Shashi Malla: Nepal King's Reinstatement of Parlt.
The King's Reinstatement of Parliament
By Shashi Malla
Last week, one had the definite impression that the defining moment had finally come in the violent confrontation between the agitating 7+1 political parties (plus Maoists) and the royal regime. First Thursday last was to be the final day of reckoning, but nothing came of it. Then it was to be Tuesday, when the agitating parties and their allies would attempt to surround Kathmandu and Lalitpur along the Ring Road. How many people would actually turn up was anybody's guess; but there would have been enough to cause a major blood-bath, if the security forces had been ordered to take a strong stand. King Gyanendra wisely chose not to spill unnecessary Nepalese blood and prolong the people's agony.
In his proclamation, the King addressed all the points that had racked our brains in the preceding nearly three weeks: that the people are the source of all political power, that a functioning democracy is the sine qua non for achieving development and progress, that sustainable peace is our overriding concern, and that our countrymen should not have died and been wounded in vain. Once again, the King demonstrated that the Nepalese monarchy is people-oriented, dynamic and can rise to the occasion. The King took decisive action at the very moment when the lines of free will and political necessity intersected. This marks him as a statesman.
The reinstatement of the House of Representatives is unprecedented. Of course, back in 1995 the then Communist PM Manmohan Adhikari had dissolved the House in order to evade a no-confidence motion. But the Supreme Court reinstated the lower house of parliament. In May 2002, PM Deuba again dissolved the House - as was his right - as he had no majority to impose a state of emergency. This time around it is the King who is restoring the House. There is no provision in the Constitution for this move, but dire circumstances have forced his hand.
Various conclusions can now be made. First, the agitation had become dominated by the communists (including the Maoists), who were now calling the shots. Even the International Crisis Group had recognized this fact: "In their heart of hearts, this is a movement that is committed to communist ideology, and if presented on a plate tomorrow with the idea of running their own totalitarian state, it would be quite pleased to do so. But they do seem to have realized, that in the current global and regional context, this is just not going to be possible." Unfortunately, Girija, and Deuba, and other so-called 'professional bodies' and self-styled 'civic society' have not realized that they have been taken for a ride! What was attempted was a Communist take-over pure and simple.
We must also not forget the 'Indian hand'. Girija and the other political dons functioned as distributors of largesse. They are men without scruples, and in the past were centres of many political and financial scams. They managed to fool the people for a short period of time with the new catch-word Loktantra (which is merely a synonym for Prajatantra, or democracy). How much the demonstrating mobs really knew about the methods and goals of the agitation can be judged from the fact that many were chanting: 'down with multi-party democracy; victory to Loktantra!' And this was fueled by a well-oiled propaganda machine - an aggressive, partisan and distorting media - in the forefront being Kantipur, Kathmandu Post, Himalayan Times, Annapurna Post; and the most virulent and effective Kantipur TV. In effect, therefore, the so-called Loktantra movement was a continuation of corruption by other means! Since the 7-parties have signed a pact with the devil, let us wait and see how the political landscape changes in the next hundred days.
Second, the international community may have belatedly recognized this brazen attempt of a Communist putsch, but this perception nearly came too late. The signs were there for all to see, but they insisted on supporting the ostensible 'movement for democracy'. They have still not taken cognizance of India's machinations. We can only hope that they will now follow the new government's track record closely and not condone any unnecessary experiments in the democratic process. The alliance of convenience has already gotten off to a bad start by choosing Girija Koirala as the PM candidate. And it is indeed acting in excessive haste by putting the constituent assembly as the top agenda instead of concentrating in the first months on restoring law and order and the peace process.
Third, we patriotic and nationalistic-minded Nepalese have to comprehend fully the extent of India's diabolical role since the greatly hyped 'United Progressive Alliance' came to power in Delhi. The leaders of the agitation and the Maoists were and are Indian lackeys to the core. The Indians had pumped millions of Rupees to fuel the agitation. Now we have to take great care that the new government does not wander off from the middle path of our foreign policy, i.e. equidistance from both Delhi and Beijing. Although the Indians do have serious problems with their own Maoists, they are convinced that they can control our terrorists! The following scenario is quite credible: the care-taker government is unable to achieve peace with the Maoists; these raise the level of mayhem; the government 'requests' India to 'quell' the uprising and maintain 'law and order'; and Indian troops invade our motherland to establish a puppet state! Unbelievable? Well think of Kashmir, Hyderabad and Sikkim. As India's strategic partner, the United States would look the other way. And for all its hype, the United Nations are too emasculated to do a damn thing. The cold-blooded aggression would not even be discussed in the General Assembly! After all, a 'legitimate' government would be 'inviting' a friendly country to help it out. The so-called 'China card' is absolutely obsolete.
The restoration of the House and the formation of a coalition government does not mean that the erstwhile failed politicians have been given a clean chit. We have to monitor their actions very closely now. It cannot be business as before. There are many unanswered questions. If the former agitating leaders are really serious about putting Loktantra into practice, other political parties should be included in the government to really form one of national unity. They have a mandate for clean and effective government not to divide the spoils.
The greatest question mark is the role of the Maoists in and out of the government. They cannot be treated at par with the Royal Nepalese Army (RNA). The 7+1 pact has promised peace and the time has now come to deliver. It is easy to incite the mob and stage a 'mini-revolution'. It is extremely difficult to attain the goal of larger freedoms:
"The woods are lovely, dark and deep But I have promises to keep And miles to go before I sleep."