Beleaguered Nepal Prime Minister Jhalanath Khanal has announced his decision to quit office by August 13 unless there’s significant progress in the country’s stalled peace process.
The announcement came on Monday evening soon after he administered oath of office to 10 new ministers, nine of them belonging to Maoists, the dominant coalition partner.
Maoists had been threatening to withdraw support to the five-month old government unless Khanal agreed to the party’s decision to recall most ministers and induct new faces.
“It will be my political and moral duty to step down if we fail to conclude the major tasks of peace process by August 13,” the Prime Minister told journalists at his official residence.
As part of a five-point deal, Khanal has time till August 31 to complete the peace process and draft the new constitution before leaving office to make way for a national consensus government.
The deal signed by Maoists, Khanal’s Communist Party of Nepal (Unified Marxist Leninist) and opposition Nepali Congress had agreed to extend the Constituent Assembly’s tenure by three months to complete these tasks.
But with less than a month remaining for expiry of the deadline, there’s been no concrete progress on the peace process and drafting of the new statute due to intra and inter-party feuds among the major players over power.
Differences over crucial issues like the number of former Maoist combatants to be integrated into security forces and proper package for those opting for rehabilitation are delaying the peace process.
Khanal is confident that the issues will be sorted out within the next few days. But if that doesn’t happen, he will have no option but to quit and make way for the next government.
Since signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement in 2006 nearly 19000 Maoist combatants are staying in cantonments as decision regarding their future keeps getting delayed.
Khanal’s decision to induct and new ministers and announcement to resign has made Nepali Congress remark that both moves could be revival of the seven point deal the PM had with Maoist chief Prachanda before coming to power.
As part of the secret deal struck in February without taking both parties into confidence, Khanal and Prachanda has agreed to head the government on rotational basis.