Building peace with Maoist rebels has proved more difficult for
Nepal's mainstream political parties than ousting an ambitious
absolute monarch from the seat of power.
Just three months after massive street protests forced King
Gyanendra to reinstate parliament, thousands of citizens took to the
streets again Wednesday in a bid to prevent differences between
parties and Maoist rebels from hurting the peace process.
About 2,000 people in Kathmandu blocked traffic in a peaceful
rally that continued for about one hour. Members of a Maoist student
organization also participated. Police kept an eye on the gathering
but did not intervene, although they did arrest some two dozen
physically challenged people at a rally that was on its way to
participate in the sit-in.
Civil society leaders are worried by the slow pace of the peace
process and recent bitter verbal exchanges between those in
government offices and rebel leaders. The pressure campaign aims to
push for quick resolution of the armed conflict that has left the
country with nearly 14,000 dead and an ailing economy.
Rights activist Devendra Raj Panday, who is former president of
Transparency International - Nepal, says that the campaign became
essential with the country's mainstream political parties attempting
to prolong the life of the parliament - which is supposed to be
supplanted by an assembly that will write a new constitution - by
evading the main issues.
"Since the seven parties signed an accord with the Maoists last
year to end the king's rule, elections to an assembly to draft a new
constitution have been the common objective," says Mr. Panday, who
has played an active role in building popular support for democracy
and lasting peace for the past one-and-a-half years. "We suspect the
parliament is putting elections to the assembly on the back burner,"
Civil society leaders have accused the government and the
parliament of wasting precious time in endorsing irrelevant
"The peace process is not result-oriented," says Shyam Shrestha,
editor of Mulyankan, a political journal. "Action has not been taken
against Army officers who violated human rights during the April
uprising. A date for assembly elections has not been announced.
Worse, the mainstream parties have not improved," he adds.
Nepal's political parties established a record of misrule and
disarray during their rule from 1990 to 2002. It was King
Gyanendra's extreme antidemocratic measures that united them - and
spurred the massive participation in the April uprising by people
from a variety of backgrounds. That uprising yielded a cease-fire
and agreement to move toward a constituent assembly that would write
the new constitution.
Since the reinstatement of parliament on April 24, citizens and
popular leaders have been closely scrutinizing the parties' actions. …