Nepal Army needs radical changes, says Koirala | india | Hindustan Times
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Nepal Army needs radical changes, says Koirala

india Updated: Feb 16, 2007 14:09 IST

Nepal's prime minister on Friday told the army, once a tool of oppression under King Gyanendra, that it is time for radical change following a landmark peace deal with Maoist rebels.

"It is now time for the army to change their role, duties, conduct and practices according to the changed context," Girija Prasad Koirala said in a statement on Army Day.

Traditionally, the king attends celebrations that include a 21-gun salute and helicopter flyovers.

But this year he has limited his movements after being stripped of most of his powers including overall command of the 90,000 strong Nepal Army, which he used ruthlessly to tackle civil unrest last year.

Gyanendra was however to visit Pashupatinath Temple in Kathmandu later on Friday to celebrate the Hindu festival Shivaratri.

The head of the army acknowledged the prime minister's call.

"It was the need of the time to bring change in the concept and structure of the institution," Chief of Army Staff Rukmangad Katwal said in a statement.

The army — long criticised by human rights groups for torturing and murdering suspects — has been keen to show willingness to work under civilian command since Gyanendra ended his direct rule and restored parliament following massive pro-democracy protests last April.

"In a major departure, the reigning monarch is no longer associated with it (the Nepal Army) as before," said an army statement placed in the Himalayan Times newspaper.

The former Maoist rebels have signed a peace deal with the new government that will see them place their arms and troops under United Nations monitoring.

They have been granted 83-seats in the 330-seat parliament.

At least 13,000 people were killed during Nepal's decade-long civil war that ended with the signing of the peace pact late last year.

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