Bhattarai having second thoughts on integration?

KATHMANDU: The growing consensual political climate became murky today after Prime Minister Baburam Bhattarai “backtracked” from the understanding reached earlier on modality and process and standard norms of integration of Maoist combatants during the Special Committee (on Supervision, Integration and Rehabilitation of the Maoist combatants) meeting this morning.

CPN-UML and Nepali Congress members of the Special Committee, smelt a rat when the PM showed no inclination to discuss the work plan of the Special Committee Secretariat.

The SC Secretariat had presented the work plan on modality, process and norms of integration of Maoist combatants into the Nepali Army as per agreements reached at the political-level.

The secretariat, said sources, proposed concluding the integration process as per the Military Act and its regulations, giving leverage to education, marital status and age of combatants, as well as recognising the combatants’ service period based on UNMIN records.

Nepali Army fugitives who joined the PLA and those guilty of human rights violations during conflict will not be entertained in the integration process, as per the work plan.

UML General Secretary Ishwor Pokharel, said the PM brushed aside the work plan and proposed allowing Nepali Army to “conclude the remaining integration process”.

Consent of the constitutional Special Committee on the modality, process and standard norms is needed before the army takes charge of the integration process. “How can the army carry out the integration process if the SC does not give clear guidelines on modality, process and standard norms?” Pokharel questioned.

The PM is learnt to have told committee members he would consult the PLA military leadership and let them know the outcome at the SC meeting tomorrow.

“It appears that the Maoists want to create their ‘army within the army’ by refusing to discuss the secretariat’s work plan,” an SC member said, requesting anonymity.

However, the SC decided that several teams led by secretariat members would be sent to the seven cantonments and eight camps on April 5 to complete the regrouping of combatants into integration, voluntary retirement and rehabilitation, beginning April 7.

Combatants who opt for voluntary retirement will be bid farewell with account payee cheques and those opting for integration, will be handed over to the army, which will escort them to the designated barracks along with Maoist weapons stored in containers, as well as those kept outside for security of the camps.

The Prime Minister’s Office, however, said there was no need to be apprehensive about the integration process.

Big III meeting put off

KATHMANDU: The three-party meeting scheduled for Sunday evening was cancelled after no progress was made on the integration process at the Special Committee meeting. It was to discuss the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and Commission of Inquiry on Disappearances, both of which were to be prepared by the Law Ministry as per the understanding reached at the three-party meeting. Bills for both the commissions need to be tabled in the next session of Parliament for endorsement. “If final agreement is not reached on the integration process, we will have strong reservations on some agreed issues on TRC and CID,” said UML CA member Agni Kharel, who said they reserved the right to ‘backtrack’ from the earlier agreement if the PM flouted understandings on integration issues.

Discouraging signs

• PM showed no inclination to discuss the detailed work plan prepared by the Special Committee Secretariat

• Brushed aside the work plan and proposed allowing Nepali Army to “conclude the remaining integration process”

• Told committee members he would consult the PLA military leadership and let them know the outcome at the Special Committee meeting on Monday by ARJUN BHANDARI from THT

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