Sunday, February 25, 2007
Terms such as “arms management,” “arms inventory,” “combatant registration,” etc., are often used interchangeably when speaking of Nepal’s peace process. The reality is, there is no overlap in the definitions of any of these terms. And truth be told, no matter which of these fancy “consulting” terms one cares to apply, none of them are even close to completion in Nepal.
Based on what Ian Martin has disclosed, the process of inventorying Maoist arms and registering Maoist combatants (in a best case description) has passed the first of many stages. A cursory review of the details appears so grossly incomplete and inaccurate, one is left wondering what kind of fools our government takes its people for?
Based on the information UNMIN has divulged, there is absolutely no allocation of accountability to any group (the Maoists, the Government or the UN), should the details of the information ever be found to be inaccurate. With the predictive statements that have already been made, one wonders the degree to which information to be discovered (during successive phases of the arms management process,) has already been tainted.
For the UN, Nepal has been (and will continue to be) the ultimate consulting job. A project staffed with high paid Subject Matter Experts with unlimited funding. A case study for the world on “successful” UN intervention and above all, an engagement where the stake holders provide absolutely no direction. In consulting jargon, Nepal is to the UN “the gift that keeps giving,” a “fat cow begging to be milked.”
The information that has been disclosed (upon which a decision to include the Maoists in the interim parliament is to be made) is hardly of marginal value. What has been produced represents a near complete waste of time and resources; findings with absolutely no decision-making value, layered with disclaimers that add even more abiguity to the overall process.
Had the UN team been properly managed, the decision-critical criteria publicized and the proper expectations set, there would be no room for controversy today. Despite repeated warnings, the government did not bother to implmenet even the most basic controls and here we are, stuck with results from months of work (and hundreds of thousands spent), that are impossible to interpret.
UNMIN confirmed that it registered 30,852 Maoist combatants. They then proceeded to state that once the full modalities of the second stage of verification are finalized (exactly when is this going to be?), any minor found to be associated with the Maoist “army,” will be honorably and automatically discharged. Further, it was stated that the criteria that qualifies an individual as a Maoist combatant is whether his/her recruitment occurred prior to May 25, 2006.
The implication is clear: the declared number of 30,852 Maoist combatants is inaccurate. When the very individuals who conducted the registration process qualify their findings with layer upon layer of exceptions, what legitimacy are the people to accord the process or its results?
Two very relevant questions arise: One, why couldn’t the UN determine illegitimate combatants during the registration process? Two, precisely what (aside from further integration, training and preparation) will be fundamentally different when UNMIN applies the combatant criteria at a future date?
More to the point, what’s the value of disqualification later, when the information collected now will be the basis upon which critical decisions such as funding allocations will be made? This episode should go down as one of the most disgustingly squandered and zero value-add exercises in the UN’s history!
The same goes for the registered weapons, advertised at 3,482. A great start to yet another “project” that has no end in sight.
By Ian Martin’s own admission, his team “is not and will not be in a position to state whether the weapons it has registered correspond to the full total of weapons held by the Maoist army.” Neither can his team verify whether the registered 3,482 weapons correspond to the 3,430 weapons declared by the State. So what exactly is it that the UN team is in a position to do?
Unfortunately, this isn’t where the nonsense ends. While Martin’s team alludes to a “high degree of correspondence” between the weapons registered and those listed as missing by the State, they are “not in a position to confirm or refute reports of weapons purchases by or on behalf of the CPN-M, although the weapons registered include a number of weapons not held in the stocks of the state security forces, such as AK-47s.”
First, Martin’s military advisor needs a wake-up call. Chinese manufactured T-56 Type-II assault rifles appear identical to the infamous Kalashnikov rifels (AK-47), but they are not the same. This is an important distinction because the information has specific strategic implications.
Second, doesn’t the registration of weapons not found in the Nepalese Security Forces’ arsenal verify that purchases were made by the Maoists? Or is UNMIN trying to play smart by claiming a technicality suggesting that the weapons might have been donated to (and thus not procured by) the Maoists???
How can Ian Martin, the head of the UN’s Mission in Nepal (UNMIN) make a public statement that offers completely contradictory information and expect Nepalis (and the world) to take him (and the UN) seriously? Diplomatic as he may be, Ian Martin is no Bill Clinton. (Where’s Senator Patrick Leahy and his trust-worthy Nepal-expert Aid, when Nepal needs them?).
Here’s the icing on the cake of lunacy – the mother of all sick jokes: It is based on this unverifiable, incomplete, inaccurate information (produced by UNMIN), that Girija Prasad Koirala will make a decision on whether Maoist arms have been adequately managed. The answer to this question (which is undoubtedly going to be “yes”), will determine whether the Maoists should be inducted into the interim parliament.
To add insult to injury (and ridicule to an already ludicrous situation), we find Shekhar Koirala warning the political parties to not “entangle (themselves) on the issue of arms” for fear of missing the (unrealistic) June deadline for constituent assembly elections.
Exactly why did Shekhar’s uncle Girija insist on Maoist arms being managed if the issue was of no consequence? By Shekhar’s logic, since the act of holding elections takes priority, the UN’s work is immaterial to decision-making. (Does anyone remember who made similar arguments about holding elections and the number of candidates that paid for the cost of the experiment with their lives? The same arguments against holding elections for the sake of elections, applies here).
Then comes Bam Dev Gautam with his infinite wisdom that “Maoists would repent if they have hidden their arms” – right. Is it Bam Dev’s UML cadre who are going to make the Maoists “repent?” When was the last time Bam Dev checked the allegiances of his own party's ranks? He’d better check again before he makes another comedic threat and embarasses himself.
Dr. Minendra Rijal appears to be the only level-headed leader in the crowd. His statement was that “the issue of arms allegedly hidden by the Maoists should not be made a matter of controversy.” And he’s absolutely right. The UN’s work is sufficiently ambiguous to the point where any lingering doubts over whether the Maoists have hidden arms becomes a moot point. (UNMIN: “we can’t say if they bought arms, but we can’t deny it either; there are arms that aren’t part of the Army’s inventory, but maybe they were gifts to the Maoists and thus were technically not procured”??? Come on people!!! Wake up!!!).
Whether one evaluates UNMIN’s findings using the yard-stick of “completeness” or “accuracy,” the outcome is identical – the results are self-admittedly incomplete and undoubtedly inaccurate.
In all fairness, the fault for mismanging this whole process falls squarely on the shoulders of the SPA leadership and the Maoists – not the UN. It is our leadership’s incapacity at managing the UN (in a way that allocates accountability for the results that Martin’s team produces) that has yielded information, squarely in the “grey zone.”
Had Nepal’s inept leadership been able to manage Ian Martin’s team, UNMIN would have told the SPA and the Maoists long ago that the arbitrarily set June timeframe for constituent assembly elections is completely unrealistic. Instead, the Maoists saw in the UN an opportunity to gain legitimacy and the SPA, an opportunity to claim forward progress – yet another publicity stunt that is backfiring. The UN presence is truly so much more than both of these selfish, short-sighted applications, combined.
When irreconcilable gaps appear in the analysis the UN has submitted (and they most certainly will), the SPA leaders will claim ignorance, the UN will come up with some technical excuse (based on its mandate) and the Maoists will carry on with business as usual – blame the invisible “reactionaries,” suppress the Madhesi movement and make whimpering excuses about how the demand for a federal structure was originally theirs.
But truly, who gives a rat’s ass about who said what first? The bare facts are that the Madhesis’ are doing things the democratic way while the Maoists did it the terrorist way. Unfortunately for the Maoists, that which they exploited and thrived on is finally catching up with them. Who could have imagined the Maoists would be brought to their knees by the very “people” they radicalized (over 12 years), in a matter of 2 weeks?
