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Nepal's Major Parties join hands on peace process
The major political parties of Nepal finally made a much-awaited breakthrough in the peace process by signing a historic agreement on army integration, constitution drafting and power-sharing on Tuesday.
For the first time, the seven-point agreement built on top of the 2005-06 peace framework provides a detailed blueprint for the completion of the peace process that had eluded the country for over three years since the Constituent Assembly elections in April 2008.
Maoist Chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal, Nepali Congress President Sushil Koirala, CPN-UML Chairman Jhala Nath Khanal and Samyukta Loktantrik Madhesi Morcha leader Bijay Kumar Gachhadar signed the agreement that commits to national consensus on completing the peace and constitution making processes by resolving contentious issues in the integration of Maoist combatants. The deal, if implemented, will mark a critical step in the completion of the peace process.
Emerging from the negotiations, Maoist Chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal described the agreement as a milestone and assured of its implementation.
The deal commits to integrate a maximum of 6,500 Maoist combatants in the Nepal Army, offers a package between Rs 600,000 and Rs 900,000 for combatants opting for rehabilitation and cash package between Rs 500,000 and Rs 800,000 for combatants choosing the voluntary retirement option. According to the deal, the regrouping of combatants, along with the return of property seized during the conflict, and dismantling of the paramilitary structure of the Young Communist League will be completed within November 23.
The agreement provides a way forward for addressing the fate of over 19,000 former Maoist combatants living in seven main and 21 satellite cantonments since 2006.
The international community, including the United Nations, had been mounting pressure on the Nepali actors to reach an agreement to address the future of the combatants.
According to Tuesday’s agreement, a new directorate would be formed within the Nepal Army with the mandates for infrastructure development, rescue and relief operations, forest security and industrial security to integrate the combatants. The size of the directorate is likely to go up around 18,000 as it will comprise 65 percent personnel from the existing security agencies and 35 percent personnel from the combatants.
The combatants will be integrated on an individual basis after fulfilling the standard norms of the Army and will have to complete a bridging course and trainings before starting their service in the national army. The parties have agreed to relax the standards on age, marital status and educational qualification.
The issue of rank determination will be resolved on the basis of existing standards of the security forces by the prime minister-led Special Committee.
The date of the combatants’ enrolment in the Maoist Army recorded by UNMIN and the provision of allocation of ranks in the security forces will be kept in mind so as to not adversely affect the career prospects of regular recruits of the existing security agencies.
The government will provide a golden handshake package of Rs 800,000 (division commander level), Rs 700,000 (battalion commander level), Rs 600,000 (company commander level) and Rs 500,000 (ordinary combatants) in four installments within two years for those choosing voluntary retirement. Education, training and entrepreneurship development package worth Rs 600,000 to 900,000 will be given to those opting for the rehabilitation option.
The weapons held by the combatants will come under the government with the beginning of the integration process, the agreement says. The Special Committee will meet on Wednesday to endorse the deal.
In the agreement, leaders have committed to form a high level mechanism to hold discussions for concluding the peace and constitution making processes. They also agreed to immediately form an experts’ panel from the CA instead of a commission to seek recommendations on state restructuring.
They also pledged to start preparations for the first draft of the constitution within a month and make efforts to form a national unity government once the peace and constitution making processes gain momentum.
Leaders involved in the negotiations have said there is no possibility of a change in the government leadership before the November 30 deadline of the CA.
According to Maoist and NC leaders involved in cross-party talks, there is a tacit understanding with the Nepali Congress that the Maoist-led government will continue until the promulgation of the new constitution and that the NC will lead the next government that will ovesee the general elections as per the new constitution.
The parties have also pledged to form a Truth and Reconciliation Commission and Commission to probe enforced disappearances within a month and have agreed to withdraw conflict-era cases as per the spirit of the Interim Constitution and the Comprehensive Peace Agreement. They have agreed to provide compensation to the rightful owners whose property was confiscated by the Maoists and reiterated the commitment to uphold the rights of peasants through land reforms.
The Maoist party will officially instruct its cadres to ensure the return of the property and register vehicles used by the party with temporary number plates within November 23, the deal says.