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Nepal king on three-week tour as ceasefire ends

With a four-month ceasefire called by Maoists coming to a close, King Gyanendra continued to turn a deaf ear to pleadings for peace.

world Updated: Jan 02, 2006 14:09 IST

As fear hung over Nepal on Monday with a four-month ceasefire called by Maoists coming to a close, King Gyanendra continued to turn a deaf ear to pleadings for peace and went on with his own game plan.

Accompanied by Queen Komal, Gyanendra began a three-week tour of the eastern region, reportedly to take stock of the state of affairs and boost the morale of security forces.

The king's action made it clear he had dismissed the call made by UN Secretary General Kofi Annan and the European Union to reciprocate the truce called by the guerrillas and start a process of reconciliation with the political parties.

This is the second time the king has chosen to exit from Kathmandu at a crucial time without trying to start peace negotiations either with the parties or the Maoists.

When the Maoists first called a three-month ceasefire on Sep 3, the king had acted in a similar manner, ignoring calls for beginning peace parleys and instead first going on an "unofficial" tour of select districts and then going on a tour of African countries that have no diplomatic ties with Nepal.

Reports said the army had started amassing troops near Rolpa, the district in mid-western Nepal considered as the cradle of the Maoist insurgency.

Gyanendra, who seized power with the help of the army in February 2005, continued facing fresh opposition in the new year.

Lawyers, a dozen human rights organisations and two former members of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) condemned the appointment of four ad hoc judges in the Supreme Court, saying it was a blatant attempt to gag the judiciary.

Since the royal coup, the Supreme Court has been flooded with cases against the government and the army and in several cases the verdicts have gone against both.

The king appointed former attorney-general Pawan Kumar Ojha, who has supported the takeover, as well as three other controversial judges in the apex court.

"We, human rights defenders and organisations, condemn the appointment of judges at the Supreme Court," the group of 12 rights organisations and two former NHRC officials said.

"While the court has been delivering its verdict in favour of people, particularly in public litigation and habeas corpus cases, these newly appointed judges publicly support the king's autocratic move. These forms of appointment diminish the reputation of the judiciary and contradicts the norms of constitutional supremacy and an independent judiciary."

First Published: Jan 02, 2006 14:09 IST