The outcome of UNMIN’s first report should be sufficiently worrisome for the world to read into the sham of a process that Nepal’s leaders are managing, using the UN as a smoke screen. Ambiguous, meaningless criteria are set, meaningless information collected and decisions made independent of whether the pre-determined criteria are met.
This precedent presents an extremely dangerous environment for the “client” (Nepal’s government), the “consultant” (UNMIN) and it presents a very high risk scenario for the Nepali population. Historical events would indicate that any hopes of the “client” becoming a responsible actor is wishful thinking (especially in a situation where the opportunity for commissions based on UN contracts is zero and it is technically not the “client's” money that is being spent).
The onus then lies on the “consultant” (UNMIN) to set the record straight and to earn it’s keep by diplomatically maneuvering the thin line between what it considers appropriate (by mandate), and necessary (by what it is seeing in Nepal). Expressing "concern" over registered combatants abandoning cantonment sites is the diplomatic thing to do but unfortunately, matters in Nepal are far beyond the stage where the UN's (forever) resoultion-drafting mode would make sense.
The frustration that Ian Martin probably feels at having to work with a bed-ridden Prime Minister is understandable. However, as a professional, in a field where the lives (and futures) of millions of people are at stake, Mr. Martin should take the opportunity to provide his superiors in New York a “closed-door” assessment of what is really going on. There is still time to bring sanity to Nepal.
If Ian Martin fails to take the initiative in this regard, he has the potential to single-handedly exacerbate the UN’s “lame duck” reputation and negate every ounce of goodwill he earned for his work in East Timor. If Mr. Martin’s quest for professional excellence is what is driving his instinct to remain unaccountable, the Nepali people can only hope and pray that at some point, Mr. Martin’s conscience affords him the courage to do the right thing – set realistic expectations for Nepal’s peace process. The clock is ticking....
The following assumption apply to the analysis produced below:
Assumption-1: The figures outlined below are based off the last public declaration of stolen arms as publicized by Nepalese Security Forces (SF) (under the Unified Command structure). The date of this declaration was approximately November/December of 2004, after which a series of additional skirmishes took place. Maoist combatants succeeded in stealing additional weapons from State forces during each of these encounters.
Assumption-2: For reasons stated above, the volume of weapons declared stolen by the Maoists (outlined in the analysis below), are slightly deflated. The actual numbers should be higher.
Assumption-3: Additionally, it should be noted that the official numbers presented below already account for weapons that were recovered by the Security Forces (at the time the numbers were revealed in 2004).
Assumption-4: An "apples-to-apples" comparison is impossible at this time because the UN's inventory lists totals based on weapon classes - details to the underlying totals have not been made public. The baseline used in this analysis (as declared by the Security Forces) offers much greater detail and classification. A one-to-one comparison between the inventory declared by the Maoists and weapons documented as stolen by the Security Forces, is impossible.
A. Infantry Support Weapons
Inventoried by the UN (Declared by the Maoists): The Maoists have declared 91 mortars of which 55 are locally manufactured. It is assumed that a total of 5, 40-mm rocket launchers which were declared, are also included in this count.
Official Statistics (Declared by the Security Forces): During the course of the insurgency, the Security Forces lost 11, 81-mm mortars and 19, 2-inch mortars. This accounts for a total of 30 infantry support weapons.
Analysis: Assuming that the 5, 40-mm rocket launchers (declared by the Maoists) are a part of the total 91 weapons, it would appear that the Maoists have purchased 6 additional mortars. If this assumption is incorrect, then the Maoists have purchased a total of 11 infantry support weapons.
Results: The Maoists receive a passing grade in this category. The declaration provides clear evidence that the Maoists had purchased additional infantry support weapons. The passing grade is based on the assumption that the Maoists have declared all of the infantry support weapons they purchased.
B. Sub-Machine Guns (SMG) / Semi-Automatic Weapons
Inventoried by the UN (Declared by the Maoists): The Maoists have declared a total of 61 SMGs to the UN.
Official Statistics (Declared by the Security Forces): During the course of the insurgency, the Security Forces lost 121 SMGs.
Analysis: A total of 60 SMGs remains unaccounted for. Additionally, an undocumented number of Sterling sub-machine carbines (often captured in pictures of Maoist combatants posing for the media), remain unaccounted for.
Results: The Maoists receive a failing grade in this category with approximately 50% of stolen weapons remaining undeclared.
C. Machine Guns / Fully Automatic Weapons
Inventoried by the UN (Declared by the Maoists): The Maoists have declared a total of 61 machine guns to the UN.
Official Statistics (Declared by the Security Forces): During the course of the insurgency, the Security Forces lost 5, General Purpose Machine Guns (GPMG), 72 Light Machine Guns (LMG) and 1 MINIMI (squad support weapon). This accounts for a total of 78 automatic weapons.
Analysis: The discrepancy between the officially declared and stolen weapons is 16.
Results: The Maoists receive a failing grade in this category also.
Inventoried by the UN (Declared by the Maoists): The Maoists have declared a total of 2,403 rifles to the UN.
Official Statistics (Declared by the Security Forces): During the course of the insurgency, the Security Forces lost 11, 5.56mm Light Support Weapons (LSW); 2, 203 Grenade Launcher rifles; 29, 5.56mm M-16 rifles; 2, 5.56mm Colt Commando rifles; 5, 7.62mm Galil assault rifles; 1, G-36 rifle; 3, sniper rifles; 512, 7.62mm Self-Loading Rifles (SLR); 234, 5.56mm INSAS rifles; 1,748, .303 Lee Enfield rifles. This accounts for a total of 2,547 rifles.
Analysis: The discrepancy between the officially declared and stolen rifles is 144. Maoists posing for the media have also revealed numerous Chinese T-56, Type-II assault rifles, AK-47 assault rifles and 7.62mm Indian MAG rifles. None of these classes of weapons are accounted for the in official number of rifles as declared by the Security Forces.
Results: The Maoists receive a “distinguished” failing grade in this category.
Inventoried by the UN (Declared by the Maoists): The Maoists have declared a total of 114 pistols as side arms, to the UN.
Official Statistics (Declared by the Security Forces): During the course of the insurgency, the Security Forces lost 31, 9mm pistols (of various makes); 16 revolvers; 1 P7 M13 pistol; 118 pistols of various makes. This accounts for a total of 166 side arms.
Analysis: The discrepancy between the officially declared and stolen side arms is 52. This discrepancy does not account for an estimated 1,000 Chinese pistols that have been purchased by the Maoists.
Results: The Maoists receive another “distinguished” failing grade in this category.
Inventoried by the UN (Declared by the Maoists): The Maoists have declared a total of 212 shotguns, to the UN.
Official Statistics (Declared by the Security Forces): During the course of the insurgency, the Security Forces lost a total of 258 shotguns.
Analysis: The discrepancy between the officially declared and stolen shotguns is 46. This discrepancy does not account for an unknown quantify of privately owned 12-gague shot guns that were confiscated by the Maoists during the insurgency.
Results: The Maoists receive another failing grade in this category.
G. “Other” Weapons
Inventoried by the UN (Declared by the Maoists): The Maoists have declared a total of 253 “other” weapons to the UN.
Official Statistics (Declared by the Security Forces): During the course of the insurgency, the Security Forces lost a total of 183, .22 rifles (acquired during IGP Kharel’s leadership to combat the Maoists and used extensively in operations Romeo and Sierra-II-Kilo) and 42 Hornet rifles. This accounts for a total of 225 “other” weapons.
Analysis: The discrepancy between the officially declared and stolen “other” weapons is 28 additional weapons declared by the Maoists. This discrepancy does not account for an unknown quantify of privately owned hunting rifles that were confiscated by the Maoists during the insurgency. Additionally, approximately 233 home-made weapons (included in the Maoist count) are not included in the officially declared number of stolen weapons.
Results: The Maoists receive a passing grade in this category if the declared numbers are tallied against the numbers stolen from the state. If home-made weapons and weapons stolen from private residences are taken into account, the passing grade is easily reversed to a failing grade.
