons went on a trip beyond India?
This image says it all. No more need be said. Click to enlarge and study in detail, the manner in which the individuals are being held against their will.
Note once more, there is sufficient information based off these images to do one or a combination of the following:
- At a minimum, launch an investigation and track down the goons in camouflage. Three faces are crystal clear in this image itself.
- Obtain testimony from any number of seated individuals and then proceed to issue warrants for the arrest of those conducting the indoctrination (intimidation/unionisation) session.
- All those who work to guarantee human rights in Nepal should work double-time to guarantee that no harm comes to any of the victims of this gross violation.
- Send e-mails/letters/faxes to every human rights organization operating in Nepal, regionally and internationally, to appraise them of what is happening in Nepal.
- Send this link (http://nepaliperspectives.blogspot.com/2006/09/picture-2-anatomy-of-maoist-extortion_20.html) to the head of the UN mission in Nepal who claims that "human rights violations have gone down." Ask him to compare notes with another report that hit the media two days earlier: Nepal UN chief says government control in countryside eroding. Help these people get their facts straight.
- Links/e-mail address to prominent human rights organizations: http://web.amnesty.org/contacts/contact_us/eng-npl, email@example.com, http://www.crisisgroup.org/home/index.cfm?action=form&amp;amp;fid=17&l=1, firstname.lastname@example.org
- If no action is taken to apprehend, question and if found guilty, jail the guilty parties in the image above, demand resignations starting from the top of the chain of command - First Krishna Sitaula, then the Chief of Police and moving down the ladder.
No one has the right to violate anyone else's rights. This is the most FUNDAMENTAL human right.
Tuesday, September 19, 2006
Note the Maoist thugs in camouflage pants, idolizing their boss Pushpa Dahal with t-shirts, donning Pushpa's smiling face.
Here's a question for SPA leaders to answer: "Are SPA district level cadre even allowed to hold rallies/meetings on their own accord or do they still need permission from their Maoist bosses? Because here's irrefutible evidence of the Maoists holding "meetings" at their will, on the SPA's turf."
Some food for the SPA to think about.....
It is time again to talk again of protecting ourselves. The Maoists behave in such rampant, undisciplined manner, people beg for protection. The government, with its outside friends, who have words and money but not much else, will not do the first thing demanded of them: protect us.
What the Maoists Call “Peace”
How do the Maoists play the game? We could choose from hundreds of episodes, but let us take only one. On August 27th, a gang of 25 ultra-Maoists – the type who spout the labels they teach the children they kidnap – the words of hatred, the false categories of “oppressed” and “oppressor” – came to Nepal Dairy, Mahaboudha, Kathmandu. They were armed, as they always are, in violation of the agreements, but they hid the weapons in their bags. But they made sure all knew they were armed. Claiming to represent the Maoist-affiliated trade union, they barged into the kitchen, bakery, and fast food outlet and forced all present to join them in a mass meeting "to empower the workers." They were arrogant, like criminals, humiliated and insulted one and all, especially the management.
They tried to impose a Maoist trade union on the workers, although virtually all of the staff and workers agreed that such matters were internal concerns of the industry and signed the minutes that the staff could harmoniously work with the management and mutually settle any problems that arose.
This mattered nothing to the Maoists. They are trying by force to establish their union in industries and factories so that they can paralyze the government by closing down business as and when negotiations fail. They have no goal other than to disrupt business and eventually close down businesses when they need to do so to cripple the country.
As the Maoists threatened the workers, they were helpless. A complete failure of law and order meant there was no one to come to the rescue. Management decided to call the Nepal police.
A group of police came, but they also were helpless. Obeying the agreements, they did not have arms! Looking to the fast developing crowd in the courtyard, the Maoist thugs departed.
Temporarily, the problem was solved, but the Maoists vowed retaliation.
This would be only a matter of time, because there is no security, and the government has turned a blind eye to the problem that the industries are facing everyday. The concerned ministers seem more interested in photo opportunities with foreign delegates instead of pragmatically solving problems.
What are we to say when this is the present state of affairs at the grassroots level right in the heart of the capital, Kathmandu? Is it any surprise that businessmen are confused if they should continue to struggle to keep their businesses going?
Nepal Dairy, established in 1980, is the leading private dairy and food processing industry in Nepal. It has four dairy-based fast food outlets and more than 300 affiliated retail outlets. Its total investment is to the tune of 90 millions of Nepali rupees. It has given direct employment to 200 staff and indirectly supported more than 7,000 farm families by procuring milk and other agricultural products.
None of this reality seems to matter in the make-believe world of the Maoists.
Maoist Way of Doing Business
One of the Maoists, as he left, threatened one of the management, saying, “This guy should be wrapped up in a jute Bag" – the way of killing the Maoist thugs have used before, especially in our countryside. They are no different from the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia, who used the same methods.
Following this incident, the owner/operator, Dr. Heramba Rajbhandary, informed the Chief District Officer and the concerned ministry. All the major political parties were informed about the incident informally. After that, Dr. Rajbhandary and son stopped taking calls from outsiders and stayed away from public places.
This did not matter, since on September 16th, the Maoist thugs returned.
Again, it was about 25 Maoists who appeared. They entered the residence of Dr. Rajbhandary in Lalitpur and thrashed him and his son while they were still at bed in the morning. Remaining female family members were helpless. Dr. Rajbhandary is 74!
Nepal Police were present, but they could not stop beating and just watched the incident helplessly. In fact, it was factory workers who came and stopped the attempted abduction of Dr. Rajbhandary and his son.
Dr. Rajbhandary is being treated at Bir Hospital. The Maoists threatened the family members not to release the information to media, but this correspondent has learned the truth from the witnesses.
The workers say there were no problems or issues between management and employees in the company. No staffs had been sacked. Problems such as existed were created by Maoists themselves in their effort to achieve their goal of control over the industry.
Some media have reported differently, but that is the way things are now in Nepal. Many media traffic in lies. I do not need to name them here.
Where does this leave us? Industry is the backbone of the country. Nepal government is not in the position to protect its citizens much less its industries. The Maoist goons have not stopped their extortion, their abductions, and their threats against people who differ with their wild ideas.
In such a situation, what hope is there for the true peace that Nepalis long for so desperately? A Constitutional Assembly can't be achieved with this type of actions and mentality by the Maoist thugs. Nepali people yearn for a lasting peace and prosperity in the country, not the imposed “peace” that the criminals have brought to our homes.
There are only several options in such circumstances.
If the Maoists want peace, their leaders must use their disciplined members to end the reign of terror being inflicted on us by the criminal elements.
If they will not do this, then the Nepal Police must again carry weapons and must be supported by the Armed Police Force and the NA.
If none of them will do this, then the people must organize and arm themselves.
