As expected, the term of the Constituent Assembly is set to be extended by another three months. Expected because the political parties failed to find consensus on the contentious issues, including the all-important state structuring, which led to the likely failure to meet May 27 deadline. With barely five days left for the promulgation of the constitution, the parties continued to engage with the indigenous groups and Madhesis in settling the disputed issue of carving out federal states and deciding their names. But all is not lost. If anything, the parties have more time now to address all grievances without which promulgation of constitution has no meaning. There are dissenting views from constitutional experts regarding the term extension given the earlier Supreme Court verdict. But one should understand that the constitution is a document of political understanding and extending the tenure of the Constituent Assembly with the two-thirds majority would only strengthen the parliamentary system—and definitely not weaken the independent judiciary.
The extension that many believed would go down well with the public, however, has given the last opportunity for the parties to come out the winner. With the agitating indigenous groups and Madhesis coming out strong with their demands, the parties’ focus now should be on holding dialogue with them and addressing their grievances. Like we have written earlier, the issue here is not carving the states for single ethnic community but recognition of ethnic identities and providing them equal opportunities in all state affairs to build an inclusive society. The minority communities had long suffered at the hands of the feudalistic society and had been discriminated on the basis of ethnicity. Now that we are formulating a new constitution, the country is on the verge of a major societal change. This, if taken seriously and addressed judiciously, would be an opportune time to make a wise move in dealing with the issue and silence the growing dissent among the large section of the society.
After the abolition of feudal monarchy and adoption of a federal system, Nepal is now at the historical juncture that could create a more inclusive nation where all its citizens would be provided with equal status and opportunities and the power decentralized at the lowest level. But, for this, the political parties need to be serious in dealing with the issue and rule out any ethnic discord that could jeopardize the historic achievement till now; the parties need to refresh their mindset and start broader dialogue. The dialogue should involve not only the agitating sides but also public at large, which would legitimize the whole process.
The long-pending peace process has virtually come to an end with Nepal Army taking control of the Maoist combatants and the weapons stored in the cantonments. But the process of selecting the eligible Maoists to integrate them into the Nepal Army would take some time. As the peace process and the constitution writing were the two important aspects of building a new Nepal, the solution to the latter would take Nepal into a new era, the era that ensures equal participation of all and creates a federal, democratic and inclusive society. This would ultimately lead Nepal on the path to development and prosperity that people have waited for longEDITORIAL from republica