- Excluding mortars and rocket launchers, a total of 3,395 (3,425 declared by the State minus 30 mortars/rocket launchers) weapons were lost to the Maoists.
- The weapons declared by the Maoists (including mortars, rocket launchers, home-made mortars, assorted rifles, and 233 home-made guns) totals to 3,428.
- In order to conduct a comparable analysis, mortars, rocket launchers, home-made mortars, assorted rifles and home-made guns need to be subtracted from the declared count of 3,428 weapons. The adjustment to conduct a comparable analysis is as follows: 3,428 – 278 = 3,150 weapons.
- This yields a discrepancy between what the state had documented as stolen and what the Maoists have declared as follows: 3,395 – 3,150 = 245.
- It is vital to note that the 245 calculated above accounts only for differences between what the State lost and a comparable number of weapons declared by the Maoists. The actual number of weapons still in Maoist possession is most certainly higher.
- For example, approximately 125, T-56 Type-II Chinese assault rifles have been procured by the Maoists (AK-47 ). Of the declared 3,428 rifles, the Maoists are using approximately 524 for camp protection (28 camps ) and 49 for the protection of their leaders.
- The total counts between what the State Forces declared and what the Maoists ultimately produced is uncharacteristically similar. It is possible that information provided by the State to the UNMIN was leaked to the Maoists in advance.
- The lack of full transparency on the different classes of weapons declared by the Maoists vs. those declared by the State is a serious deficiency in the public information disclosed to date. UNMIN should immediately release full and transparent information for public consumption.
Past postings related to this topic:
Independent auditors: Are alarm bells rigning or what? With one adjustment for home made mortars, the total counts for what the Maoists declared versus what the Government submitted is 3 = 0.0008759% variance.
Saturday, February 24, 2007
Even as the Terai starts to breathe again, various ethnic groups across the country have renewed their calls for further protests. The latest turmoil in the Terai is a direct consequence of the murky politics envisioned by the Maoists; the same ideologies that provided the base for the Maoist revolution – inciting of minority groups on the thesis of "self determination."
Despite the successful conclusion of the April revolution, ethnicity has been (and remains) an unrealized but gargantuan niche in Nepalese politics. While political pundits belonging to various political systems have ignored the sentiments of ethnic minorities, the Maoists on the other hand had (till recently), masterfully exploited the niche as a catalyst to storm into power.
The nucleus of the political crisis in Nepal is the continued neglect of minority rights, primarily of the socio-cultural variety. If Nepal's politicians continue to ignore the rights of minority groups, the ethnic issue has the potential to lead to the disintegration of the nation-state. Up to now the challenges of ethnic equality have only received moral acknowledgement. The government's procedures to tackle these challenges are short on substantive ideology, concrete policy and as always, big on rhetoric.
The tear in Nepal's fraternal fabric is primarily a result of Maoist policies. To begin with, the Maoists espoused the policy of 'self determination' that proposed autonomy for minority groups (based on ethnic dimensions). As a result, the overwhelming majority of Maoist combatants hail from ethnic minorities.
But herein lies the paradox – the ethnic combatants have fought for the Maoists for equality along social, cultural, political and economic lines. This they expect to achieve through the medium of democratic dispensation which eventually will prove contradictory to the Maoist school of thought – radical communism. A classic mismanagement of expectations versus delivery capacity - the Maoists radicalization of the Nepali population has finally caught up with them.
Even after the conclusion of the April revolution, the Maoists have failed to retract from the path of violence and the Maoists remain wed to their cause of establishing one party communist republic, thereby defying the norms of multi-party democracy.
In hindsight, the political parties’ commitment to ensuring and institutionalizing an inclusive political structure remains questionable. This is mainly due to the construct of the existing internal social structure of the major political parties.
First, the ethnic representatives in the major political parties are on average, old enough to be grand parents for the newest additions to the voting population. These leaders have been completely absorbed into the Kathmandu bourgeoisie. The passion and determination to impact changes is dormant.
It is also worth noting that the majority of the ethnic leaders that belong to major political parties have for long stayed away from their home constituencies and are thus, out of touch with rural and ethnic issues. But the crux of the problem is that the leadership remains overwhelmingly caste conscious with Hindu male domination and with Brahminisation as the most distinctive feature of the entire political sphere. These leaders fear that revamping the social structure within their parties (and within the larger political context), could eventually lead to the waning of their influence, power and their future in politics.
What is also foreboding is the fact that the prelude to Constituent Assembly elections will be marred with violence. It is also predictable that elections will be fought along ethnic, geographical and religious lines, contradicting principles of secularism, ethnic integration and national harmony. Determined tongue lashers of various ideological backgrounds will stress on theocratic values that will eventually dominate the election manifestos of major political parties. But if the problem of ethnic minorities remains unaddressed (prior to the elections), the eventual outcome will be a discontented mass, no matter which party wins.
It is a foregone conclusion that the Maoists’ will keep their true intentions closely to their chest prior to attaining an electoral victory. It is by design that the Maoists will fight the elections promoting equality for minorities and promising autonomies. But the election promises contravene the principles of Maoist communism. In their bid to promote equality, Maoists like Pol-Pot in Cambodia, Chairman Mao in China and CCCP in Russia and finally, the Maoists in Nepal will also cut a swathe through social and cultural structures in effort to usher egalitarianism among the masses.
However, Maoist aspirations for equality could get compounded if the minorities fear that they are losing their cultural and social identity. The minorities will revolt to protect their religious rights, right to private property and human rights. These issues could form the basis for a new revolution. The gravity of the problem could mean that the country would have to witness a cycle of anarchy and face the threat of possible disintegration, prior to an eventual mass-based revolution against the Maoists. If the Maoists are true to their cause and are able achieve an electoral victory; it is doubtful that the radicals within their rank and file, will resist pursuing their radical ideology.
On the other hand if the political parties win, namely the Nepali Congress, the domination of the high caste Hindu male elite will continue. All state tools that can invariably affect the election results are disproportionately Chetri, Brahmin and Newar dominated – more so Brahmans. But Brahmanisation in itself is only a part of the problem. The fulcrum of the problem is the reluctance of political leaders to diversify; the fear of being displaced.
Therefore, the move towards inclusiveness will progress sluggishly causing concern to many. This lethargy heralds a scenario of further unrest. Ethnic minorities will battle hard to be heard and to preserve their social and cultural identity. And increasingly, the political direction will move towards an inclusive Nepal. However the social, cultural and more importantly the human cost of impacting changes, in an inclusive democratic Nepal will be dear.
Either way, in hindsight, it becomes abundantly clear that the April uprising was only the beginning to a long, drawn out process, intended to bring about a "new" Nepal. The uprising was just the beginning to a series of mini-revolutions and counter-revolutions that have no discernable end in sight.
Thursday, February 22, 2007
Under the assumption (and this is a MAJOR assumption) that all parties to Nepal's conflict are RATIONAL, self-preserving actors, below is an argument on how "the people" are being taken for a ride.
Consider this: Is it in King Gyanendra's best interest to accelerate the demolition of the institution of monarchy or to ensure its preservation? Common sense would indicate that the Palace and its supporters would want the tradition of monarchy to continue; at a minimum, in a ceremonial capacity, and preferably, with full legitimization (courtesy of the constituent assembly elections). This would be the best case scenario for the Palace.
Then one must ask, why the suicidal address on Democracy Day from Gyanendra? Why would the Palace (of all groups), provide an excuse for the Maoists to divert attention away from the one issue that has single-handedly derailed the Maoists' agenda - the Madhesi uprising?
It would appear that the most controversial components of the King's message were as follows: One, his claim of "compulsion" for the February-1 takeover and two, the timing of his delivery. As for the rest of it, the guy's taking moral responsibility for everything that happened during his 15 month side-show. With the institution of monarchy in virtual "suspension," (so when Gyanendra does speak, it's as good as any private individual speaking), what's unconstitutional about admitting fault?