“All power to the soviets,” claimed the Maoist god, Lenin. Are the Maoists so foolish not to see that we, the businesses and the workers, are the “soviets”?
It is time for Nepalis to fight back. If our government will not protect us, we must protect ourselves.
(Note: The individuals who provided this report to Nepali Perspectives wish to remain anonymous for fear of reprisals. Speaking out in Nepal, as past atrocities have demonstrated, is unsafe).
Sunday, September 17, 2006
Iran serves as another good example for Nepalis to take lessons from, international powers to realize from their mistakes and regional players not to underestimate the powerful inertia of fundamentalism and totalitarianism that can offset the whole regional power dynamics. A shining modern society, aiming to be the fifth power of the world, relatively moderate, secular and a pro-west Iran under the Shah has now turned into an axis of evil, headache for the whole of the middle-east, an oppressor of its own people, a preacher of violent Islam and a supporter of terrorist organizations such as the Hezbullah.
Young Iranians who took to the streets against their monarchy in 1979 today don't have a right even to evaluate the performance of their government. In fact, they don't even know what the outside world possibly thinks about them or their country except what their national television and government owned newspapers tell them. Iranian women who used to wear jeans to college in the mid-seventies today play basketball in their burkas. Those who used to advocate for free and fair elections during much of the Shah era, today shake their heads when they see the entire government ruled by an un-elected and illiterate clergy who know nothing about politics and economics than what their understanding of Quran told them. What went wrong in Iran? Who is to blame? And what lessons can Iran's modern history offer to Nepal and to the Nepalis people as we find ourselves in the midst of a takeover by another variety of extremists in our own country?
In 1925 a specially convened assembly deposed Ahmad Shah Qajar, the last ruler of the Qajar dynasty, and named Reza Khan, who had adopted the surname "Pahlavi", as the new Shah. Reza Shah had ambitious plans for modernizing Iran. These plans included developing large-scale industries, implementing major infrastructure projects, building a cross-country railroad, establishing a national public education system, reforming the judiciary, and improving health care. He believed that a strong, centralized government managed by educated personnel could implement his plans. He sent hundreds of Iranians including his son to Europe for education and technical training. During 16 years from 1925 till 1941, Reza Shah's numerous development projects transformed Iran into a modern country. Public education progressed rapidly, and a new social class emerged. Iran's political system also opened up. Political parties were allowed, and in 1944 the Majlis polls were held which were the first genuine competitive election to take place in the country. In fact, Iran was the most "democratic" country in the whole of the region at that time. The Anglo-Iranian Oil Company owned by the British government, continued to produce and market Iranian oil. In the beginning of 1930s some Iranians began to advocate nationalization of the country's oil fields. After 1946 this became an increasingly popular political movement as the oil gave Tehran much needed revenue for modernization drive.
His son, Mohammed Shah Pahlavi, popularly known as the "Shah of Iran" was even more modern and pro-American. So much was Iran's prosperity in comparison to other Gulf states during his reign that even the royalty of other countries used to look upto Iran's wealth with aghast. The King named himself the "Shahenshah" and also the "Light of the Aryans". During the Cold War, the Shah established himself as an indispensable ally of the West. Domestically, he advocated reform policies, culminating in the 1963 program known as the White Revolution, which included land reform, granting of voting rights to women, and elimination of illiteracy. He made major changes to curb the power of certain ancient elite factions by distributing large andmedium-sized estates for the benefit of more than four million small farmers. However, these modernization measures, including extending suffrage to women, met the discontent of the Islamic clergy. Unafraid of the clergy and their outdated theories, he instituted exams for Islamic theologians to become established clerics, which were widely unpopular and broke centuries-old religious traditions. In less than two decades of his reign, Iran became the undisputable major economic and military power of the Middle East.
On the foreign policy front, the Shah maintained cordial relations with the Gulf states and established closer diplomatic ties with Saudi Arabia. With Iraq, he signed the Algiers Accord, which granted Iraq equal navigation rights in the Arvand/Shatt al-Arab river, with the Shah also agreeing to end his support for Iraqi Kurdish rebels.
He built good relations with Israel and the United States which turned out to be sufficient reasons for Islamic fundamentalist groups to attack his policies. Nepal had also established diplomatic relations with Iran and late King Mahendra participated in the grand coronation ceremony of the Shah. Kathmandu opened its residential mission in Tehran with late Ishwori Raj Pandey serving as the first (and the last) charge d' affairs a.i.
In 1949, an assassination attempt on the Shah, blamed on the pro-Soviet Tudeh Party, resulted in the banning of that party and the expansion of the Shah's constitutional powers. Furthermore, he passed a controversial bill that allowed municipal officials in the country to take oaths of office on whatever holy book they preferred. This and other reform policies angered religious zealots, the most prominent among them being Ayatollah Khomeini.
Khomeini held beliefs of an extreme form of the Shi'a creed. From exile, he developed the concept of a theocracy, which significantly altered what had largely been a non-political branch of Islam. He was able to exploit contradictions of the Iranian society and garner support from the communists, the liberal democrats and students for a revolution against monarchy. The then Soviet Union had hoped that the fall of monarchy would bring down a pro-west regime in Tehran and perhaps erect another Stalinist republic. The United States and itsEuropean allies although supportive of the Shah from a regional perspective, regarded Islamic fundamentalists as a bulwark against communism. As long as the Shah was not overthrown by Communists, the regime change seemed ok to Washington and London. The marginalized sections of the rural areas thought that they would get a pro-poor government rather than an urban centered regime of the Shah. The youth desired to see an end to centuries' old feudal rule that would bring in a youthful leadership capable of driving the nation forward. The secular forces hoped that the fall of absolute monarchy would usher in a truly secular, more modern state with full democratic credentials such as periodic elections, freedom of speech, guarantee of human rights and a free press.
The first lesson that Iran's predicament teaches Nepal is not to act in haste and repent in leisure. Young Iranians protested for about three months before the downfall of monarchy in 1979. But they have been repenting and dreaming for a just, equitable and a free society to re-emerge for the past three decades.
But after the Iranian revolution, Khomeini betrayed everyone and embraced only those who agreed to his vision of a radical Islam. He appointed himself Supreme Ruler, with a "parliament" made up of clerics, instituting a strict regime of Islamic law, ordering women to wear veils and suspending the criminal justice system. In November 1979, a group of student radicals overran the U.S. embassy and took American embassy staff including diplomats, intelligence and military personnel hostage, as per Khomeini's orders.
The rest is history. If there was no Islamic revolution in Iran, there would not have been the Iran-Iraq war in which the Reagan administration had to aid Iraq's Saddam Hussein regime. Had their been no mullahs ruling Tehran, there would have been no or little support to terrorist organisations such as the Hezbullah and Hamas. Khomeini was the first to use radicalism in Islam and tint it with anti-American flavour which encouraged other people like him such as Bin Laden and groups like the al Qaeda to use the same tactics of terror. It was Khomeini who first issued fatwa calling on Muslims everywhere to kill Salman Rushdie for writing a book The Satanic Verses. The proclamation became groundbreaking in the politicization of fatwas.
