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Truce on cards, Koirala to lead Nepal Government

The new government would overturn all decisions taken by King Gyanendra during his 16-month absolute rule.

india Updated: Apr 25, 2006 17:51 IST

Three-time former prime minister and opposition strongman Girija Prasad Koirala will lead Nepal's new government with the promise of a ceasefire with Maoist guerrillas and elections to decide if the country would remain a kingdom or turn a republic.

The 81-year-old was proposed for the top executive post by his former protégé turned foe, deposed prime minister Sher Bahadur Deuba, and communist party chief Madhav Kumar Nepal on Tuesday after the seven opposition parties began an emergency meeting to discuss their new course of action.

Koirala, whose family is called the Kennedy family of Nepal, has been prime minister three times and is one of the most respected political figures in the country.

Key Facts on Koirala

• Koirala, 84, rose to prominence in the late 1940s as a trade union leader.

• Spent seven years in jail and later went into exile in India for opposing monarchy in 1960.

•In 1991, he became Nepal's first elected PM in 30 years after protests against King Birendra led to restoration of multi-party democracy.

• Quit as premier in 1994 after losing elections, the beginning of a long period of instability in Nepal.

• Rode to power for a 4th time in 2000 on anti-corruption ticket. 

• Promised to stamp out Maoist rebellion which aimed to topple constitutional monarchy.

• Resigned a year later as the insurgency spread rapidly, and the rebels said they would hold talks if he stepped down.

• Elected Nepali Congress chief for a third term last year.

• Vowed to step up protests against Gyanendra.

• Koirala was arrested several times over the past 14 months of royal absolute rule.

The opposition move came after King Gyanendra's address to the nation on Monday midnight in which he relinquished all powers to the people and restored parliament, dissolved since May 2002.

People hailed the opposition announcement calling off a nationwide shutdown that started April 6 and its promise to soon declare a ceasefire and asking the Maoists to come to talks.

Minendra Rizal, spokesman of Deuba's Nepali Congress (Democratic) party, said the new government would, in consultation with the Maoist guerrillas, hold elections to pick a constituent assembly to write a new constitution, leaving it to the people to decide if they wanted a republic.

The new government would also overturn all decisions taken by the King during his 16-month absolute rule.

These would include the draconian media ordinances barring FM stations from airing news and appointment of royalists to newly created administrative posts.

"All decisions that went against the principles of democracy would be cancelled," Rizal said.

The new government would also bring the army under the control of parliament, freeing it from the influence of the palace.

It would fund the medical treatment of people injured during protests and look after the families of those killed. At least 16 people have been killed and over 5,000 injured in the 19 days of political turmoil.

The reinstated parliament would form a commission to try people who collaborated with the king during his "unconstitutional" rule and played an active role in trying to suppress the campaign for democracy, Rizal said.

The opposition parties have called a "victory rally" in Kathmandu on Thursday. The venue is an open area adjacent to the army grounds and was barred to public after Gyanendra's power takeover last year.

The rally would mark an end to the continuous ban on mass meetings clamped by the royalist government.

After anti-King protests paralysed Nepal for 19 days, Gyanendra, who has ruled the country directly since February 2005, on Monday night finally expressed sorrow for those killed during the protests and said he was reinstating the House of Representatives.

First Published: Apr 25, 2006 17:36 IST