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Maoists melt, Nepal in a flux

Kathmandu, April 26: Nepal is in ferment and caught between what is to be done and what is to be undone.

Nepal’s Maoists, keen on undoing the existing structure of the state, today called off their 20-day-old blockade of the country’s highways but only till Friday.

They have reserved their right to re-impose the blockade if parliament does not resolve on the first day itself to go for an unconditional Constituent Assembly.

The grand-old fox of Nepali politics, Girija Prasad Koirala, meanwhile, is busy cutting a deal with the seven-party alliance to form an interim government to run the state. He has the unenviable task of keeping the Maoists in the loop while the parties quibble over who and how many should join the cabinet.

He is believed to have telephoned Maoist supremo Prachanda last night urging him to lift the blockade. So acute were the shortages in Nepal that most flights would have had to be cancelled in two days’ time as aviation fuel reserves depleted.

The Maoists apparently appreciated the public statements of Koirala. However, they conveyed that they would continue to be critical of the parties till they implement the 12-point understanding with them. Koirala apparently agreed. Increasingly, people are being sorted out into two simple categories in Nepal ' democrats and royalists.

The first politician to be made an example of was parliament speaker, Taranath Rana Bhatt. He had kept aloof from the democratic movement and was, therefore, asked to resign by the seven-party alliance. King Gyanendra, to whom the resignation was sent is perhaps up to his tricks again. He has referred the speaker’s resignation back to parliament.

The Nepali Congress also debarred two MPs from sitting in parliament who had won on its symbol but then joined the king’s government ' Manisha Koirala’s father, Prakash Koirala and Narayan Singh Pun.

Such is the anger against King Gyanendra that people do not want the new government to be sworn in at the palace. Civil society leaders including Devendra Raj Pandey, Shyam Shreshtha and Krishna Pahadi, urged Koirala today to hold the swearing-in ceremony either in parliament or in a public park.

While royalists are in the doghouse, there is impatience about honouring the martyrs and their families and rehabilitating those persecuted during the king’s unfettered rule.

There are currently 250 bureaucrats who, being pro-democracy, were removed from their posts and put on compulsory waiting in the reserved pool. This includes Pradeep Khatiwada, Nepal’s deputy chief of mission in India and a senior foreign service officer, who has been languishing in the reserved pool. People are now asking Koirala to do right by these people.

“Can GP continue to work with chief secretary Lokman Singh Karki, who openly threatened civil servants who went on strike in support of democracy' Kamal Thapa, the home minister, the chief of armed police and those who shot at the agitators would have to be hauled up before the commission of inquiry into atrocities against the people. Can we have former army generals heading our missions abroad'

“There are legislative, political and individual matters which need to be taken up with urgency to set things right,” said an activist close to the Nepali Congress.

The Nepal Bar Association has demanded the setting up a Truth Commission to probe human rights abuses and punish the perpetrators. Public sector corporation employees are demanding that all political appointments of chief executives should be revoked.

The employees’ union at the state-run Nepal Television today called on general manager Shambhunath Baskota. They demanded that all appointments made by the king’s government since February 1, 2005, be revoked. He has also been told to immediately stop telecasting previously commissioned programmes glorifying royalist vision and the crown.

Meanwhile, the US deputy secretary of state for South Asia, Richard Boucher, is coming to Kathmandu on May 2.

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