Khomeini had previously abused the fatwa to deliver death sentences to thousands of his domestic political opponents. In later years, Osama Bin Laden used the same fatwa against the United States for the 9/11 attacks and continues to do so to terrorize the democratic world. Had the monarchy remained in Iran, the history of Middle East would have been totally different and the world certainly would have been a much safer place to live in.
It is thus an irony of history that in the land of Cyrus The Great, the birthplace of the first charter of the "Rights of Nations" and the "Declaration of Human Rights" over 2500 years ago, there is today hardly any semblance of civil rights. According to official Iranian estimates, more than 200,000 Iranians lost their lives in the Iran-Iraq war that ended without any political or geographical change of either country. It is a regime that has executed over 120,000 political prisoners in two decades. Torture is rampant and corruption is collosal. Since the inception of the mullahs' rule, hundreds of women of various ages have been and continue to be stoned to death throughout Iran. So much so that Iranian dress codes prohibit the country from fielding women teams for Olympics in events including swimming, track and field, and other sports that expose woman's toes, head or arms.
It has been 27 years since the fall of the Shah yet theorists are still struggling to understand what happened then. Today Iranian people are demanding civil and political freedoms, separation of religion and government, equality and justice (especially for the Iranian women) and immediate freeing of all political prisoners. But their government is more interested in building nuclear weapons. The world continues to watch helplessly as a bunch of radical clerics make a mockery of human civilization.
The first lesson that Iran's predicament teaches Nepal is not to act in haste and repent in leisure. Young Iranians protested for about three months before the downfall of monarchy in 1979. But they have been repenting and dreaming for a just, equitable and a free society to re-emerge for the past three decades. Lesson number two: The want for more freedom, more democratic space, freedom of press, bigger role for the civil society, devolution of power, etc. is not a crime but people must first make sure that even the little that they already have isn't lost in the procss of yearning for more. Lesson number three: The 20th century is full of case studies in which the vaccuum left by the monarchy has been filled by radical and sinister elements almost all the time resorting to dictatorship rather than democracy. They have killed far more people in the name of "new democracy" or religion than under the previous "totalitarian" regime. Lesson number Four: Just by having a republic, hoping that all the country's problems would suddenly vanish away is a sheer nonsense. Most of the time the country's problems have nothing to do with the monarchy and can exasperate with the collapse of law and order situation. Lesson Number of Five: Just two Kings ruled Iran under the Pahlavi dynasty yet the impact of its downfall has been devastating for the people of that country and for its neighbouring countries. Nepal was not even born as a nation until a King of the Shah dynasty unified the country as a single entity. There is very little basis to imagine that Nepal will be truly "democratic" once it turns into a republic.
It is true that history never looks like history when one is living through it. But it is also true that those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.
Saturday, September 16, 2006
Editor’s Comment: Originally conducted by "Probe" magazine and apparently published partially in the Bangladeshi hard-copy edition – for reasons of security, as best we can tell – the interview below speaks eloquently to the issues presently exercising the readers of NepaliPerspectives. We were able to obtain the complete text and publish it here. With Dr. Marks’ permission, we have sharpened the questions to achieve greater focus of the issues.
1. The majority of your academic work has been focused on insurgency situations – more precisely of the extremist left-wing variety. You have also demonstrated interest in Nepal’s own Maoist insurgency. Given this contextual background, how accurate do you feel your predictions on the mode and progression of the Nepali Maoist insurgency has been?
What has happened in the Nepali case has not only been predictable but stereotypical. My doctoral dissertation was on the Thai Maoist insurgency and was published in 1994 as Making Revolution: The Insurgency of the Communist Party of Thailand in Structural Perspective (Bangkok: White Lotus). It is striking how much similarity there is structurally between the Thai and Nepali cases, with the profound exception that the monarchy proved a bastion of strength in Thailand, a source of weakness in Nepal. I followed that 1994 work in 1996 by Maoist Insurgency Since Vietnam (London: Frank Cass), which compared the Thai case to the Maoist movements in the Philippines, Sri Lanka (the JVP twice tried to carry out armed struggle), and Peru. Again, we see the same structural patterns play themselves out, but always with the Maoists on the losing side. A complete rewrite of the Maoist Insurgency book is to be published by White Lotus as Maoist People’s War in Post-Vietnam Asia. It was all set to go last year, with Nepal as the final chapter, when events began to shift in ways predicted in the text. Yet I wanted to see how events worked out, so I asked the publisher to wait a bit. We are now going forward. What is remarkable, of course, is the manner in which the Maoist form of people’s war has played itself out in Nepal as though from a script, complete with clueless united front allies lending critical strength to what otherwise would not be a potent movement. In all other cases, the dupes came to their senses before their throats were slit.
2. In your opinion, are the Nepali Maoists genuinely in search of a negotiated settlement or is the current cease-fire an extension of their “protracted peoples war,” by other means? In other words, do you feel the Maoists have yielded to some degree (because their demands for a constituent assembly have been met), or do you feel the Maoists are in acknowledgement that theirs is a failed ideology, that can no longer be sustained by relying on an abundance of military action(and the threat of force)?
The phraseology of the question misses the point: the Maoists are not using even the same vocabulary, much less the same game plan. They’re not looking for a “safe landing.” To the contrary, they are on the offensive. They simply are proceeding along an avenue of approach complementary to armed actions. Violence and non-violence are but two facets of a unified struggle, very much as, in boxing, feints and movement of the body are as necessary as punches thrown.
People’s war is a strategy for armed politics. The mistake is to think it is merely “war,” by which we normally mean action between armed forces. To the contrary, people’s war is like any parliamentary campaign – except you get to use violence to make sure the vote comes out in your favor. Significantly, sub-state rebels such as the Maoists claim they are merely doing what the state itself has been doing all along. In Nepal, they claim there never has been “non-violent politics.” Rather, they assert, echoing Lenin, that democratic politics practiced by the “old-order” – ancien regime – is but a façade for oppression, oppression that is carried out using the violence of the state through its armed component, the security forces, as well as the “structural violence” of poverty and injustice.
Thus the Maoists see themselves as engaged in a struggle for liberation, of self-defense even. Such a struggle will proceed along different but orchestrated lines of operation. There will be many campaigns carried out in an infinite variety of ways. Use of violence is but one line of operation. Within that line of operation, there are many forms of violence, from assassinations – such as that of APF head Mohan Shrestha in 2003 – to main force attacks – the large actions that seek to overrun district capitals. These forms of violence, in turn, can be “bundled” into campaigns. We can speak, for instance, of the campaign of terror that the Maoists used to eliminate all who opposed them in local areas, whether individuals or police. Who can forget those famous photos of the mutilated individuals, especially teachers, their limbs hacked, their bodies hanging from poles?
