Koirala served prime minister seven times between 1991 and 2008, and was the leader of the Nepali Congress Party at the time of his death. He became a world figure in 2006 when at the age of 83 he took to the streets ahead of protests against the authoritarian rule of King Gyanendra who had previously dismissed parliament.
After the king was deposed, he became acting head of state and led the country until 2008, in charge of the process of transition towards democracy.
He resigned in May 2008 to allow a new government to be set up and Maoists, who had spearheaded the fight against the monarchy, to join the political process.
Until his death, he remained an important figure in the still ongoing peace process between Maoists and the Nepali armed forces.
“This is an irreparable loss to the country,” current President Ram Baran Yadav said. “His guidance led to the country to this peace process. So we all have to adopt his lesson and allow the country to find its way.”
Expressions of condolences poured into Nepal from around the world following the announcement of the former premier’s death. In his message, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said that G P Koirala was a real leader and statesman who was able to lead Nepal on the right path in many key moments of the country’s history.
Tibetans living in Nepal commemorated the late leader by lighting a thousand butter lamps his memory. Thinley Gyatso, head of the Tibetan Reception Centre in Kathmandu, said that Nepal lost one of its greatest sons. “He was always kind and generous to all the people, irrespective of their political views and religious faith,” he said.