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Nepal Maoist combatants come under govt. control

world Updated: Jan 22, 2011 16:46 IST
Utpal Parashar

Ending four years of suspense, 19,600 plus Maoist combatants belonging to the Peoples' Liberation Army finally came under government control on Saturday.

A formal ceremony at Shaktikhor PLA cantonment in Chitwan district marked the formal handover of combatants to the Special Committee formed to complete their rehabilitation and integration.

Hoisting of the national flag by Prime Minister Madhav Kumar Nepal and signing of a declaration by the PM and Maoist chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal signaled the change of guard.

"We still have a long way to go and all have to work together to conclude the peace process logically as soon as possible," Nepal told the gathering.

In his speech, Dahal reiterated his party commitment to peace and drafting of the new constitution.

The event marks a significant development in Nepal's peace process as differences between Maoists and other parties over control of the combatants had brought the process to a near standstill.

Since signing of the peace deal in 2006 after 10 years of civil war, the PLA combatants are living in 28 cantonments spread across Nepal.

As part of the deal, they were monitored by the special UN mission in Nepal (UNMIN), while the Maoist leadership and other parties debated on how to rehabilitate and integrate them into security forces.

Both issues, which are crucial to completion of the peace process, had got stuck as Maoists dilly-dallied on losing control of the armed combatants.

Differences on how many PLA members would get accommodated in the country's army and other security forces also complicated matters.

But with UNMIN leaving Nepal and Maoists agreeing to bring PLA under control of the special committee formed to take over the UN body's work—the peace process has started moving forward.

Saturday's ceremony, which comes a week after UNMIN's exit, was attended by top political leaders, senior Nepal Army officials, UN representatives and heads of diplomatic missions.