Yet such terror occurred for a reason: to clear the space for political action, to eliminate competitors. This is why UML activists were such particular targets. They advanced a competing program which had won a majority of VDC seats. They had to be driven out so that the Maoist cadres would have uncontested access to the electorate. Only in this way could the Maoists mobilize a mass base using their own electoral platform, if we may call it that – they call it their “mass line.”
Of course, such methods are anathema, even as certain portions of their party platform are attractive. It is for this reason that the Maoists have sponsored a multitude of front organizations, the wide variety, for instance, of ethnic and community rights organizations. On the surface, they are not Maoist, but in reality they are controlled by the Maoists. The student and labor organizations are especially prominent in this respect. The important thing about fronts is that they can present themselves as independent, even as they are being used to enhance Maoist strength. Lenin called those who unwittingly join such fronts, thinking they are acting on their own, “useful idiots.”
Even as this goes on inside the country, the Maoists work outside. States tend to focus upon the tangible links, such as the Maoist presence in India. Much more important is their information campaign, designed to present their movement as almost benign. As states make mistakes, such as seen in instances of indiscipline when military units are deployed, these are exploited to claim the state itself is the problem, terror as but a natural component of the solution. As you have seen in the Nepal case, the sheer level of terror inflicted by the Maoists has been quite forgotten in the rush to attack the army, the APF, and the hapless police (who, recall, at one point in the conflict, had actually suffered a majority of all dead when considered as a proportion of the total victims).
3. What is the ultimate goal of the Nepali Maoists? Does this goal differ from that of any of the mainstream political parties in Nepal? Should the Maoists attain power without laying down their arms or renouncing violence, what impact do you feel their political victory will have on the trajectory of like-minded radical outfits that are party to associations such as RIM and CCOMPOSA?
For a Maoist movement, the goal is always power. This has been stated quite openly by all major Maoist figures. They must have power, because their goal is to refashion society. They are not seeking reintegration. That would be to accept the structure that exists and to play by that structure’s rules. Quite vocally, they reject the legitimacy of that structure and its rules. That is why they are adamant that there must be a constitutional convention. They see themselves as in the driver’s seat. They are like any political machine in a rough neighborhood – they can “deliver” the vote. Think of what goes on in many areas of India during parliamentary elections but carry the jostling to an extreme, and you have the picture. This is “boss politics” played by “big boy rules.”
In seeking “peace” and holding that they are “not for violence,” what the Maoists mean is that they would much rather the state delivered to them (the Maoists) power rather than making them (the Maoists) fight for it. They’re not fools. They’re not interested in dying. They’re interested in building a new world. Yet they hold that violence has been the indispensable tool for creating a new correlation of forces, a new electoral map, if you will. That is why they will not give up their weapons. They’ve run the opposing parties out of the neighborhood, and now they are demanding a vote. They don’t see this as hypocrisy – they see it as doing precisely what the state has been doing in years past. But they hold that their motives are superior, because they aim to revolutionize society, to make Nepal a “true” or “authentic” democracy, because they are carrying out the will of history, “of the people.”
Have they worked out the details of what this new democracy will look like? Of course not. They have stated, as Prachanda recently did, that they oppose “parliamentary republicanism,” by which they mean democracy as Nepal had but with the parliament sovereign. But they have not laid out what their “real democracy” alternative will be. That’s the beauty of being the political challenger. You can oppose today’s realities with tomorrow’s promises. This is what politicians always do, even those who run “on my record.” The danger of left-wing ideologues, such as the Maoists, is that their worldview dramatically constrains their view of possibilities.
They tend to think of fantasies, such as “self-reliance” and “independence,” as ends that can be achieved if only “will” is harnessed. It was just such fantasies, implemented through violence, that gave us the astonishing crimes of the past century – crimes, it must be noted, the Maoists deny occurred. Yet there is no doubt what went on under Lenin, Stalin, and Mao (photos of all these individuals are used as veritable deities by the Maoists), any more than there is any question as to what occurred under Hitler or Pol Pot. What they shared was a worldview startlingly similar to that held by the Maoists.
The Maoists’ way of dealing with this is, first, to deny reality (just as the leader of Iran seeks to deny the Holocaust); second, to claim that Nepal will be different (which is easily claimed, since there is a startling lack of knowledge in Nepal of what has gone on globally in similar previous situations to that of Nepal now); and, finally, when all else fails, to claim that the critic has no right to speak. This is a favored tactic of my activist internet correspondents, who purport to find all Americans responsible for everything from US foreign policy to the decimation of the American Indian tribes. None of three ways, it bears reiterating, addresses the issue: the Maoists really have no answers to the challenges facing Nepal. They simply claim that they will do better than the bumbling (and bloody, they claim) incompetents who have preceded them.
Though marginal in an objective sense, Nepal and its troubles have implications for the region and beyond. The decimation of a democracy, the turning over of a people to the same tired solutions that have led to tragedy after tragedy, is of concern enough. Just as serious are the regional implications of allowing an armed, radical movement to force its way to power through terror.
4. Some believe that in return for King Gyanendra’s acquiescence to the Indian line (delivered by Karan Singh), the South Block is of the opinion that he should remain in a ceremonial capacity. Certainly, India has played a politically “safe hand” by employing unofficial channels to mediate in Nepal, which comes with it, limited international liability. Then again, other unofficial Indian channels (e.g. Gen. Ashok Mehta) has suggested that India should play a more overt role in stabilizing Nepal. The possibility of Indian military involvement under UN sponsorship has also been suggested. What are your thoughts on India’s larger goals and objectives regarding Nepal?
There seem to be two questions here. We start with the role of the king but move to the role of India. It is useful to emphasize that the Maoists have used the monarchy as their foil, as a surrogate for what they claim is its role in the old-order. If the “feudal monarchy” is swept away, they endlessly repeat, all will be right with Nepal. In this, they certainly have been assisted by the tragic circumstances which placed the incumbent, Gyanendra, on the throne. Similarly, they have been assisted by his mistakes in maneuvering through the maze of Nepali politics. However, having forced the monarch to a position most claim he should occupy, that of a ceremonial monarch in a parliamentary democracy, the Maoists are still left with the fundamental issue: what to do about Nepal? They see structural issues that can be addressed by “will.” Most of us see a population that has exceeded the carrying capacity of the land. This is the proverbial “spitting in the wind” dilemma. One can’t wish away the wind, so the spittle always blows back on you, regardless of whom you try to blame for the event.
