Kathmandu, Aug. 6: In a move that may affect future dialogue with the Maoists, the Nepal government informed the Supreme Court that it has withdrawn the reward offered for the capture or death of top rebel leaders.
The bounty, nearly Nepali Rs 5 million, had been announced by the Sher Bahadur Deuba government early last year and its removal was one of the pre-conditions set by the Maoists for the current ceasefire, in force since January 2003. The apex court had asked the government for a clarification on the issue.
In a related development, an appellate court dismissed a “state offence” case filed by the government against Baburam Bhattarai, number two in the Maoist party hierarchy and other leaders.
The case, filed soon after the Maoist insurgency began in February 1996, was thrown out of court for lack of evidence.
In a 20-day-long exchange of letters, the Maoists had issued an ultimatum that should their immediate demands not be fulfilled, they would end the ceasefire.
After the government conceded some of their demands, including the release of three of their central committee members on July 31, the rebels agreed to continue talking. Two rounds of talks have been held so far.
For the moment however, the Maoists have downgraded their negotiating team to two from the earlier five members.
They have also expressed their desire to sit down for talks as soon as possible and discuss political issues they have raised.
However, one of their demands for future talks — the inclusion of the political parties agitating for the restoration of parliament and formation of an all-party government — seems unlikely to be fulfilled.
Like his predecessor, Prime Minister Surya Bahadur Thapa has repeatedly asked political parties to cooperate with the government to find a resolution to the crisis but without success.
Former Prime Minister and president of the Nepali Congress, Girija Prasad Koirala, has called the Maoist insistence on the participation of political parties a “conspiracy” to weaken their movement.
Similarly, the general secretary of the Communist Party of Nepal (Unified Marxist-Leninist), Madhav Kumar Nepal, has rejected the government’s offer to take part in talks, calling the Thapa government “unconstitutional”.