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Finally, some progress on peace

world Updated: Nov 24, 2011 00:04 IST
Utpal Parashar
Utpal Parashar
Hindustan Times
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Nepal’s peace process that began in 2006 with signing of a Comprehensive Peace Accord between the government and Maoist rebels turned five on Monday. Unlike previous years, this time around there’s something to cheer as the wheels of peace are finally moving forward.

From Saturday surveyors started categorizing 19,000 Maoist combatants stationed in seven cantonments since the end of civil war as per their choice of integration into security forces, rehabilitation and retirement with cash benefits.

Differences among parties over the number of combatants to be integrated and a proper rehabilitation and retirement package for them had brought the peace process to a near standstill. But a seven-point deal signed earlier this month broke the deadlock.

As per the deal, 6500 former rebels were to be integrated. But the final figure after everyone spells out their choice could reach 9000. The list is likely to get pruned as several combatants may be found ineligible to the Nepal Army’s relaxed recruitment norms for them.

Many are also opting for retirement with cash benefits, especially married women combatants with minor children. Not surprisingly, there have been no takers yet for the rehabilitation package that promises education or vocational training.

The reason is not far to seek. Most combatants who have already spent five years waiting for a better future want to start a new life immediately instead of wasting another year or more learning things that won’t even guarantee them a job in the end.

The government’s poor track record in ‘rehabilitating’ minor combatants who were ‘disqualified’ last year and the negative connotations associated with the word rehabilitation suggesting that the combatants somehow need to be ‘reformed’ to rejoin society are other factors.

Not similar progress has been witnessed in other fronts though. Despite the seven-point deal promising return of properties seized during the civil war, the hardliner faction if Maoists led by Mohan Baidya has refused to hand over these plots to rightful owners.

Formation of an expert committee on state restructuring had to be shelved due to opposition. Instead the government constituted an eight-member commission for the job, but no leader could be elected to the body due to bickering among parties.

Amidst all these, another deadline for framing the constitution ends on November 30 and everyone’s getting ready for a six-month extension of the Constituent Assembly to complete its task.