Nepalis need to make up their minds - are we going to continue bestowing regal privilege on Gyanendra or are we going to start treating him like one of the crowd? The call for going republic would fall in line with the latter approach. So is it Gyanendra's bad for taking moral responsibility or is it the Nepali media's bad for giving what Gyanendra says, undue importance (or more to the point, is it the politicians' fault for preying on populist fervour)?
This is ADMISSION of guilt People!! Isn't this what the Rayamajhi Commission wanted to establish when they asked to "grill" Gyanendra? Well, they didn't have to. Gyanendra came out and did it all on his own. So what's the fuss about? Prosecute him, put him on trial, use his admission to build a case against him. But for god's sake, do it through polls, through due process, do it legitimately and stop projecting this bogeyman caricature that gives Gyanendra an elevated status!!
As for the "compulsion," component of Gyanendra's delivery, let's consider similar arguments that have been made to justify other experiments that have gone terribly awry. For example, the mainstream parties ignored the Maoists' demand, so they felt "compelled" to take up arms and kill 13 thousand Nepalis.
As another example, certain Civil Society elements feel "compelled" to keep embarrassing Gyanendra, to pretend that they are keeping the 7 parties in check, and to continue turning a blind eye to all but the most blatant abuses by the Maoists.
These elements continue to use Gyanendra as a populist lever to elevate their own agendas. Why? It's simple, it's because they can, and because they feel "compelled" to protect themselves, their wives and their children. They've nothing to fear from a King whose worst offence it was to place them in preventive detention (the sole cause behind their elevated statues today).
But with less than 60% of the Maoists' arms under lock and key, these individuals have plenty to fear from "accidental" discharges such as the one in Lahan. There is an established precedent of consequences for speaking against the Maoists - it's called a bullet with the "offender's" name on it. Or in more recent times, it's called kidnapping (ask the Nepali Congress's MP, Suresh Malla; he'll tell you all about it).
As for the timing aspect of Gyanendra's delivery, when it comes to admitting fault, there's no such thing as a "good" time. Better late than never is what most rational people would say.
How Gyanendra's address has the potential to derail the constituent assembly elections defies rational thought. His admission of guilt may gain favour with the general Nepali population (which traditionally demonstrates memory-capacity that spans no longer than 6 months at any given time). But this is very different from attempts at sabotaging the constituent assembly elections - an allegation Maoists and their sympathizers continue to make. Potential sabotage against the Maoists' end game? Perhaps. But sabotage against the holding of constituent assembly elections? Unlikely.
The reality is that the Maoists are still reeling from the Madhesi revolt. This revolt has clearly distinguished itself as a legitimate movement, untarnished by the history of ethnic exploitation and violence that lies at the core of the Maoist movement. With this reality comes the certainty of humiliating results at the constituent assembly elections for the Maoists - with the UN on the ground and the whole world watching, the elections could prove to be a devastating blow to the Maoists' ego. Then what?
This mode of thought is precisely what is driving the Maoists' demand for a republic, immediately. They need something significant under their belt (before elections), to substantiate 12 years of sorrow, misery, loss of life and a violent approach that all things being equal, simply cannot be justified.
The only hope of gaining legitimacy in this area (for the Maoists), is if they can remove the monarchy from Nepal. Heading into CA elections under a republican environment would certainly be favourable to the Maoists; even Army Generals who consider the mainstream parties are far greater degenerates than the Maoists, are likely to help tilt the election outcome in the Maoists' favour. After all, it was the parties who sent the Army on a wild goose chase after the Maoists and it was the mainstream parties that hung the Army out to dry - not the Maoists.
Let's face it, King Gyanendra may have millions locked away in some account overseas, but neither he, nor his family will enjoy close to an ounce of the comfort or respect that Nepal has traditionally afforded its Royal Family. Why on earth would Gyanendra want to jeopardize the only chance of survival his lineage has - the constituent assembly elections?
It's high time to wake up and smell the coffee. In whose real interest (given the parameters in Nepal, today), is it to hold the Constituent Assembly elections? The King, for whom the only chance of survival is elections, or the Maoists, for whom elections in June would be political suicide?
Urgent focus is required to ensure that Nepal's transition (whether it be to a republic or a federal structure with a ceremonial monarchy) is accomplished through elections, not parliamentary or 7 party or 8 pseudo-party decrees. This is ESSENTIAL for sustainable peace, security, law and order to take footing in Nepal.
Wednesday, February 21, 2007
The US ambassador to Nepal, James F Moriarty is perhaps the most hated man amongst the radical Maoists. They love to hate him for the precision with which he assesses their dubious motives and covert operations and makes matters worse for them by publicizing these motives. With his tenure winding down, Moriarty may be the last man standing in Nepali soil that dares to counter Maoist propaganda eloquently, effectively, and consistently.
Moriarty had questioned Maoist commitment to complete disarmament long before CP Gajurel, a Maoist ideologue and central committee member, revealed among the Maoist sympathizers in Jawahar Lal Nehru University that they had raised the strength of their army from 10,000 to 37,000 after the fall of King Gyanendra's regime. Gajurel's recent revelation clearly shows that Moriarty was correct in his assessments when he made it public long before Gajurel did.
As far as the surrender of weapons to the United Nations is concerned, Moriarty had bluntly said that Maoists are acquiring "crummy weapons" from the Indian state of Bihar for locking up in cantonments, while retaining the "modern weapons" they already have. Gajurel's recent revelation has confirmed Moriarty's claim: Maoists not only bought "crummy weapons" but also are buying modern weapons to launch a city-centered revolution in the near future.
When Gajurel said that the Maoist military strength had increased from 10,000 to 37,000, he was also indirectly noting that if they had 10,000 guns before, they now had 27,000 more. An army is considered an army only when it is armed and the Maoists know it better than anyone else. The recent terai agitation has opened their eyes in terms of their existence in the absence of weapons.
Maoists cannot refute the fact that they are not buying weapons to arm these additional 27,000 recruits; if they do, they are not telling the truth this time around too. An army without weapons cannot be considered an army; at best, they can be considered as scouts and the Maoists know very well that a city-centered revolution is impossible with scouts.
When ambassador Moriarty accused the Maoists of acquiring and submitting only "crummy weapons" to the UN disarmament officials, Maoists used their dearest sympathizer in the cabinet -- Home Minister Krishna Prasad Sitaula -- to do the dirty laundry.
According to unofficial reports, Maoists have so far surrendered less than 4000 weapons out of which around 500 are not functional. If we count, it becomes evident that the weapons surrendered by the Maoists approximately match the number of weapons they had captured from the Nepal Army, Armed Police Force, and Nepali Police during the so-called people's war. What happened to the "modern weapons" that Maoists claim to have bought during the course of people's war?
Sitaula, instead of taking time and trying to find out the truth behind the statement, preferred to believe the Maoists for whatever reasons it may be and discredited ambassador's claim. However, the total number of weapons surrendered by the Maoists and Gajurel's recent revelation shows how our ministers misinform those very people whom they are supposed to keep abreast of every detail of the ongoing peace process.
Gajurel's recent revelation has proved that instead of disarming the militiamen, Maoists are actually increasing their military strength. How good of a job is Sitaula doing as home minister? Isn't it his duty, not a foreign diplomat's, to blow the proverbial whistle when there is foul play on the part of Maoists? Shouldn't he be morally responsible and accountable for misinforming people? He deluded his constituents when he discredited Moriarty's claim that Maoists were not being truthful to their commitment. If he cannot gather rather accurate information, he should not be at least misguiding the citizens.
Recently, Finance Minister Dr Ram Sharan Mahat said, "The Maoists have not produced any details of their expenditure." The government had provided Rs 350 million to Maoist spokesperson Krishna Bahadur Mahara for necessary arrangements in all cantonments for Maoist combatants.
