In Nepal, unemployment is increasing from every stratum. When the ceasefire came into effect, not only the Maoist and government armies have been staying away from fighting, perhaps, their political leadership has also got no meaningful job. Therefore, they have been busy staging political plays. It is strange that till today they have not been able to start any sorts of meaningful peace negotiations; rather they are spending time in teasing and testing each other. Perhaps, they were tired and thought to refresh a bit by organizing series of roundtables in a festive environment. These roundtables, at least, kept their workers, media persons, ‘civil society’ chieftains and several hundred onlookers busy. This became some sorts of political orchestra and the people participated in enthusiastically. Therefore, the negotiation exercises became no less than colorful Jatras (traditional public shows full of entertainment with a mix of singing, dancing and drumming).
Everybody, with a minimum information base and a critical approach knew that the serious issues are that of the monarchy and management of arms. After wasting several months of precious time, they have now discovered these critical areas. It is understandable that the seven party alliance is superficial and halo; but the Maoist leadership, who claims as the student of logic and objectivity did not behave differently. As far as the process of negotiation is in review; this is all messy. Nobody knows who is negotiating with whom? In the country, there are two functional governance mechanisms (de facto governments). Are these two governance mechanisms involved in the process of negotiation?
Looking at the initial phase, it sounded like that as there were two teams representing two governing sides. Either they did nothing or the ambition among the galaxy of leaders derailed the process. The big leaders themselves sounded in hurry to entertain each other. They even organized seven party “plus” ‘summit meetings’. And, this “plus” was the Maoist side, as if that was just the eighth party. This was nothing other than messing up of the negotiation process. The crux of the problem is the unification of governance mechanisms and transformation of the Nepalese state and society. How that could be done? The seven political parties are behaving as if they can increase the size of their playground by insulting the monarchy locally and by defaming the Maoists internationally.
Their whole game plan has two ingredients – retain the monarchy but throw as much mud over it as possible to fool the public at large, and implement the guiding policies of the regional and international power centers to prevent Maoists coming to power. Many among these parties are suffering from infantile disorders and relieve at public places making the environment difficult to breathe. They are happy throwing propaganda tantrums, rather than behaving as serious negotiators. Sometimes, even a weakest link among these leaders presents himself or herself as a state onto himself or herself. Such mind set and such game plan may provide some entertainment, but will certainly fail to resolve the conflict, forget about transforming the state and society. On the other side, the Maoist leadership also is being infected from the infantile disorders of the seven parties.
In fact, they had to start the negotiation with the government not as a political party, but as a governing political entity, which could be “People’s Government” or “United Political Consultative Council” or “State Council” or something like that whatever they call for their de facto government. And, they should sit on the other side of the negotiating table as equals. But, they came as a political party, and were busy intermingling with the seven parties forgetting, perhaps, their place, role, strength and nature. They should be negotiating with the government as another governing mechanism, which has effective control over entire Village Nepal and has strong presence in towns and cities. But, they came as comrade-in-arms of the seven parties. This is their strategic weakness, if they do not have eggs in other baskets than what they have put for auction. Such weakness may lead to differences of opinion on tactical course and political line and may contribute to divisions and splits among their own ranks. It would be most unfortunate, if they will have division or even split at this critical juncture. They should know that that is the mission of the regional and international power centers.
The self-proclaimed Messiahs of peace in Kathmandu propagate that the United Nations could contribute effectively to establish peace in Nepal. Even some of them advocate handing over the administration to the UN. Either this is the result of bankruptcy of ideas or they are paid agents of big powers. In essence, the United Nations is run by a well known superpower politically and by the bureaucrats administratively. Therefore, expecting major contribution in resolving the political conflict with the help of the UN is nothing more than a mirage. The UN could be helpful as a humanitarian actor or as a development partner. Its facilitation role has serious limitations in resolving the conflict that has its origin in class contradiction.
In fact, the power to resolve the conflict is not outside. One has to see inside the Nepalese boundary for solutions. That could be resolved either negotiating with each other or fighting against each other. Both, political or military solutions are within the reach of the two governing entities existing in Nepal at this particular time. When the course of negotiation has been selected, perhaps, negotiated solution could be attained by approaching through several different processes.
Among many such probable processes, one process has been proposed below. 1) Stop Baluwatar Jatras. Stop the ‘summits’ and super meetings. Clean up the mess. Go one step backward and start afresh. 2) Recognize that there are two governing mechanisms. If you could not say two governments on technical ground simply give any other name. Accept both mechanisms Headquartered at Singh durbar and at Sisne-Jaljala as equals. Form two official teams representing two respective Headquarters. The teams should be that of authorized negotiators not that of spineless messengers as it has been done now. Do not tarnish the images of your own leaders and cadres by giving them responsibility without authority. 3) Take the bull by horn. Make three agenda – monarchy, management of arms and election of the constituent assembly. If the teams fail to resolve the issue of monarchy, that too could be referred to the constituent assembly by keeping it under suspended animation.
Similarly, if the management of arms becomes an obstacle, then keep both the armies inside their barracks. Form a strong, powerful and well equipped election commission and keep both armies under its control till to the date of first meeting of the duly elected constituent assembly. The major strategic issues would be decided by the people’s representatives, particularly elected for the constituent assembly to design a political system, to restructure the state, to insert values and visions and to ensure transformation of the society by giving reflection of the desired reality in the new constitution. Therefore, rather than wasting time on strategic issues, it would be better to agree on the process, procedure and date of the election and constituting an all powerful election commission. 4) Form an interim government by bringing representatives from both sides to assist in the process of election and to run the day-to-day administration till the constituent assembly appoints a new government to run the business. That government formed by the constituent assembly would continue up to the time that a new constitution is ready and the new elected government is in place.
The new constitution would address the tactical and strategic issues that may include but not limited to amalgamation of two armies and two governing mechanisms and restructuring the state and society. If both sides are serious to resolve the political conflict democratically, organizing election of the constituent assembly should get prime importance. The recommendation made by the government to constitute a new election commission is nothing more than an unhelpful attempt, which could spoil the environment. Moreover, it heralds the mind set of the government and its insensitivity and lack of seriousness towards the historic election. Both the governance mechanisms, the one Headquartered at Singh durbar and the other, Headquartered at Sisne-Jaljala, should refrain from creating new problems. Also, they should stay away from trying to occupy the space and discharge the roles of the constituent assembly. And, for this reason, they should get rid of infantile disorders. Most importantly, they should negotiate meaningfully to organize the election peacefully, where people could exercise their voting right without any kind of threat.