We now turn to “our Indian friends,” as Prachanda has taken to calling them. A number of elements figured into their calculations. First, as the hegemonic power in an unstable subcontinent, India wanted restoration of order. This, as all know, was necessary for precisely the reasons stability is desired in Sri Lanka. Disorder produces refugees, unleashes intra-Indian passions, transfers elements of the conflict to Indian soil, and sucks New Delhi into foreign policy nastiness. Second, having opted for order, India played what a hand well known to its smaller neighbors: intervention. The only question was how to intervene.
Here, there are several schools of thought. My past work in Sri Lanka has led to my being less than charitable as to Indian motives. In the Sri Lankan case, New Delhi was into everything from supporting terrorism to running covert ops in a friendly, neighboring democracy. Only when the Frankenstein it helped to create, LTTE, turned on its former benefactor did logic and morality reassert themselves in New Delhi’s policy. In this case, in Nepal, it is perhaps too early to speak in such terms. What we know at the moment is that is that the weak position of the coalition government in New Delhi, combined with its normal “Great Game” psychology and the eagerness of certain Indian personalities, especially on the left, to expand their own role and spheres of involvement, led to a policy shift that supported SPAM (the Seven Party Alliance and the Maoists). It seems equally clear that India, as it did previously in Sri Lanka, went into the present endeavor quite misinformed by its alleged experts, not to mention its intelligence organs, and that it is quite ignorant as to the actual nature of the Maoists – no matter the efforts of those same personalities just mentioned to claim how wise, thoughtful, and caring Prachanda and other members of the Maoists leadership are.
In once again misreading the situation in a neighboring state, India was virtually pushed by nationalism of the king. Whatever else he is, the monarch is a Nepali who does not think it is for India to dictate Nepali realities. Ironically, this is a position also held by the Maoists. They have simply realized, of late, that it is a position best relegated to the shadows. Better to rail against the old bugaboos of Indian politics, especially those who think the Cold War is still going on, “America and world imperialism.” In any case, where this brings us is a point where we can make use of your earlier phrase – it is India (not the Maoists) that seeks a “soft landing”! New Delhi’s strategy is to get one by facilitating in Nepal creation of a “West Bengal” or a “Kerala” – states where the tamed Indian left challenges and even rules, where it continues with its nasty verbiage and bizarre worldview, but where it must respond to the realities of power and hence stays within the lanes on the national political highway. What New Delhi has overlooked is that such realities occur in India only because of the capacity of the national state to force compliance. Subtract the Indian military, paramilitary, and police forces from the equation, and India would be anarchy. Not surprisingly, that is the very term being used by many to describe the situation in Nepal.
5. Girja Koirala’s visit to India resulted in a substantial economic package for Nepal, but little in the way of resolution on the substance and form of UN assistance. Do you think simply throwing money at the problem will solve the Maoist insurgency? Moreover, is it time for Nepalis to acknowledge that henceforth, even sovereign decisions (such as UN involvement, the 8-point agreement) will not progress unless explicitly authorized by India?
India is the ultimate arbiter in Nepali affairs for reasons of geostrategic interest and Nepal’s geo-fiscal realities.. From Nepal’s standpoint, this has not always worked out well. From India’s standpoint, it has worked out reasonably well. Nepal has steered clear of engaging in behavior that threatens India’s interests, and Nepalis have proved a valuable component of the Indian labor pool (especially militarily, where Nepalis apparently comprise one-eighth of the manpower of India’s infantry battalions). India’s interest in the current situation is in having a stable neighbor, especially one that does not contribute to India’s own growing Maoist problem. To achieve this goal, New Delhi desires in Nepal a functioning democracy committed to addressing the needs of its people. How to balance the elements of this general prescription just related has long been the challenge of Indian foreign policy and has led to some real flies-in-the-ointment at times (again, Sri Lanka leaps to mind).
This said, it is unlikely India would object to a UN presence of some sort in Nepal – it has dealt with the UN in Kashmir. Rather, it is the size and shape of any prospective UN presence that would be a matter for consideration. In a sense, we may be putting the cart before the horse here: before the UN itself would consider entry into a conflict situation as complex as that of Nepal, there would need to be a far greater degree of engagement by the major Nepali actors, with acceptance of certain guidelines that move well beyond the present vague statements of principles. Those commitments, in any case, are so routinely violated, particularly by the Maoists, who continue all manner of extortion and consolidation of their parallel universe, that the UN is unlikely to be willing to engage on the ground at this time.
6. If the Maoists, who are still in the terrorist watch list of United States, come to power through elections to a constituent assembly, will United States extend aid to a complete Communist dominated government in Nepal? The official US line is clear, but what has been your experience is similar situations elsewhere? Is a compromise possible and if so, what are the means that will foment such a compromise?
As the US Ambassador has made quite clear – and the cases of Hamas and Hezbollah illustrate well – there are consequences connected with actions that seek to talk peaceful politics but engage in actions labeled terrorist by virtually the entire world. It is noteworthy that in their quest to carve out an identity as “independent” actors, the Maoists claim to see exemplars in some pretty unsavory types – Venezuela, Iran, Cuba, North Korea. On the one hand, one can understand why these odious regimes are “picked” – on the surface they stand for a divorce from the present world-order, which Maoist dogma holds responsible, in league with the Nepali local representatives of world-capitalism (that is, anyone who owns anything and makes a decent living), for the lack of development that is present-day Nepali reality. In reality, Cuba and North Korea have long been economic basket-cases noted for their political repression, while Venezuela and Iran are political basket-cases determined to remain such by exploiting a single resource, oil, something Nepal certainly does not have. Cases such as Brazil, Argentina, and Bolivia also offer a certain fascination for the Maoists, since these states claim to be “socialist.” Each, though, has particulars not relevant to Nepal. Indeed, the most apt comparison for Nepal would seem to be to the Albania of the Cold War, when its lack of resources and close affinity with Maoist ideology reduced it to a complete backwater.
We may seem to have come far from your question, but the bottom line is that the Maoists have committed themselves to philosophical posturing in the face of very concrete realities. To get their shot at living (and implementing) the revolutionary project, they have turned Nepal into a charnel house. They have then teamed with the usual “useful idiots,” international fellow travelers quite willing to overlook their atrocities, to repeat endlessly that the “crimes” of the old-order justify the crimes now being committed to implement the new-order. That the old-order’s crimes were those of omission, while the Maoist crimes are deliberate -- crimes not only of commission but policy – is simply not discussed.
Worse still, through their endless threats, voiced every time they speak, the Maoists seek to perpetuate their claim that their mere existence proves the legitimacy of their positions. Were the old-order not irredeemably flawed, goes the line, we, the Maoists would not exist. That we exist means that “history” demands we be given the right to try our hand at fashioning a new-order – otherwise, we’ll commit more crimes. This is not negotiation or even participation; it is policy by fiat and blackmail. And some question why the US and other states challenge this logic?