If we try to connect the dots and analyze the chain of statements from ambassador Moriarty to Dr Mahat, it is easy enough to ascertain where the taxpayers' money, handed over to Maoists as a "cash prize," is being spent.
The breakdown of data given by Dr Mahat shows that Maoists needed 63 million rupees each month to feed their 35,000 guerillas each month. However, Gajurel's revelation that they have raised their army strength from 10,000 to 37,000 clearly shows that the Maoists never had 35,000 militiamen to begin with. How could the government squander the taxpayers' hard-earned money without the proper homework to ascertain the real strength of the Maoist militia that was to be fed, clothed, and housed?
It is clear that the money that was given to feed, house, and clothe the 25,000 militiamen that never existed was spent, in reality, to increase the strength of their militia. Thus, the taxpayers' money which was handed over to the Maoists without proper homework has in turn exacerbated an already dire security situation and made the road to peace, stability, democracy difficult than ever.
It is not only about money but what the money given to take care off guerillas that never existed has done in terms of securing peace, stability, and democracy in the nation. Instead of contributing to the establishment of peace, security, and democracy, it has threatened these very ideals it was supposed to secure. In addition, Gajurel's revelation about the initial strength of the Maoist militia has demonstrated how easily the Maoists can fool our government and not be accountable for their actions.
The recent statements by Moriarty, Sitaula, Gajurel and Dr Mahat clearly show how murky the peace process is. It does not take Einstein's brain to come to the conclusion that Maoists have successfully hijacked the mandate of the people's movement II and the people's aspirations to peace, stability, and democracy, by using the very people who were supposed to defend the people's right to freedom and democracy. They are slowly, but firmly, building the foundation for establishing a proletarian communist state by skillfully using the SPA leaders that vouch for democracy.
An unprecedented surge in the Maoist military recruitment by using the taxpayers' money can be considered the most brilliant path devised by communists in modern times to defeat democracy and establish a proletarian communist state so far. Never in the history of mankind has such a successful plan been devised which misused the very money of the state that is run predominantly by the people that stand for multiparty democracy to recruit militiamen whose main aim is to undermine and ultimately defeat the existence of multiparty democracy and establish a proletarian communist state.
The sad part of the ongoing peace process is that while the Maoists, who have been double crossing the government thus far, have revealed their plan to initiate a city-centered revolution soon, the government is still glued to the wishful thinking of believing that things would fall into place once Maoists join the government. The government has no contingent strategy whatsoever to counter the Maoist threat of a city-centered revolution. This lack of sensitivity on the part of our politicians shows that the mindset of a time before King Gyanendra's rule still prevails.
Gajurel's recent revelation has sent chills over the spines of the Nepali citizens that have always dreamt of an inclusive democracy and the right to freedom of expression. With the revelation of an increase in Maoist military might and the initiation of a city-centered revolution, it begs the question: In an attempt to save ourselves from one monster—a repressive monarch—have we fallen into the clutches of another, (CPN Maoist)? Hopefully we will be luckier than the North Koreans and Cubans in translating our dreams of peace, stability and democracy into a reality.
Friday, February 16, 2007
If shameless display of lust for power had a name, it would be Krishna Prasad Shitoula. Not only is this individual’s yearning to remain in office morally and ethically repugnant, his convoluted assertion that the peace process has somehow stayed on track at his personal discretion is absolutely flawed.
Shitoula’s attempt to claim disproportionate credit for the progression of Nepal’s peace process correlates perfectly with why the Maoist leadership is coming to his rescue – they know “useful idiots” like Shitoula are far and few between and that had it not been for Shitoula, the Maoists would have faced much more stringent (and warranted) opposition during successive phases of negotiations.
Plus, should the Nepali people be fooled into believing that Shitoula and ONLY Shitoula can deliver us peace? Is this really the case or is this a figment of Shitoula’s imagination that he would like to have the Nepali people believe? To the ordinary observer, this sort of claim sounds awfully similar to the “fear mongering” that the Royal regime practiced to prevent street protests or on a much grander scale, the kind of electoral tactics the Republican machine in the US used to win the 2004 elections – without George W. Bush to protect the American people, the world is doomed!
But today, Nepal is neither under the Royal regime nor is Bush running for office in Singha Durbar. So what’s all this nonsense about Shitoula and ONLY Shitoula being able to deliver us peace? If this isn’t a play by a supposedly “democratic” politician on the fear psychosis of the Nepali public (that we may somehow end up at war again if Shitoula resigns), then what is? In some parts of the world, what Shitoula is proposing, may even be termed subtle blackmail.
Rest assured though, the Maoists have stated time and again, what their ultimate goals are, and the cream of Nepal’s intellectual crop have gone on record to verify that the Maoists have in fact changed, are willing to adapt to the mainstream and so by these assertions, Shitoula or not, the Maoists are out of the jungles for good.
Coming back to Shitoula - the Maoist leadership knows to whom the credit for their rapid ascendancy from the status of criminals (and terrorists), to members of parliament goes – Krishna Prasad Shitoula. Unfortunately for the Maoists, they are also soon to learn that the days of operating their militia thugs under the cover of a Home Ministry that has bent over backwards to accommodate the Maoists, is coming to an abrupt end.
Catalogued below is a list of cursory items that support the case for Shitoula’s resignation as the current administration’s Home Minister. (Since he seems to pride his performance as the Government’s Chief Negotiator, he is more than welcome to carry on in this capacity):
Conflict of Interest: When Home Minister and Chief Negotiator Are One in the Same, Law and Order Suffers
Although the most serious contribution to the case for Shitoula’s resignation comes in the wake of 24 confirmed deaths in the Terai, the evidence has been mounting against Shitoula for months.
By maintaining an artificially inflated momentum for the peace process, Shitoula had managed to divert his personal failures as a Home Minister by focusing on his supposedly successful performance as the Government’s Chief Negotiator.
However, as political analysts have repeatedly pointed out, there is an inherent conflict of interest to any single individual, holding portfolios with divergent mandates. While the argument can be made that Nepal’s peace process has been highly successful because Krishna Shitoula holds both the Home Ministry and Chief Government Negotiator portfolios, a more potent argument can be put forth that speaks to the frailty of rushed agreements made under duress, without broad consensus, and the long term consequences that a lopsided focus on cosmetic, short term gains will eventually yield. The Madhesi revolt, is a case in point.
The consequences of ignoring irreconcilable conflicts of interest has been the abysmal law and order situation all over Nepal – a condition that is certainly not conducive to free and fair constituent assembly elections, but does serve the Maoists’ interest of assaulting other party members, keeping the general public intimidated and dictating voter registration patterns most suitable to their own vote count – all under the comfort of a Home Minister that deploys Policemen to outposts, completely at the mercy of local Maoists.
(As another example, consider the consummate law and order situation Nepal maintains, as newly inducted Maoist MPs walk into parliament with armed body guards).
Shitoula should resign for the number of beatings that Policemen have been subjected to at the hands of Maoists, all over Nepal, simply for carrying out this government’s orders. He should resign on principle for first negotiating (as the government’s Chief Negotiator) and then ignoring the implementation (as the Home Minister) of numerous law-and-order related articles listed in the Comprehensive Peace Agreement.
Murder in Lahan: No one Should be Above the Law of the Land – Especially not a Maoist Thug
The single most unfortunate event that catalyzed the Madhesi uprising was the murder of a peaceful protestor in Lahan. The fatal shot was fired by a Maoist gunman, who was part of a Maoist contingent, that “accompanied” government policemen to the scene of the demonstrations.
First off, as the Home Minster for the government of Nepal, Krishna Shitoula has yet to explain what armed Maoists were doing, accompanying a contingent of government policemen, to a scene where peaceful protests were taking place? Second, Krishna Shitoula is yet to explain to the Nepali people, why the individual who fired the shot has not been arrested, prosecuted and jailed on charges of murder?
