Today’s Kathmandu Post has an interesting analysis of the controversy surrounding the possible “integration” of Maoist PLAs into National army.
By Damakant Jayshi
Of late, the integration of Maoist combatants (into Nepal Army) seems to be snow-balling into a major controversy and if not nipped in the bud, may develop into a major crisis. What has not helped matters is political party leaders – including very senior ones – joining the debate through public forums in various parts of the country. The latest round started when Chief of Army Staff Rookmangud Katawal said (on Jan 5) that the army should be kept free from any isms, ideology and political motivation.
Various agreements between the then seven-party alliance/government with the CPN (Maoist) right since the 12-point agreement in New Delhi in November 2005 are conspicuously silent whether Maoist combatants should be integrated into the army.
As per the Comprehensive Peace Accord (CPA) and the Interim Constitution of April last year, a high-level special committee (comprising four ministers) has to supervise, integrate and rehabilitate Maoist forces. As for Nepal Army, the government – in consultation with political parties and the Legislature-Parliament – is to formulate a plan to democratize Nepal Army, determine its right number and make it inclusive.
“The spirit of our agreements with the then SPA and later the government is that there should be restructuring of state security forces, which will lead to formation of a national army,” Dr Baburam Bhattarai of CPN (Maoist) who had been involved in discussion and signing of all documents, told the Kathmandu Post. He added that now the Maoists have agreed that the issue should not be raised before constituent assembly elections are held.
However, both K P Oli and Pradip Gyawali of CPN (UML) – who have been part of negotiating teams for such agreements – said no such understanding was reached. Gyawali said the situation was so fluid then – before and after Jana Andolan II – that it was not possible to reach any concrete plan. “But we did agree to carry out serious homework on this issue.”
Dr Shekhar Koirala of Nepali Congress – who had been very closely involved in past negotiations – said the NC being a democratic party would follow the interim constitution “religiously”. “Some token number of verified Maoist combatants can be taken in the army as well as in police and Armed Police Force as well as in the created border security force and industrial security force.”
UNMIN has already verified Maoist combatants in seven main cantonments and 21 satellite ones. Of the originally registered 31,318, the UN special mission found 19,602 to be legitimate combatants.
A political party source who is privy to discussion on the issue of integration said that some agreement has already been reached. “Maoist Chairman Prachanda has proposed integrating at least 6,000 of his men in the army but Prime Minister (Girija Prasad) Koirala has asked them to be satisfied with 3,000,” he revealed, “and negotiations are centered on this.”
The Nepal Army, too, is prepared if it indeed has to take in combatants, although they would prefer not to. An internal document prepared by the army points out various measures that need to be put into place before combatants can join the force.
The army’s major reasons for not integrating Maoist fighters – politically motivated personnel disrupting discipline, risk of revolt, armed gangs in tarai demanding the same – does appear to have some currency. The NA also strongly opposes the CPN (Maoist) pushing for security sector reform (SSR), interpreting the move as the Maoists’ attempt to portray Nepal as a failed state.
But it also has left a door open for any possible integration of Maoist fighters, from integration into various work sectors, to security forces as per the organizations’ selection criteria. The army has a condition it wants the Maoists to meet before their fighters can be inducted into government forces: one weapon, one guerrilla. Home-made guns or ‘socket bombs’, however, won’t count as weapons, and neither will deserters be taken, it says.
As per these criteria, the NA proposes that those combatants who hand over .303 rifles would be inducted into police, those with SLR and SMG into Armed Police Force (APF) and those submitting high quality automatic weapons like M16 assault rifles into the army. “If they don’t hand a weapon per combatant, I don’t see how the army or the government can agree to their integration?” an NA general told the Post. (keep reading it here)