| An armed Nepali policeman patrols a deserted section of the Tribhuvan highway leading to Kathmandu. (Reuters)
New Delhi, March 19: Following secret talks in Delhi, Nepal’s seven-party alliance for democracy and the Maoists have finally come to an understanding over a programme of mass agitation for the restoration of democracy.
The understanding has prompted the chairman of the Nepal Communist Party (Maoist), Prachanda aka Pushpa Kamal Dahal, to call off the indefinite blockade of the Kathmandu Valley and other towns from tomorrow.
He claimed today that this was in response to an appeal by the seven-party alliance, civil society organisations and students appearing for their school-leaving examinations.
Prachanda announced this in a statement issued after the seven-party alliance released a copy of the “second understanding” between them and the Maoists. The first understanding was in the form of a 12-point agreement announced in November.
Praising that agreement, the statement of the seven-party alliance said: “The nationwide wave of people’s movement and, due to that, complete boycott of the municipal elections sponsored by the autocratic regime on February 8, 2006, has made it clear beyond doubt that this understanding has been approved by the general people of Nepal.
“Moreover, the international support expressed for the understanding indicates that this is the real foundation for the resolution of the conflict in the country. In this situation, we reiterate our commitment to its implementation.”
In turn, the Maoists cleared the way for their sympathisers to participate in the peaceful agitation being organised by the seven-party alliance. They have given a call to their ethnic, regional and professional organisations, and to the civil society, students’ organisations and the public to participate in the peaceful agitation for the restoration of democracy.
A comprehensive programme of mass agitation is planned in Kathmandu by the seven-party alliance from April 6, culminating in a mass rally on April 9. The protests will begin immediately after the nationwide high school board examinations end on April 5.
The understanding reached between the seven-party alliance and the Maoists was made public after a meeting of the alliance at the residence of Nepali Congress President Girija Prasad Koirala this morning.
In the meeting, Koirala explained why despite assurances given to the Maoists by the second-line leadership of the alliance in secret talks near Delhi, they could not make a joint appeal with the Maoists for a peaceful and non-violent agitation. He cited “international difficulties” in doing so.
Koirala said he had explained this to Prachanda and the two had agreed to issue separate but similar appeals to the public to join in the peaceful agitation programme. He also informed the parties that the Maoists had agreed to withdraw the indefinite blockade of the Kathmandu Valley.
The statement on the understanding reached with the Maoists was signed on behalf of the seven-party alliance by Koirala, Sher Bahadur Deuba (Nepali Congress-Democratic), Amrit Kumar Bohra (CPN-UML), Leelmani Pokhrel (Jan Morcha), Narayanman Bijukche (Nepal Mazdoor Kisan Party), Rajendra Mahto (Nepal Sadbhavna Party-Anandi Devi) and Nand Kumar Parsai (Samyukta Vam Morcha).
The understanding with the Maoists is clearly a limited one. Crucial differences remain on how to reach the desired objective of electing a Constituent Assembly. The parties are still insisting on revival of the dissolved Parliament, formation of an all-party government and the election of a Constituent Assembly. The Maoists want the Constituent Assembly elected after an all-party conference.
Dubbing this only as a “procedural difference”, the seven-party alliance said: “The agitating seven political parties and the CPN Maoists have also reached an understanding to resolve this procedural difference through ongoing dialogues aimed at reaching a common understanding. They also accept the fact that people’s movement is the only way for achieving the common goal.”