The tragedy that took place in Lahan is not an incident that requires more than a 30 minute trial – there were close to 500 unarmed citizens who witnessed the crime, the Maoist head honcho Pushpha Kamal Dahal has submitted that it was a Maoist who committed the “mistake” and to top it off, there was an entire contingent of policemen who were present at the scene of the crime.
Does Nepal have a functioning state apparatus and a functional legal system or not? If it does, then the buck stops at the top of the pecking order and in this case, whether the allegation be a breach of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement or dereliction of duty as the nation’s Home Minister, the idiot is one in the same - Krishna Shitoula. If for no other reason, Shitoula should have resigned on grounds of morality or even conscience.
“Sorry” and Promises of Monetary Payouts Doesn’t Bring Dead People Back to Life
First, it was “regressive” forces that instigated the unrest in the Terai. This was a plausible theory. Then, it was Kamala Thapa and Badri Mandal who were placed in “preventive detention,” much the same way that the current thugs in office were placed under house arrest by the former regime. But the protestors (having taken insult at attempts to belittle their movement), intensified their activities.
Then came Baburam and Pushpa, making desperate attempts to de-legitimize what is undoubtedly the most legitimate movement for ethnic assertion that Nepal has ever witnessed. Talk of mobilizing the Maoist thugs and the nation’s security assets ensued, a Nepali Military General made the “mistake” of warning that such deployment should not happen without unanimous political consensus and the next thing we know, all media attention is focused on a “conspiracy” by regressive forces that was allegedly being aired by the Army General.
If the Nepali public is so desperate for conspiracy theories, how about this one: Could there have been a conspiracy by the Maoists to cover up their stupid bid to deploy the army against the Madhesi movement, by paying the Nepali media to take what an Army General said, completely out of context and then blow it up in the media? It certainly worked, didn’t it?
Or, how about this one: Are the Maoists working with Krishna Shitoula as their man inside the Nepali Congress to eventually take over the NC after Girija dies (which will be any day)? Was it the Maoists who advised Shitoula to apologize in the House to dilute the MJF’s call for his resignation? Is Krishna Shitoula a member of the Nepali Congress or a secretly a member of the Communist Party of Nepal – Maoists? Is it not strange that members of Shitoula’s own party would call for his resignation while the Maoists would support Shitoula with the blood of 24 innocent Nepal’s on Shitoula’s hands? (Oh that’s right, 24 doesn’t really compare to a number like 13,000 but now that peace has arrived in Nepal, who’s counting anyway?)
The bottom line is this: Much like the Maoists have laid out preconditions to their talks, time and again, the MJF has also laid out a single precondition to their talks. This is that Krishna Shitoula take responsibility for 24 deaths and resign gracefully to pave the path for negotiations. Why has Shitoula always bent over backwards to accommodate preconditions laid out by the Maoists but refuses to honor a single, legitimate, noble demand, put forth on behalf of 49% of Nepal’s population? Is it because Shitoula doesn’t recognize the vast Madhesi population because they don’t carry arms and are fighting for their rights the democratic way?
Once again, this is a no-brainer. If for no other reason, Shitoula should accept responsibility for the loss of life and property under his watch and hand in his resignation before 24 more people die on this idiot’s account.
Ultimate Accountability: Where does the Charade End?
The MJF demands Shitoula’s resignation. The Maoists come to his rescue. Members of Shitoula’s own party ask that he step down on moral grounds. What does Shitoula do? He does what any shameless, gutless, brazen, unabashed person would do – he tires to escalate the burden up to Girija by publicly placing the onus of the decision on the Prime Minister.
In case Shitoula forgot, he is in office at the will of the Nepali People – so is his boss. In case being in government has gotten to Shitoula’s head, he too is still subject to a norm known as democracy, where the collective will of the majority holds sway, not the dictates of any single individual.
When a group that represents up to 49% of Nepal’s population asks Shitoula to resign, there’s no room for debate. With the blood of 24 innocent Nepalis on his hands, when the community those 24 individuals belong to asks Shitoula to “jump,” his response should simply be “how high?”
It shouldn’t be a monologue on how popular Shitoula was (with the Madhesi population) when the citizenship bill was passed, it shouldn’t be some sorry excuse that the King’s regime denied policemen proper training during its 14 month (out of 12 years of democratic rule) tenure and it most certainly shouldn’t be Girija’s decision whether Shitoula stays in office. If Girija wishes to go against the will of the Nepali People by insisting that Shitoula carry on, Girija too should be removed.
Whatever happened to morals? What about ethics or even simple decency or even a fleeting notion of guilt? What happened to the idea of moral culpability or human decency?
There are over 24 grieving families in Nepal and numerous families that are affected by the tragedy unleashed by forces under Krishna Shitoula’s command. And all this pathetic excuse for a politician can say is “sorry, can I please continue to be the Home Minister?”
It’s hard to say what’s more dismal: How Shitoula’s refusal to let go of power reflects on himself or how his adamant stance reflects on an entire generation of “have-beens” who continue to block the emergence of the new generation of leaders (who might just as easily be sidestepped by a third generation that has already emerged, under them).
Krishna Shitoula’s resignation will not be a “silver bullet” for Nepal’s problems. It will however, be a humongous step in the right direction (in favor of the sovereign power of the people), because his resignation will signal the end to feudal, caste-dominated politics – how else can one describe the servitude-like sycophancy Shitoula displays to his grand master, Girija?
Sunday, February 11, 2007
Events in history, we have been told, repeat themselves as farce. We might look at Nepal and modify this dictum to say “events that are not quite history; even events from a nanosecond ago, repeat themselves as farce.”
Take the case of the Terai violence recently – a repeat of the April Jana-andolan.
The urban paharis or hill people (like myself) came into contact with a Madhesi probably around the age of four, in our first visit to the local barber. Two or three Madhesi’s ran the small joint-venture operation: usually a well-kempt one room rental (rented out by a pahari landlord) which also did double duty as a home.
Later, you noticed that Madhesi’s were adept in quilt-making: they carried that long harp-like contraption with the single taut string for shredding the cotton filling. You saw them as entrepreneurial door-to-door salesmen: hauling fish, fresh vegetables, and other goods right to your door.
As you got older, you also discovered they were the universal whipping boys: the term Madhesi, used in certain contexts, is also a derogative term, used fast, loose, and often by the Hill people against Madhesis for minor annoyances.
We know the paharis never felt that the Madhesi problems amounted to a hill of beans – even though the Hill people, we have observed are acutely aware of ethnic differences, class, and historical oppression. The Maoists, above all, have used class, caste, and economic differences to successfully make substantial inroads into politics.
But just as soon as they seem to have settled into an agreement that may soon give them their communist republic, along comes the pesky Madhesis with the gall to demand fair representation.
The shock extends to members of the civil society who call themselves “activists.” Any one can protest, as long as the protests center around their own group thinking.
So we’re stumbling around again, with another group (as high as six million or nearly 25 percent of Nepal’s population) claiming very strongly that they have legitimate rights and have been living in no-man’s land of citizenship status for generations.
It would be ironic that after coming to power under the slogans of “inclusive politics” and “people” that the native inhabitants of the Terai be denied citizenship by SPAM.
As we observe the events in Nepal, what can we learn from other countries that have struggled with similar issues?
First, we need to start accepting that history is tragic and “fixing” past grievances is complex; takes some time; and does not guarantee equal success for everyone. “Equality of result” is impossible.
Unfortunately, our debates lack lucidity and encompass simplistic or utopian hopes accompanied by the usual assumption that without the 237 years of Shah rule, Nepal would be a vibrant democracy.
This is not to say that the Shahs and Ranas were somehow blameless but we must recognize that the Nepal consisted of tribal kingdoms for many centuries before that competed with each other (most likely brutally); oppressed their people; were feudal and, if they were Hindus, probably practiced caste-based discrimination.
