Nepal was supposed to have a new constitution on Wednesday.
Instead the country got another extension of the Constituent Assembly's tenure — three more months to complete the peace process and deliver the statute. The latest extension is the third since CA came into being in April 2008.
The country's 601 lawmakers were first given a two year deadline to draft the new constitution by May 28, 2010. Unable to complete the assigned task, it was decided to extend the CA tenure by another year. But even that time limit was not enough.
In May this year, the deadline was extended by three months. Constitutional crisis was averted at the last minute with a five-point deal among the three major parties — Maoists, Nepali Congress and Communist Party of Nepal (Unified Marxist Leninist).
Besides peace and constitution, resignation of prime minister Jhalanath Khanal to make way for a consensus based government was also part of the deal. Khanal left office in mid August and the country recently got a new PM in Maoist vice chairman Baburam Bhattarai.
But the essential tasks of peace and statute remained paralysed. Earlier this week, the parliament endorsed the government's proposal to extend the CA tenure by three more months. Now lawmakers have to complete their job within November 30.
Protests and Facebook-inspired demonstrations were witnessed in Kathmandu in May when delivery date of the statute was extended. But this time around there was not much noise. A few murmured their anxiety about repeated extensions, but their voices were not loud.
The reason for the delay is not far to seek. Peace and statute have got sidelined due to continuous bickering for power among the key political outfits. Bhattarai's is the fourth government to have assumed office since the CA elections in 2008.
Another crucial factor is differences over integration of former Maoist combatants into the country's security forces. There is no clear plan yet on how many would be integrated, what would be their roles and ranks and rehabilitation of those who opt out.
With a Maoist leader at the helm of power again, it is expected that these tasks would get completed this time around. The country can't afford another false labour pain. Instead all Nepalis are expecting delivery of a healthy statute in three months without any accompanying worries.