Koirala will call ceasefire in Nepal

Girija Prasad Koirala has decided to call an indefinite ceasefire, remove the terrorist tag on Maoist guerrillas.

india Updated: May 03, 2006 16:44 IST

Reviving hopes of peace, Nepal Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala has decided to call an indefinite ceasefire, remove the "terrorist" tag on Maoist guerrillas and call off the international alert for the capture of their top leaders.

Moving swiftly after its formation on Tuesday, his seven-member mini cabinet has decided to make an announcement on Wednesday evening after a formal meeting.

"We have asked the Maoists to respond to our decision honourably," Gopal Man Shrestha, newly appointed physical planning and works minister, said.

"They are welcome to hold meetings and move around freely -- but they have to leave their guns in their shelters."

The truce, removing the ban on the underground Communist Party of Nepal-Maoist and its sister organisations and taking legal steps to call off the high alert for the arrest of rebel leaders, are measures taken by the government to win the confidence of the guerrillas and persuade them to sit for dialogue.

Newly appointed Home Minister Krishna Prasad Sitaula told the media on Tuesday the government would also mull releasing Maoist leaders held in prisons in Nepal and India.

Cabinet sources said that while police forces would move around freely to enforce law and order, the Royal Nepalese Army (RNA) would be asked to stay in their barracks.

The Maoists have already called a three-month ceasefire on April 27, after King Gyanendra relinquished absolute power, reinstated parliament and appointed opposition leader Koirala as prime minister.

This is the third time that both the rebels and the government have called a truce.

Earlier ceasefires called in 2001 and 2003 broke down mainly because the government rejected the Maoist demand for an election to write a new constitution for Nepal and change it into a republic from a kingdom, if people so desired.

The state also alleged the rebels were using the truce as a ploy to rearm and recruit while the guerrillas charged the government with trying to
ambush them.

In 2003, the RNA had a key role in breaking the truce after soldiers killed at least 19 unarmed people suspected of being Maoists, after arresting them from a wedding party.

However, since King Gyanendra stepped down as head of government last month, the RNA, which had so far taken its orders from the palace, said it was ready to work under the new prime minister and accept Maoists in the army.

Richard Boucher, US assistant secretary of state for South and Central Asian Affairs, who wound up his two-day visit to Kathmandu Wednesday and met RNA chief Gen Pyar Jung Thapa, said the army would have a very important role to play in implementing the ceasefire.

It would enforce a code of conduct drawn up by members of civil society as well as political leaders, he said.

In 2003, a similar proposal had been made by the Maoists during peace talks with the government but the government later backtracked, said to be due to pressure by the RNA.

First Published: May 03, 2006 16:44 IST