It is Black History Month in United States and we can learn from the African American experience here that there are now many African Americans in places that would be unimaginable a generation ago: a black Secretary of State; a potential black President; many, many black executives in business, government, sports, and the arts. Black culture permeates many aspects of American and International pop culture.
In a recent op-ed piece in the Washington Post, Stephanie Robinson and Cornell West point out eloquently that progress for African Americans are the result of “structural” changes as well as their assimilation into a Protestant work ethic that values hard work, education, thrift, and ambition.
Structural changes are those that attempt to “level” the playing field by offering special quotas to a marginalized group; less competitive arrangements in business (e.g., the minority business program); or other arrangements to enable others to compete more effectively with traditionally dominant groups.
They argue that structurally guaranteed opportunity does not guarantee success. We might take the case of many well-to-do upper class Nepalis who fail (but so will some Dalits despite the best structural changes).
On the other hand, if we simply ignore structural processes, talented people are barred from achieving success.
The African American experience in the United States, of course, is a work in progress. But we can get a great deal of insight simply by overlaying what is possible if leaders in Nepal begin to communicate these principles and adopt practical methods to begin to address these needs.
Second, law and order has to be restored. If Thomas Hobbes, the great English philosopher is correct, Nepalis will eventually demand a contract – a contract between the governed and the government to provide security, the most basic of needs of humans. Civilization, we have seen (observe the looting after natural disasters even in Western countries) is a thin veneer, easily shredded to expose what Hobbes observed “the condition of man…is a condition of war against everyone.”
While the Nepali media, SPAM, activists and the UN engage in heavy spin that there is now “peace”, they are contradicted every day by facts. Recently, the Industrial Security Group (ISG), a coalition of Embassies and businesses gave yet another stark warning to Maoists to stop extortion and abductions. Almost every Nepali seems to have an anecdote about a recent robbery, extortion attempt, or intimidation.
Restoring law and order, of course, will require some force and this means people will get hurt and “rights” might even be violated. In trying to set the 237-year record straight, however, we have unwittingly made ourselves believe that it is only Royalists or residual Royal reactionaries that perpetuate violence and, therefore, suffer paralysis when tough action needs to be taken against criminal behaviour – which cross all ethnic or class lines.
This only works to the Maoists advantage and, being clever, understand how to use this weakness to their advantage.
From Hobbes, one can gather that people will eventually turn to those that can offer security – even if it means compromising other values or needs. Thus, if the security situation continues to deteriorate and the seven parties are perceived to be weak by the masses, the Maoists stand to gain by stepping in as keepers of the peace – under their terms.
Third, we must learn from refined scholars and thinkers that economics play a powerful role in sustaining democracy. Countries with a per capita income like Nepal have a dismal record: fewer than ten years as a democracy. There is no certainty that Jana-andolan or even the total removal of the Monarchy will guarantee a “happily-ever-after democracy.”
Fareed Zakaria, a staunch but clear-eyed observer of democracies, has noted that one way out of feudalism in economic growth. Wealth enables one to grease the barriers to social acceptance. All of this takes time, of course.
Yet, we see very little of this thinking amongst political leaders.
Without an equal appreciation of how these concepts are part of all societies we may devolve back into the pre-Prithivi Narayan Shah Nepal of many tribal kingdoms – each seeking the promised land within their own ethnic enclaves.
And this, of course, would not be farce but rather tragic.
Wednesday, February 07, 2007
Round-1: We commend General Rana for his blunt honesty, for saying it the way it is and for venting the frustration, betrayal and humiliation that each and every single serving and retired Nepalese Military personnel has faced at the hands of Nepal's political leadership since 1990 till the present. This includes the dishonour brought upon Nepal's bravest, at the hands of the Royal Palace and the Office of the Principal Military Secretariat, throughout the years.
Round-2: We congratulate General Rana for thoroughly exposing the cowardice and disrepute that clouds the judgement of his own peers who appear more motivated by political (and monetary) concessions than by the true guiding principles of an organization which professes to dedicate its existence to the welfare of its country. General Rana's remarks paint a broad stroke of shame on the faces of the Army's leaders who have been "bought" by the lure of non-merit based career progression. The entire rank and file know the lineage of betrayal in favour of nepotism, position and monetary reward. Neither the individuals nor their selfish acts will be forgotten.
Round-3: A hearty thanks goes out to General Rana for clarifying the hypocrisy that pervades the political leadership in Nepal. The magnitude of uproar when a serving Army General proposes that his men remain "prepared" to be deployed in the event of destabilizing conditions, in support of the government administration draws wide criticism - the original proponent of mobilizing the Army against its own Madhesi population passes with little to no scrutiny. If Subash Nemawang and others think they can fool the Nepali people by focusing on a "consequence" rather than a "cause," they are dumber than they appear. Any Nepali with apolitical views understands how this dog and pony show goes. After all, did any of these "dogs" that are barking at Rana today, find the courage to bark at Pushpa Dahal or Baburam with near the same intensity? CP Gajurel goes to JNU and gives a speech on how the Maoists are ready to "capture" state power, but the news that grabs Nepal's headlines come from a lonely General whose "mistake" was to remind the Nepali people of who brought the country to where it is today. The comment of "mobilization" was a convenient excuse but the source of irritation (for the politicians) lies in comments that ridiculed the political establishment for their past faults. Even Prachanda who seems to have something to say about everything these days, could not find the words to disagree with General Rana in principle.
Round-4: We salute General Rana for his candid love for his men in uniform, for those he has shed blood, sweat and tears with, for those who look to his leadership for their survival, and we commend General Rana for putting his love for his institution before lust for power and political popularity - a feat that shamefully, not even a handful of his peers can lay claim to. The General's speech was much more of a warning to his own people against non-consensus driven, unobjectified, initiative-less deployment, than a call for mobilization as the mindless monkies in the Nepali press portend. There is little that can be expected of individuals who barely understand the ethos of their own profession to pass intelligent commentary on the conduct of those like General Rana whose profession places the livelihood of thousands of people under his direct responsibility, day in and day out.
Round-5: We congratulate General Rana for exposing the insecurities that pervade the Nepali government, even today. Not much can be expected of a group of idiots who first gave sustenance to the Maoist rebellion and now want to take credit for the rebellion's "peaceful" conclusion? What greater farce can there be than a sitting Prime Minister, in his eighties, with hepatitis, surrounded by a bunch of cowards who are all too eager to use excessive force (to have the NHRC claim that Terai protests were "violent"), to justify killing 27 innocent Nepalis - that is, when the protests were not in favour of a particular brand of politics? The guilt of having commissioned the Maoists to assassinate innocent Nepalis who stood for elections during the post-February-1 period is a ghost that will haunt this government come constituent assembly elections. General Rana's comments were just a temporary scapegoat to disguise the guilt and shame that clouds these politicians' heads'.
This episode certainly marks a turning point in General Rana's career. It is possible that he will be reprimanded for disorderly conduct, or conduct unbecoming an officer or some variant of a theme that says he spoke out of line.
Be that as it may, while publicly, the Chief of the Army Staff may claim that General Rana spoke in an individual capacity, it takes no brains to realize that General Rana spoke the mind of the truly professional, non-partisan, non-affiliated Nepalese Military. General Rana's frustrations, his disillusionment and his accusations are all completely legitimate.
General Rana's insinuation that the Army should never again be mobilized without broad political consensus, a strict set of objectives and a mission that has a per-determined end-date is right on the money. Having the initiative stolen is a fresh wound in the minds of many Army professionals who were sent to fight an insurgency, without political cover, without a set mandate and without the bare minimum tools needed to sustain a successful counterinsurgency campaign.
The Nepalese Army was deployed to address a problem that had its roots in politics, but in the complete absence of political support. The Army was used, abused, denigrated and is currently the number one target for a pseudo-political force (the Maoists), who are bent on dominating Nepal. Nobody in their right state of mind can deny any of these facts.