7. How difficult is it for a group on the State Department’s terrorist list to get a clean chit? What are the thoughts circulating the more rational minded academic elements of the American mainstream, given that Nepal’s outcome (for the time being) appears more likely to resemble Palestine’s and Iran’s than a true, representative, liberal democracy? Is this is a larger policy debate to be had within the halls of power in the US and how do you see the impact of such debates on US policy on Nepal?
Cynics would argue that once you get on our lists – there are several -- you never get off. Actually, that’s not so. The Provisional Irish Republican Army (PIRA) is an illustration of a group that moved from being a pariah to being a player in a democratic system. Nonetheless, the thrust of your point is accurate: getting “on the list” is very serious from a legal standpoint. Where the confusion lies is with our presentation of “the list.” I’m not a lawyer, so I can only give you a scholar’s view of this. The essential confusion lies in the fact that two lists appear regularly in the annual Country Reports on Terrorism put out by the State Department (previously called Patterns of Global Terrorism). They can be found on the internet.
The main list is of “Foreign Terrorist Organizations (FTOs).” The Nepali Maoists are not on that one, but their allies in the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) are. “Others Groups of Concern (OGCs)” is the second list presented in the Country Reports book (the latest is more than 250 pages long). There is no authoritative explanation for why there are two lists, or even what it means to be on one as opposed to the other. Yet if one goes to the appropriate publication of the US Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Asset Control, you see a list of sanctions which is both sobering and comprehensive, as well as a list of all those groups and individuals to which those sanctions apply. The Maoists were placed on the list on 31 October 2003.
The legal authority is Executive Order 13224 -- “ Blocking and Prohibiting Transactions With Persons Who Commit, Threaten to Commit, or Support Terrorism,” and it makes no distinction between the FTOs and OGCs found in the State Department publication. The practical impact is a body-slam if the provisions are energetically enforced, particularly through the normal mechanisms of international law enforcement. That they have not been “energetically enforced” stems only, I would surmise, from everyone being busy with other things. To cite but one example, assets being used to hunt for connections with Al Qaeda have simply not looked for similar links with the Maoists. Or, to use several professions to illustrate, a journalist or a professor who fronts for organizations or individuals on “the list,” finds himself, if within our jurisdiction, in hot water. We have seen this happen for those who support the violent Islamists, but the authorities have not paid much attention to left-wing figures.
Were Nepal to have such figures in its government, there would be serious and profound implications. What Nepal possibly faces is just what has happened with Hamas and Hezbollah. Whether events play themselves out as we are seeing even now in the Middle East depends quite upon what the Maoists are actually up to – the topic, beyond all others, of this interview. Hamas and Hezbollah, for example, thought they could be both respectable and disrespectable, that they could be both in government and carry our terrorist actions. Their fellow citizens have paid a terrible price for such folly. Hamas is particularly tragic, because the Palestinians thought they could elect a group that both wanted to defy world norms and be supported by its money. The similarity to the Nepali case is compelling.
Notice that this leads us back to where we have been before. Hamas and Hezbollah, one could argue, have behaved as the Nepali Maoists seem determined to behave, to participate in “the system” only to use it for their own ends. Those “ends,” obviously, have now made life even worse for the Palestinian and Lebanese populations. PIRA in Northern Ireland, to the contrary, has reintegrated, worked to move beyond what it was and to build a better Ulster. All concerned would argue, I believe, that Ulster today is an improvement upon the Ulster that existed when the civil rights movement erupted in the late 1960s over ill-treatment of the Catholic minority.
Conflict is like that. In an example such as Ulster, it is always possible, after the fact, to make a case that such-and-such an approach “worked.” In reality, one gets in place that which is correct (defined as addressing the issues in play) and that which is sustainable (defined by you, as the implementer). One then plays for the breaks. Structure and agency play a role, but so does contingency. What that all means in simple terms is that men are constrained by circumstances, and chance – sheer luck, good or bad – gets a say in the outcome.
In the Nepal case, it was disappointing and tragic that the SPA and the Palace could not have a meeting of minds. Parliamentary democracy should have been the ultimate bulwark against the Maoist challenge, but the very nature of Nepali parliamentary democracy, with its corruption and ineptitude, led to its marginalization. The increasingly bitter split between SPA and the king became all but inevitable in such circumstances, but personalities also played a central role, as they do in all that occurs in Nepal. It was the nastiness between Congress personalities, for instance, that incapacitated government at the moment when focus and response were most needed to insurgent challenge. One cannot expect always that the cards will favor. That has been the case here, but the Maoists know time is not on their side. To the extent they must cease with the rhetoric and actually table a platform, their influence diminishes.
8. How fast do you think the common interests between the political parties on the one hand and the Maoist and Civil Society on the other, will last? The bloom is already off the rose, so to speak.
The Maoists have sought to move rapidly, because they recognize full well that the better known they become, the less influence they will have in open democratic space. In particular, unless they can get SPA to give them power before opposition coalesces, they will have to offer concrete solutions in return for votes, rather than the empty, utopian pronouncements they now set forth.
9. What impact do you feel the Maoists’ method of attain power in Nepal, will have on fraternal organizations in South Asia? Do you subscribe to the theory that Maoism in India can be absorbed by the world’s largest democracy (as suggested by some analysts) or that militant activities will increase?
Though certain Indian commentators hold there are no connections between the two forces, this has never been the case. Indeed, the two sides discussed openly their linkages, and individuals from the two movements were apprehended or killed in operations “on the wrong side of the border.” Only with a move to exploit the nonviolent line of operation did the Nepali Maoists stop claiming to be integrally linked not only with South Asian Maoism, through CCOMPOSA, but also with global Maoist forces through RIM. Of course, these were never “command” relationships, only liaison and, in the case of the Indian groups, some presence.
It is naïve to claim the radical wing of a radical Maoist movement will simply salute and call it a day, even if the leadership decides reigning in the combatants is the best tactical course of action. Further, it is inevitable that any Maoist government would encourage the usual flocking of left-wing groupies that we see – and have seen – in every other case of a radical government. Indeed, there already are here in Nepal the usual international activists supplying information to the Nepali left-wing press and even to the Maoists themselves.
10. What’s the US policy on training for Nepal’s military, as it pertains to units or leaders suspected of human rights violations? What impact has the UN’s report on the Nepali military’s most effective counter-insurgency unit had, where training for personnel in that unit is concerned?
Let me sidestep discussion of a specific unit to address the heart of your concern. Human rights are fundamental, but human rights as presently embodied structurally in a global network are very much a mixed bag. Indeed, as I have been quite blunt in pointing out elsewhere, human rights organizations as now organized and oriented are as much a part of the problem in troubled areas as they are a necessary part of the solution. Unfortunately, while paying lip-service to an expansive concept of human rights, their targets are inevitably and overwhelmingly those they can “get at,” the state and its representatives and forces. They rationalize their bias endlessly; I find those explanations both specious and spurious.
