12/31/2007, 00.00
NEPAL
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Maoists back in Nepali government

by Kalpit Parajuli
The former rebel group quit the cabinet in September demanding the immediate abolition of the monarchy, which parliament did on Friday. Now there are hopes the election to a constituent assembly might take place, but Maoists have not yet implemented the agreement to demobilise their military force.

Kathmandu (AsiaNews) – Maoists are back in Nepal’s caretaker government after parliament voted last Friday to abolish the monarchy in 2008. Problems remain tough as a result of tensions between this group, which still has its own paramilitary force, and the other parties.

Maoists quit the government back in September over their demand for the immediate abolition of the monarchy and the introduction of proportional representation in the next elections.

Now there are hopes the country might quickly move to elect a constituent assembly, a step already postponed twice. “The first priority of this government is to hold the constituent assembly elections,” said in fact newly appointed Maoist minister Dev Gurung.

The new assembly will not however be able to change the fate of the monarchy. King Gyanendra has already been stripped of all its powers even though he continues to live in the royal palace.

United Nations observers have ascertained that the Maoist military forces still include 19,602 members, 15,757 me and 3,846 women, with only 40 per cent of their initial forces of 31,318 guerrillas discharged. And many discharged fighters continue to live in about 28 Maoist cantonments (7 main and 21 satellite cantonments).

“I have talked to Prachanda, Maoist chief regarding the discharge of all disqualified persons from the cantonments but he was indifferent to that,” UN mission Chief Ian Martin said.

“The verification result is not fair and we are thinking for re-verify, otherwise we can't agree with this UN task,” countered Maoist deputy guerrilla commander and lawmaker Barshaman Pun aka Ananta. “Until our approval to the result, the combatants will not be discharged from the cantonment.”

Under an agreement between Maoists, the government and United Nations, all guerrillas who were under the age of 18 on 26 May 2006 or recruited after that date were to be discharged.

For UN Chief Martin 2,973 discharged persons were under the age of 18 so there are no grounds for Maoist objections. What remains to be done is to integrate some of the fighters in the Nepali army.

In a statement United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon urged the parties to swiftly move forward to implement the agreement and lay the ground for a credible election to the constituent assembly. The latter is scheduled to take place in April 2008.

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