Should General Rana be forced to retire because of his honesty, his bluntness, and his overly candid nature, so be it. With the General's forced retirement, the birth of a new breed of soldiers in the Nepalese Army will occur - a breed that will have even less tolerance for the shenanigans that have characterized the past and unfortunately, are slowing permeating into the current leadership structure.
As for the Nepalese Army's fighting core, they remain orphaned by a political culture that lacks the will to exercise its constitutionally granted powers; they are castigated continually for having carried out orders doled out by those now exercising high morals and 20/20, hindsight vision.
Nepal's politicians would do well to embrace the Army and its fraternal organizations fully, to share the responsibility for past mishaps and to move forward in unison. The idiots in Singha Durbar today should take note that their positions are temporary…. the idea of the Army, the humiliation it has been subjected to at the hands of its political masters and the cumulative resentment today, will easily outlive a few ministers who will eventually get voted out of office tomorrow.
General Rana is the face of the "new" Nepalese Army in a "new" Nepal. Having suffered the consequences of blindly following non-consensus based political orders in the past, the new breed are unlikely to make the same mistake twice - especially now, after the realization sets in that they were sacrificed like lambs, only to be blamed for carrying out their orders, later.
There are thousands of Dilip Ranas' in the Military today. Making an example out of General Rana will embolden them all and Brigadier General Dilip Rana will retire a hero in the eyes of the whole Army's rank and file. He will retire as an icon of ideals for an entire generation of the new warrior breed.
Thursday, February 01, 2007
As Nepal anticipates a novel constitutional order, political pundits across the spectrum concur that Nepal has entered her most crucial and fragile state in history. Today, all hearts and minds in this politically exhausted country are disquieted with the political party's role in preserving democracy in Nepal. In line with the recent political developments in Nepal, the situation can be pigeonholed into three events chronologically: the reinstatement of democracy, neutralization of the fluid situation vis-à-vis stabilizing the government and setting the course for Constituent Assembly elections.
The promulgation of the interim statue has pulled the country into the third and final stage that will eventually determine and shape the polity of tomorrows Nepal. Unfortunately, critical decisions that lack appropriate legal authority in the absence of a fresh mandate have already been taken. Abrupt political decisions illustrate concerns that have floated in the media recently questioning the direction in which we are heading. Recently a leading English daily, The Kathmandu Post, quoted the Maoist Chairman Prachanda briefing members of COMPOSA and RIM that the "CPN – M were close to grabbing state power".
Over the last six months, however, major political parties primarily the CPN UML have attempted dispatching cadres to far-flung villages across the country to gear for the upcoming elections. According to the UML from what they have gathered so far from the reports submitted to its party leadership during its tours to rural Nepal, major political including the RPP and RJP have not lost their base in the villages. Contrary to what the Maoist leadership claim, the UML insists that the Maoist have been unable to gather more political ground even after the successful conclusion of the April Revolution. Intimidation is the only weapon the Maoists possess and it is in their interest to obstruct free and fair elections so that results tilt in their favor.
Despite half-hearted attempts by the Maoist leadership to assimilate their regimented party organ into mainstream politics, it has so far been largely unsuccessful. Rumors are afloat that serious differences have erupted between the politburo and the Maoist military wing; and this consequently has resulted in continued Maoist atrocities. However, such rumors are unfounded. When the Maoists eventually capture state power they will confess that all this was a part of their strategy to capture state power. Yet another intriguing detail is that while the UML student and trade union wings have being repeatedly harassed by the Maoists, the Congress student and trade unions wings have been mildly affected. It is in my understanding that in months preceding the polls, the Maoists will unleash their ferocity towards Nepali Congress. In such circumstances the parties in the government will not have the capability in countering Maoists tactics, nor will the international community. Even India will not be able to contain or thwart Maoist designs.
In the recent past, UML General Secretary Madhav Nepal raised his objection to the Maoist high command about the continued Maoist atrocities. But why raise objections now, considering that the UML an important component of the government talk team, failed to confine armed Maoist militia into the proposed cantonments. The opportunity to make the forthcoming elections free and fair has already been lost. The important question that needs to be raised now is what constitutes the description of free and fair elections according to the seven political parties and the Maoists. Elections in Nepal have been rigged to a certain extent in the past, so is there reason why these elections should be any different? The only difference attached to these elections is the degree of rigging which will be acceptable to the government, international community and to the underground movers and shakers of Nepali politics. I am afraid the real voice of the Nepali people will not be represented.
Girija Prasad's struggle to preserve democracy has been phenomenal, the same, however; can be said about his inevitable downfall. As the interim parliament compromises of a leftist majority, Girija may be remembered as a democrat who surrendered state power in the hands of the Maoist. Just as we read this write up, Maoist continue to collect taxes and commit atrocities while the political parties are busying themselves pocketing hefty commissions from lucrative deals. Whatever happened to the Kanak Dixits, Majushree Thapas and the Devendra Raj Pandeys', the champions of Loktantra? Why have they chosen to remain silent?
Nepal is treading along the path towards further political chaos. Isn't the survival of democracy and national unity at stake? It might have taken Kanak Dixits', Majushree Thapas' and Devendra Raj Pandeys' a lot of energy to unseat the monarchy but uprooting a proletariat despot with an electoral mandate will cost many lives, unfortunately including theirs.
The Indian government may be under the impression that by inducting our Bolshevik friends into government, the Maoists would loose their vantage of being the opposition. The Indian thesis goes on to suggest that once in government the Maoists will be forced to act responsibly. But on the other hand, the Indian policy does not make sense, especially in the 21st century where foreign policy is being guided through medium of realism, where the stress is laid more on pragmatism. To illustrate the skewed Indian perception better in Nepal, parallels can be drawn from a game of basketball.
For example, the Chicago Bulls are playing the LA Lakers; and the Bulls have a 20 point lead and; there is only 10 minutes left to the end of the game. Would it make sense, if the Bulls call it a draw or would they go for the kill to inflict psychological damage to the Lakers? I leave you to decide on the outcome. Similarly, in Nepal, if given the choice, the Maoist would go for the kill leaving the Nepali Congress and UML completely demoralized during the final laps leading to the Constituent Assembly polls.
Unfortunately, serious doubts arise now at this critical juncture as to whether or not the political parties, including the Maoists are true to their cause. Recent Maoist actions suggest otherwise, I would have no hesitation in branding the Maoist as an invading force, a party that aims to capture state power ultimately by eliminating other political oponents. As for the political parties their recent performance in government and parliament can be described as nothing less than embarrassing.
What about King G and Prince P? People may wonder why I have made no mention about our revered King and the Crown Prince. Common sense would dictate for the abdication of KG and PP paving way for Hridendra as the new king for a loktrantrik Nepal, but honestly only God can come to their rescue.
The future of Nepal does look rather bleak; seeds of communal violence have been sown, thus, paving way for further political disintegration. Just as the people were beginning to wonder if their participation in the April revolution made sense, the daily bandhs, unchecked communal violence, and stunt politics is leaving the majority of Nepalis increasingly disillusioned day by day. It is therefore, only sensible to conclude that we Nepali's are still miles away to receive any form on respite in the immediate future.
Maoists – your commitment towards peace and democracy is just as shallow as Mr.Moriarity suggests it is. Political Parties – full of empty promises.
Media – You are our only hope, stay true to your cause and highlight everything that keeps our comrades and bloated politicians on their toes. Champions of Loktantra - Where are you?
Human Rights Activists – What ever has happened to the human rights situation now? At least Kangaroo courts, detention centers were no where in sight. International Community – Two word mission, "Save Democracy."
The King – May Lord Pashupatinath bless you! The People - Stay on your toes, the time will come for us to revolt once again.The battle to preserve democracy and preserve sustainable peace is far from won.
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