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Fifty days left between constitution, chaos in Nepal
Published on 8 Apr. 2011 11:22 PM IST
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KATHMANDU, APR 8 : Bailed out of an unprecedented constitutional crisis last summer, the volatile republic of Nepal began inching towards another dire crisis with only 50 days left between a new constitution and utter chaos.
The new government of Prime Minister Jhala Nath Khanal now has less than two months to promulgate the much-awaited new constitution by May 28.
However, there was little indication Friday that the fledgling council of ministers would be able to shoulder the responsibility even as fresh turmoil erupted in the west and east.
Power-sharing talks between Khanal and regional party Madhesi Janadhikar Forum Nepal (MJF-Nepal) broke down yet again Friday with the latter still not joining the government.
Due to the disagreements, the Khanal government has only two parties in the ruling alliance - the PM’s communist party as well as its sole ally the Maoists - and just eight ministers.
More than two months after becoming prime minister, the communist leader has neither been able to persuade other parties to join his government nor reached a full power-sharing deal with the Maoists, forcing the government to proceed at half mast.
The new constitution lies in jeopardy as there are still nearly 30 contentious issues that have to be ironed out among the major parties. Besides the disputes, the other major obstacle to the new constitution is the Maoists’ guerrilla army, the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), that is yet to be disbanded.
Though Khanal became prime minister promising to disband the PLA and rehabilitate the fighters within 50 days, the government has not been able to make any headway so far.
There are still nearly 20,000 trained guerrilla soldiers living in 28 camps even five years after the Maoists signed a peace accord.
The opposition Nepali Congress party says the PLA will have to be discharged before the new constitution is unveiled, a demand that is also supported by the international community.
Turning up the heat further on the government, two indigenous communities - the Tharus in the west and the Limbus in the east - clamped down an indefinite strike Friday on nearly 14 districts where they have a stronghold, saying the government had violated their rights by signing an agreement with MJF-Nepal.
The agreement, the protesters say, sweepingly considers all residents of southern Nepal as Madhesis, people mostly of Indian origin, overlooking indigenous communities like the Tharus and Limbus. There are also growing rumours that the two ruling parties are secretly lobbying to extend the constitution deadline yet again.
The new statute was to have been readied by May 28, 2010.
However, when the parties failed to complete the task due to incessant wrangling for power, they amended the interim constitution at the 11th hour and extended the deadline by a year.
Now if they fail the May 28, 2011 deadline again and seek to extend it further, there is fear that the attempt might trigger public anger and subsequent violence.

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