72-hour Maoist ultimatum as Nepal PM refuses to quit

Kathmandu, May 31 (IANS) Nepal’s former Maoist guerrillas, who bailed out the coalition government after a midnight drama Friday, have now slapped a 72-hour ultimatum on embattled Prime Minister Madhav Kumar Nepal after he refused to step down.

‘The resignation has to come within three days,’ the Janadisha daily, a Maoist mouthpiece, said Monday quoting senior Maoist leader Mohan Baidya Kiran as a fresh crisis threatened to derail Nepal’s fragile peace process that survived a dire crisis only last week.

Kiran, a member of the politburo, the powerful decision-making body of the former rebel party, says his party agreed to vote for the government decision to extend the term of parliament by one year Friday night only after the prime minister agreed to hand over power within five days.

However, now that the crisis has been averted, the prime minister has returned to his old stand.

Nepal is refusing to resign, reiterating the ruling alliance’s year-old position that the Maoists will have to first disband their guerrilla army and paramilitary organisations. They will also have to return the public property they captured during their 10-year insurgency.

‘There will be a dire crisis if the prime minister doesn’t implement the verbal agreement to resign,’ Kiran warned.

The peace pact signed between the Maoists and the ruling parties, which saw the guerrillas’ 10-year armed insurgency end in 2006, was perilously close to coming unstuck May 28 when the two sides, still warring for power, failed to announce a new constitution.

The failure would have led to the dissolution of parliament, and with it the government, had not the Maoists yielded to mounting public pressure and helped the parties amend the constitution to extend the deadline by one year.

But when the major ruling parties and the Maoists held their first meeting after the crisis Saturday, the same old dispute that had prevented the drafting of the new constitution for two years erupted once more.

The ruling parties are once again seeking further Maoist capitulation while the former rebels are reiterating their old position that the prime minister has to go and pave the way for a new government under their leadership.

There has been scathing criticism from the public and the media for the parties’ failure to put national interest above selfish motives and draft a new constitution in two years.

However, that has not deterred the parties from returning to their old ways. Now besides the Maoists, there are fresh claimants for the prime minister’s post.

The Nepali Congress, the prime minister’s biggest ally, says it should lead the new government as it is the biggest party in parliament after the Maoists.

A second ally, the Madhesi Janadhikar Forum, is also making bids for the post now, saying its leader and Deputy Prime Minister Bijay Kumar Gachhedar should head the new government.

Though two days have already elapsed and there are only 363 days left to write the new constitution, the parties have yet again failed to resume the stalled work, just as they had repeatedly failed in the past.