After taking break to celebrate Dashain and Tihar, politicians in Nepal are back at their old game of playing hard-ball politics. Bickering, trading accusations over the question of whether and how to integrate former Maoist guerrillas, popularly known as People’s Liberation Army (PLA) into the country’s national army.
The Maoists, who hold majority in the Constituent Assembly of Nepal and lead the current government, want to bring in their fighters into the mainstream instead of holding them in camps monitored by the United Nations Mission in Nepal (UNMIN). But two major political parties are not sure this is the right move. Nepali Congress has clearly stated that it opposes the Maoist’s plan. The Nepal Communist Party (United Marxist and Leninist -UML) has said that the government is violating terms of previous agreement to push this measure through. Regional parties are coming up with their own plans on how to integrate the Army effectively. In all, a very confusing situation.
Debate on this issue in the blogs is largely tame. Very few are actually talking sides, most are analyzing the problem from the bench and offering their observation.
IRIN highlights the challenges Nepal faces in rehabilitating former Maoist fighters and how the process could affect the structure and stability of the national army. Their report indicates that integration could cause problems for the national army’s unity.
“There is a danger of mutiny inside the Nepal Army if the former rebels are integrated,” said one analyst, who asked not to be identified. The PLA combatants and army were sworn enemies during the conflict and often engaged in bloody combats, said the experts.”
Mike Dunham also points to the resistance facing the integration effort, focusing mostly on the moves Nepali Congress is making-publicly and in private-to attack the Maoist proposal:
“Behind the scenes, it is rumored that Koirala (Former Prime Minister and Nepali Congress leader Girija Koirala) is using the holidays to resolve his differences with another Nepali Congress leader and ex-prime minister Sher Bahadur Deuba in a meeting taking place in Biratnagar, Koirala’s ancestral home. Internal disputes within the party have kept Nepali Congress a hobbled foil to Maoist goals.”
While majority of bloggers are staying focused on being just observers, there are some passionately taking sides. BlogDai (Dai-a Nepali word for elder brother) says that he has had a “change of heart” and now supports integrating the army. But he says that instead of blanket inclusion of former Maoist fighters, there should be some standards imposed:
“I say, “let em’ in!” Draw them out of the woods and villages and offer pay, training and discipline. Follow it up with a stern law against armed groups terrorizing villagers. After integration, no extortion, armed bullying or coercion by any group claiming to be Maoist would be deemed lawful, as there would be no need for such groups– only the Nepal Army.”
On the opposite side of BlogDai is Red Nepal who strongly opposes integration. The blogger protests “say no to politically indoctrinated soldiers!” and questions the motivation of the former fighters and their commitment to the nation:
“How can you have politically indoctrinated army as the national army? Will they be more responsible to the nation or to the partisan interests of CPN Maoists? The latter is inevitable – the way they have been trained.”