Army Restructuring Parliamentary Scrutiny

The restructuring process proposed by Nepal Army has halted following the direction of State Affairs Committee of the Legislature Parliament<br>A CORRESSPONDENT

May 22, 2012, 5:45 p.m. Published in Magazine Issue: Vol.: 05 No.-21 May .18-2012 (Jestha 05,2069)<BR>

After a week-long marathon discussion, with various stakeholders, including the prime minister,  the Ministry of Defense and Nepal Army officials, Parliamentary State Affairs Committee (SAC) finally directed the government to put on hold its proposal to restructure the Nepal Army (NA).

A closed-door meeting of the SAC issued the directive saying internal restructuring of the national army was related with Article 144 (3) of the Interim Constitution and Article 4 (7) of the Comprehensive Peace Accord. The decision states that there should be consensus among political parties before institutional reform of the NA as per the provision set in the Interim Constitution.

Article 4 (7) of the CPA likewise states that the cabinet would prepare and implement a detailed action plan of democratization of the NA, including determination of the right number of the Nepali Army, by taking suggestions from the concerned committee of the interim parliament. The committee directed the prime minister and defense minister not to take any decision on the issue before the SAC gives a final decision after detailed study of Office and Management (O &M) Survey and army´s democratization proposal, among other things.

The committee also asked the government to provide copies of army´s democratization proposal, O&M Survey and the research, if any, conducted by National Security Council for further studies. According to a proposal, NA plans to create posts of two Lieutenant Generals, six Major Generals, 10 Brigadier Generals, 14 Colonels and 50 Lieutenant Colonels as a part of the internal restructuring of the NA. Nearly 4,000 officer level posts will be created in the army once the restructuring plan comes into effect.  It is estimated that the creation of senior positions in the army will cost the government an additional Rs 120.5 million a year.

Prime Minister Baburam Bhattarai, who also holds the portfolio of Defense Ministry, had argued that internal restructuring was necessary as the army´s strength had grown from 18,000 to over 92,000 in 47 years when the last restructuring was carried out.

Shifting alliance

It is strange to see the new alliance emerging in the parliament. Baidhya faction of  Maoists, which always opposed the Nepal Army, backed the main opposition party Nepali Congress.  Nepali Congress (NC), CPN-UML and leaders close to Baidhya faction of the Maoists are against the internal restructuring plan, at least for now.

Maoist lawmaker Pampha Bhusal had argued that a plan was not relevant in the wake of suggestions coming from various quarters to right sizing the army. Earlier, members of legislature-parliament have opposed the government plans for internal restructuring of the Nepal Army (NA) without first determining the size of the national army based on the country´s national security policy. The lawmakers stressed on the need for consensus among all political parties before any restructuring of the sensitive government bodies like army.

Lawmakers argued that there was no haste to bring internal restructuring in the army´s organization as the country is already in peace after a violent Maoist conflict. They also argued that it was not good to create additional vacancies at a time when there are suggestions from various parties to downsize the army that saw increase in its strength from around 40,000 to 92,000- during the Maoist conflict.

In the process, restructuring of Nepal Army has finally halted.

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