The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Nepal parties feel the heat

Kathmandu, May 12: Less than a week after five political parties initiated a mass movement against the ouster of the Sher Bahadur Deuba government last year, the political temperature is again rising in Nepal.

The country has witnessed daily protests calling for the restoration of parliament and the formation of a “sovereign all-party government”.

The government of Lokendra Bahadur Chand had warned that strong action would be taken against protesters. Yesterday, it followed up its threat by attacking protesters during a banned rally in Kathmandu.

A number of senior political leaders were injured during the police charge and 11 protesters were arrested. A police official said officers used “mild force” but would not comment on whether people were injured. The government last week banned torchlight protests, saying they were dangerous.

The parties condemned the government move and a rally was held today in Kathmandu with two Opposition heavyweights, former Prime Minister and president of the Nepali Congress Girija Prasad Koirala and general secretary of the Communist Party of Nepal (Unified Marxist-Leninist) Madhav Kumar Nepal, in attendance.

These developments come amidst growing political confusion.

Days after King Gyanendra expressed concern about the line of action taken by Opposition parties during a meeting with journalists, Koirala criticised the king and said a constitutional monarch should not air his views through the press.

As reported in the daily Kantipur, Koirala has accused the king of trying to pit the parties against each other. The army has also warned the Opposition parties against making any anti-monarchy remarks.

This comes after comments by Opposition leaders against the king and his son during protest marches.

The defence ministry yesterday accused Opposition parties of undermining national sovereignty and said it was ready to protect the country’s security.

The parties “are engaged in activities that seek to undermine the integrity, sovereignty and independence of the country,” the ministry said in a statement late yesterday.

“The ministry is ever ready to fulfil the responsibility of national security,” it said, without elaborating.

No other government comment was available. It was unclear what had prompted the ministry’s statement or what steps it would take.

The only organisation that doesn’t seem to be affected by the present scenario are the Maoists.

They have been enjoying a breather since a ceasefire in January this year and have participated in two rounds of talks with the government.

The rebels hope to take up political issues during their next meeting with the government.

So far, the government has already conceded to one Maoist demand that the army be reined in. According to the agreement reached on Friday, army movements will be restricted within a 5-km radius of the barracks.

The government has also agreed to release three central committee members of the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) currently under custody.

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