Even here, amidst much effort by some critics to be even-handed, it is the state and the security forces who are susceptible to pressure. The latter are of such disposition (they want to be “respectable”) that they “allow” themselves to be pressured. The Maoists play the game to an extent but simply carry on precisely as before, all the while repeating time and again that any publicity of their malfeasance detracts from the peace process! Looking at what is being said at this moment concerning the last decade, I do not think it is an exaggeration to say the Maoists have simply been given a free pass concerning their accumulated atrocities. Why should we be discussing bringing security force personalities to trial when we have the Maoist murderers strutting about Kathmandu committing all manner of crimes? Even their assassination apparatus, manned by student personalities, now claims to have been victims!
All one need do is go on the web, and ample data, to include pictures, can be found showing that the CPN(M) has certainly earned the label “terrorists.” Nepal is not decimated because of crimes by the security forces, rather by the Maoists. Just go examine the VDC and DDC structures, or look at your district capitals, or try to find the young who have been kidnapped, even the activists who tried to catalogue the Maoist maiming and murders. And what is the Maoist response? Precisely what it is when discussing the likes of the Khmer Rouge (who followed, to reiterate the point, the same ideology as the Nepali Maoists) – to deny that any murders or destruction occurred.
Returning to the Nepali security forces, it is accurate that indiscipline has been an ongoing issue which the forces struggled to minimize. In any military operations, there will be abuses. Our own superbly disciplined US forces have witnessed individuals implicated in crimes recently in Iraq. We should linger on that fact for a moment, because the left-wing here – especially in emails to me – likes to assert that imperfections in the US polity or US forces rob me or others of the legitimacy – and the right – to comment on events in Nepal. I would ask them to consider a simple point: in the US forces one sees “as good as it gets.” One sees behavior as “clean” as it is ever going to get in war. That may make you a pacifist, because war indeed is ugly, but it should also lead to some empathy for a previously largely ceremonial Nepali force which found itself thrust into counterinsurgency. The line bandied about that (R)NA provoked the Maoist insurgency is utter nonsense, for we all know the chain of events. (R)NA was committed quite late in the game and in concerted combat operations only after being attacked by the Maoists in November 2001 in violation of the ceasefire.
Where does the US fit into this scenario? Put simply, any individuals who benefit from our training, or receive certain items of equipment, must by our law be “vetted,” certified, to the best of our ability, as not having committed “human rights crimes.” The way the business plays itself out, a unit with “problems” will see itself banned from training/equipment in its entirety until each and every individual is vetted. Often times this is next-to-impossible, so lags set in.
11. The present government is moving toward castigating those involved with suppressing the recent political uprising in Nepal. This is seen as both a Maoist and Civil Society demand. What impact do you think the prosecution of security personnel will have on the progression of peace talks? What are your thoughts on the prosecution of Maoist militants who have suppressed Nepal’s latent democratic movement (as some claim)? Will there reciprocity in this area?
We have discussed this in good part in the previous question. There are, however, two issues that are being run together. The first is military conduct during the counterinsurgency. For this, there is little that would stand up to charges leading to punishment. Maoist behavior was worse in an institutional sense. Instances of security force indiscipline do not stand equal to a warfighting doctrine, as used by the Maoists. They made terror a linchpin of an armed political approach.
The second issue is obviously security force support for the monarchy. This, though, was quite constitutional. Dealing with the subject goes to the heart of how the monarchy was thrust to the fore in the political process. Far from being a plot, as is often bandied about, we see the consequences of the wholesale failure of parliamentary mechanisms and individuals to respond to the Maoist challenge. The Maoist goal, in other words, was to lay waste to the system, thus to clear the way for construction of a new order. In this, they were eminently successful, with elected government simply unable to respond. When all is said and done, it was the Koirala-Deuba infighting within Nepali Congress which created the constitutional crisis the monarch moved to resolve.
It was the very indeterminate nature of political events post-November 2001 that led all foreign powers to hang back and continue recognition of the government, even as it was not altogether clear who actually constituted the government or how matters would resolve themselves. It was, after all, the Maoists who had eliminated the VDC structure, which was the basis of burgeoning democratic decentralization and capacity. In supporting “the government,” then, the security forces, led by the army, were doing precisely what they are supposed to do.
Part and parcel of this discussion is the nature of events that led to the present SPA-led administration (it’s not altogether clear, their verbiage notwithstanding, whether the Maoists are in or out of the transition). In the action in the street, what should impress is the relative restraint of all concerned, on both sides, as opposed to the action on the margins. Few seem to be willing publicly to acknowledge what could have happened but did not – there could have been tragedy, especially had the army actually committed its forces to repression, which it did not.
12. In what ways can Nepal’s security forces be effectively restructured? Will a merger of the Maoist army be a factor? Dissolution of the joint command was sold as a policy to curb the King’s power, but what of the 1,500 posts that were manned by joint command personnel?
Addressing this question is dependent upon the issues we have discussed already. Since the Maoists have no intention of incorporating themselves into the system, as we understand that term, it’s premature to discuss “merger.” As I noted earlier, what the Maoists seek is a new system, with new relations, new institutions, new rules, new forms. Where even service abroad in foreign armies would factor in remains unclear, since previously the Maoists were quite adamant that they would end such arrangements. Now, though, when they need the good will of, above all, India (if they are to see through their bid for power), they have been quite silent on the matter.
Internally, they have advanced traditional left wing notions of a nation in arms to meet defense needs, something similar to the Swiss or Venezuela. That this would be quite impractical for Nepal is beside the point. The Maoists only advance the ideas as part of their campaign to neutralize the army, which is the key obstacle remaining if they are to consolidate power.
It is the last element of your question that is the most interesting, because it is occurring now. That is, NA is grappling with transition. Just as we have seen the Maoist forces evolve during the conflict, so has the army changed a great deal. In particular, the beginnings of a very professional level of middle grades now exists. Some of the army’s battalion and brigade commanders, for instance, could compete with any in the world. Units such as the Ranger Battalion have demonstrated what a properly trained and motivated NCO corps can do in a military traditionally bifurcated into officers and other ranks (even if NCOs existed on paper, they rarely functioned as the noncommissioned “officers” of their proper name).
Just how the state will conceptualize the future role of the army remains to be worked out. Any state requires an armed capacity for internal and external extreme circumstances. Likewise, Nepalese contributions to UN missions have been much lauded (though also criticized in some circles, especially in Britain). Counterterrorism is more important than ever, despite the efforts of Maoist leadership attempts to portray the treat of terrorism as a creation of America or world imperialism. Certainly history and Nepal’s geostrategic position have demonstrated the need for some sort of capacity, both in intelligence and operations, to deal with unwanted penetration by external actors seeking to harm both domestic and regional interests.
