For the record: A deal on weapons
Maoist combatants will remain confined in cantonments in seven different places. The weapons of the combatants will be separated from them and locked in storages within the designated cantonments. The keys of the locks will remain with the Maoist leadership. The UN will monitor the locks through close circuit camera. Moreover, the locks will have sensor device.
By Ameet Dhakal & Ghanashyam Ojha
Tough give and take: Reaching an understanding on the modality of arms management was one of the most difficult negotiations of the whole peace process. It actually was a saga of trust eventually winning over mistrust, suspicions, parochial party interests and foreign meddling. The negotiations on arms management got off on a bumpy start (or it didn’t start for long) due to hardened stances of both sides. Much of the last six months since the April revolution was wasted in public positioning: The government, chiefly the prime minister, demanded that Maoists give up arms before they join the government. The Maoists, however, argued that separating arms from their combatants was tantamount to a political surrender.
Finally, just before the Tihar holidays, rebels offered a concession: They were ready to separate 50 percent of their weapons from the combatants before joining the interim government and the remaining 50 percent before the constituent assembly elections. The government persisted in its demand and said the Maoists would have to give in more. Following a series of negations around Tihar holidays, the Maoists and NC leaders (Maoist chairman Prachanda, his deputy Dr Babu Ram, Home Minister Krishna Prasad Sitaula and NC leader Dr Shekhar Koirala) reached a deal. According to the deal, the arms would be separated from Maoist combatants and locked up in storages in the designated cantonments. But the keys of the locks would remain with the Maoist leaders. The UN would monitor the locks through close circuit camera and would get unobstructed access to the storages.
Last Sunday, negotiators presented the deal to the prime minister. The PM said he was personally satisfied with it but would consult with leaders within his own party and the international community. The PM held hectic parleys with NC leaders on Monday and Tuesday during which most of the leaders rejected the deal and asked the PM to pressurize the rebels to give in more. In the meantime, the United States conveyed to the PM that it was not happy with the proposed single-lock model and urged a double-lock system. India said it was okay with the deal but opined that putting a seal on the locks would be a better alternative.
Prime Minister Koirala went back to the Maoist leaders and urged them to accept seals on the locks or look for an alternative.
Prachanda and Dr Bhattarai held extensive consultations with Ian Martin on Tuesday and Friday and proposed the current modality to the PM. On Saturday, as instructed by the PM, his advisor Dr Suresh Chalise held hours long meeting with Martin and briefed Koirala about the details of the new modality. PM Koirala invited Martin and personally inquired about the modality on Sunday. Finally, this evening the prime minister held a meeting with Prachanda and Dr Bhattarai and gave his final nod to the deal.
What the Deal is All About?
KATHMANDU, Nov 6- The government and Maoists have finally reached the much-awaited understanding on modality of weapons management. Following the understating, top leaders of the Seven-Party Alliance (SPA) and the Maoist are meeting on Monday at 4 pm to conclude a detailed agreement on both arms and political issues. Time permitting, the leaders are also expected to sign the agreement. “It’s possible that we might sign an agreement tomorrow,” Krishna Prasad Sitaula, home minister and government’s chief negotiator, told the Kathmandu Post.
The weapons management modality
According to the agreed modality, Maoist combatants will remain confined in cantonments in seven different places. The weapons of the combatants will be separated from them and locked in storages within the designated cantonments. The keys of the locks will remain with the Maoist leadership. The UN will monitor the locks through close circuit camera. Moreover, the locks will have sensor device. The government, Maoists and UN officials will meet soon after the SPA and Maoists sign an agreement and decide the technical details of the sensor device. But the general understanding is that such a device will sound the siren (or ring an alarm) if any person enters within its magnetic field (certain range from the device). The UN monitoring squad will be physically present in all cantonments for monitoring weapons. As a symbol of reciprocity, Nepali Army will also lock up equal number of weapons. A cabinet sub-committee will be formed to study the issue of reform in the Nepali Army, integration of Maoist combatants in the national army and the overall issue of state security reform.
35,000 combatants to remain in seven cantonments
Deputy Commander of People’s Liberation Army (PLA), Barsa Man Pun, said about 35,000 of their combatants will remain in seven cantonments. Each cantonment will have PLA’s division comprising about 5,000 combatants. Soon, a team of UN experts and Maoists will travel to different parts of the country to identify areas to set up cantonments and to study their feasibility.
The summit talks
The “summit talks”, which will announce a complete package of agreements, will have to wait for a few days. Here is a sequence of events that will lead to the summit talks: First, the SPA and Maoist leaders will conclude an agreement. “That’s the main aim of tomorrow’s meeting,” said Dr Suresh Chalise, the prime minister’s advisor. Second, the government, Maoists and UN will sign a tripartite agreement on arms management that will spell out the technical details of the modality. Third, the government and Maoists will discuss and sign a Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA). A group of Nepali Congress leaders have already prepared a draft of such an agreement.
The CPA will incorporate, among others, Human Rights Accord, ceasefire agreement and the code of conduct to be followed during the transition period. The CPA draft has termed carrying of arms in public places by unauthorized individuals a criminal offence. Once the CPA is agreed on by all sides, a summit talks will take place and announce the CPA, which will also incorporate the tripartite agreement on arms management.
Understanding on political issues
The government and Maoists have already reached a tentative understanding on all political issues. The understanding will be presented on Monday’s meeting for final review and agreement. According to the understanding, interim cabinet will have 23 members. The NC, UML and the Maoists will have equal number of ministers in the interim cabinet. Similarly, there will be a 330-member interim legislature. The Nepali Congress will have 75 members, UML and Maoists each will have 73, NC (D) will have 42 and the rest will go to other fringe parties.
Likewise, the constituent assembly will have 425 members, of which 205 will be elected from the current constituencies.
Of the rest, 204 will be nominated by political parties in proportion to the popular votes they garner during the constituent assembly elections and the remaining 16 will be nominated by the prime minister.
The Nepali Congress and Maoist top leaders once again reiterated today that the fate of monarchy should be decided by the first meeting of the constituent assembly elections. UML General Secretary Madhav Kumar Nepal has taken a public stance that national referendum should decide the future of monarchy. “We are confident that UML will give up its stance tomorrow,” said a senior Nepali Congress leader. The understanding also says a commission to study and recommend the process and modality of restructuring the state will also be formed.