Nepal’s eminent constitutional lawyer Ganesh Raj Sharma (retired) wrote in his last article in Himal Magazine (May 2008) that given no agreement on a single fundamental of the new constitution, there are rare chances of a new constitution being drafted by Nepalese political forces. So, will Nepalese get the new constitution only through the backdoor and one that is drafted elsewhere?
As predicted by Sharma four years ago, there is a rare chance of any agreement on some of the core issues of the constitution among Nepal’s political forces and the possibility of its promulgation remains far away.
Nepal’s 601-member strong Constituent Assembly has spent almost four years since its elections, extending its own life two years beyond the original mandate to make the constitution. There are still 107 issues, including the fundamental issues of the form of government, state restructuring and judiciary and elections process.
Although the thematic committees of the CA handed their reports nearly two and a half years ago to the Constitution Committee, the change of four governments in four years, put the task of constitution drafting in a limbo. Two major political parties Nepali Congress and CPN-UML were insisting all along for completion of the integration process before getting down to completing the constitution making process.
After long debates and disputes, the integration process has come closer to an end following an agreement between Maoist leader Pushpa Kamal Dahal Prachanda and other political parties to hand over the Maoist former combatants and cantonments to Nepal Army.
After the efforts of Mohan Baidhya’s supporters to snatch arms and ammunitions from cantonment and manhandle commanders and sympathizers loyal to Maoist leader Prachadna, Prime Minister Baburam Bhattarai and Maoist leader Prachanda suddenly moved a proposal to call Nepal Army to control cantonment. Following entry of Nepal Army into the camp, the number of Maoist combatants to go for voluntary retirement suddenly swelled and more than 6000 combatants have already chosen retirement.
“In fact, in our modest efforts we try to maintain peace, tranquillity in our immediate neighbourhood but also in the extended neighbourhood. I am just giving you an example when there was trouble in one of our Himalayan countries, our neighbor Nepal, we persuaded the political parties which resorted to guns and violence, the Maoists in Nepal, that they give up violence [and] participate in the mainstream national political activities. They agreed, listened to our advice and now in collaboration with other democratic parties they formed the government, they are leading the government,” said Mukharjee.
However, Maoist leaders have outrightly rejected proposals by Nepali Congress and CPN-UML. “We have already sacrificed everything before Nepali Congress and CPN-UML and we cannot do that any more. Our bottom line is executive president and provinces based on ethnicity,” said Dev Gurung.
Two days of exercise in Hattiban Resort, 10 kilometers south-west of the capital, failed to produce any consensus on disputed issues of the constitution. Whether one likes it not it seems that political parties have to go a long way before agreeing on the fundamental issues to be incorporated in the new constitution.
Role of India
At a time when political leaders are engaged with these exercises at home, UCPN-Maoist leader Prachanda has made it clear that Nepal needs Indian support to bring the new constitution. In his interview to Indian daily Hindu, Prachanda admitted that India played a key role in Nepal’s political development. “The 12-point understanding was signed in Delhi, which had the tacit Indian support, otherwise it was not possible. CA elections would not have been possible. There could have been problems with the declaration of a republic. Now also, to take peace and constitution processes to their logical conclusion, without the Indian support, it will be very complex and difficult,” said Prachanda.
Indian minister Pranab Mukharjee was the first person to reveal that the Maoist in Nepal Agreed to listen India’s advise. Pranab Mukherjee, India's foreign minister, tells Al Jazeera’s Riz Khan about India’s support to Maoist in January 27,2009.