13. Do you think an independent body like UN is essential to Nepal's peace process and elections to the constituent assembly? Is it likely that the UN will deploy blue helmets in Nepal? How do you think Nepal’s neighbors will react to this?
China is not really a player in the Nepalese drama, whatever the myths and plots spun in the press. It’s not concerned in the least about white UN helicopters. More to the heart of the matter is that Nepal’s process of reconciliation suffers from the shortcomings which have bedeviled Nepalese politics throughout the democratic era: rather too much air and not enough contact with the reality of the ground. We have just been discussing the military, for example. Yet the political process goes on as if it can ignore more than a hundred thousand individuals, undefeated and armed, who comprise the security forces. There seems to be the idea that one can simply one day announce a decision has been reached, which will include a declaration that, in effect, a significant slice of the Nepalese old-order should present itself at the chopping block. To say that won’t “just happen” is not to be a pessimist or even a realist, only to reiterate a point I have made in previous interviews and articles: hope in not a method.
If Nepal truly wants reconciliation, it needs to engage all elements of society. Does anyone – except the Maoists and some misguided elements of SPA – think one can simply ignore the supporters of the monarchy or the armed forces? For decades, in my work on Sri Lanka, I have hammered home the point that Sri Lanka created its Tamil problem by implementing policies and programs that marginalized the 17% of the population that is Tamil. And not all of the 17% were marginalized – more than half the Tamils lived within government lines when the conflict began in earnest, a figure that grew to more than three-quarters. So let us say the Tamil insurgent mass base is one-fourth of 17%. Alienating that fraction has proved quite sufficient to keep Sri Lanka in a state of upheaval which would be familiar to any Nepali who has lived through the past decade. So why do certain Nepali actors think they can create the same circumstances, simply ignore a similar fraction (or more), and somehow escape the same result? It is the sort of logic that has led to “non-starter” status for so many Nepali endeavors.
For Nepal to move forward, to use a constitutional assembly as a basis for more equitable new arrangements, is a laudable goal. To think reshuffling the pieces of the Nepalese puzzle will prove a panacea is a pipe dream. The problem is not in exploitation per se but the fact that Nepal is a state with all the resource base of Laos, a country very similar in many respects. One can’t pretend Laos isn’t Laos, or that Nepal isn’t Nepal. One can only deal with it. You start from where you are, and go with what you’ve got. Trying to “will” away ground truths in Cambodia produced tragedy enough. Trying to repeat the program in Laos was bad enough, in a different manner, especially the genocidal effort against the Hmong; but there, the whole utopian silliness foundered upon the harsh realities of geography, topography, and location. Those three – geography, topography, and location – are the true elements with which any Nepali administration will have to struggle, not fantasies such as royalist autocracy or Hindu chauvinism.
14. How hopeful are you that Nepal's problems will be resolved this time? If by any chance dialogue fails this time too, what do you expect in Nepal's future?
Always, one wants to hope – yet one simply cannot pretend hope will allow that he can walk on water. On hydropower, perhaps, but not on water! Though not by nature cynical, I am less than optimistic about what is happening for all the reasons contained in our previous discussion. A new-order of the sort the Maoists have done their best to keep hidden, built upon the hackneyed and very bloody socialist dogma of the past century, is not going to “resolve” – and certainly not “solve” – Nepal’s problems. Only something we can term, for want of better shorthand, “industrialization” will address those problems. Nepal must go from being more than three-quarters rural to being something of the same order but urban. How to do that? If it were as easily done as stated, we’d already see the solution. It certainly is not the central planning vision advanced by Dr. Bhattarai in his PhD dissertation. Neither is it Prachanda’s “miracles [will] happen if we mobilize the 40 million hands.” That was precisely the formula put forth in the disastrous Great Leap Forward of Mao, that resulted in more dead than Nepal has people. It was also the approach outlined by Khieu Samphan, Khmer Rouge number two, in his own PhD dissertation, submitted in Paris. Tragically, history does repeat itself.
What if the talks fail this time? Prachanda has not only outlined the option but he works to position his cadres to make sure events flow his way. How did he put it? -- “There will definitely be an October Revolution of its own kind in Nepal.” And the naïve response from the interviewer? -- “That means you are ready to wait till October?” No, it means that mass action will follow “failure” in the talks, and “failure” will be defined by the Maoists as anything less than the surrender of the old-order to their undefined but claimed new-order. They are preparing, even as we speak, for urban action coordinated with rural action.
15. What are your opinions on the effectiveness (or ineffectiveness) of the Nepali security forces counter-insurgency operations. What are your suggestions and closing thoughts?
This is a useful final question, because it allows us to return to some of the themes we have discussed. What Nepal as a state never understood was that it faced an armed political campaign. To meet such a challenge, the response gets in place that which is correct, that which is sustainable, and it then plays for the breaks. This means, ironically, that what you see happening now should have happened as the response to the Maoists, with the security forces providing the shield. Though a plan was in fact drawn up, it was mechanical, devoid of substance, precisely because the mobilization you saw in April was not used by Nepali democracy as its weapon. That is the irony of Nepali parliamentary democracy – it proved incapable of using mobilization of democratic capacity to defend itself. It did not do what the Thai, the Filipinos, the Peruvians, and the Sri Lankans (against the JVP, twice) did to defeat their Maoists. They brought reform to imperfect systems and made them better. They’re still imperfect, but so are all systems. And they’re not man-eating systems as desired by the left-wing, of which the Maoists are the premier representatives.
It should be obvious that the claim that there is “no military solution” to insurgency is simply a canard. One heard it endlessly in Nepal, most often from “the foreigners who would be gods,” as one acquaintance was apt to put it. Armed capacity enables the campaign of reform, because armed capacity is what enables the challenge to the old-order. In circumstances such as Nepal, no army can be committed simply to defend the status quo. It must be committed to defend transformation. That transformation, though, must look rather more like what can be seen in India and a lot less like what we saw in Mao’s China.
What I would offer in conclusion is simple: if Nepal wishes to move forward, it has all the pieces right before it on the table. This has been said before. What separates the sides is the Maoist notion that revolutionary transformation will now be delivered by surrender when force of arms could not take it. “The people have spoken,” goes their claim. In reality, the people have spoken, but they have not at all supported what the Maoists have in mind, precisely because the Maoists have worked so hard not to let their vision and plans get out into the open. What Nepal needs now, more than ever, is more equitable representation and good governance. What the Maoists keep demanding is retribution and marginalization of all who do not see a solution in their terms. That’s not “negotiation” at all. But then, the Maoists use many words to mean something other than what is in the dictionary.
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