Maoists soften stance before oppn pressure Agree to conclude peace process first

KATHMANDU, MAR 05 – In a shift to party’s standing policy, UCPN (Maoist) Chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal and Prime Minister Baburam Bhattarai have agreed to conclude the peace process, mainly the integration of combatants before moving forward on constitution drafting.

Completing the peace process was the opposition parties’ buttomline for moving on to constitution drafting. Earlier, the Maoist party had been insisting that both the peace process and constitution drafting should progress simultaneously.

According to leaders, the party has taken a new policy after the opposition parties blamed that the Maoists used the combatants issue as a bargaining chip in the constitution drafting process. The Constitutional Committee(CC) of CA is not making any progress on constitution drafting as the oppossition parties are not ready to talk about constitution without settling peace process.

According to a Maoist leader, party will also adopt a flexible stance on the rank determination of PLA, a contentious issues.  In the three-party meeting Maoist Chairman Dahal is demanding a ‘brigadier general’ to the PLA. “To conclude the peace process, we will adopt further flexibility on it,” said the leader.  The hard-line faction led by Mohan Baidya, however, is pressing party leadership for a package deal among parties on all contentious issues such as integration, constitution drafting and power sharing.

In the recent meetings, Dahal had tried to convince Baidya to conclude the peace process first. A leader close to PM Bhattarai said there is internal pressure upon Dahal and Bhattarai to conclude integration process at the earliest.

The opposition parties Nepali Congress and CPN-UML have put the condition that only the completion of integration process and vacating the cantonments will open the door for the constitution drafting process.  According to Maoist leaders, even NC has hinted to join the government if the integration process of combatants is completed. “We want our one representation in the NA directorate, we do not want to stall the integration process,” said Haribol Gajurel, a Maoist leader close to Dahal.

He informed that party leadership is eager to conclude the peace process at earliest and concentrate on the constitution drafting process.

Maoist leader say the conclusion of the integration process will exert pressure on other parties to adopt flexible stance on the constitution drafting, mainly about the system of governance. by KAMAL DEV BHATTARAI from ekantipur

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