ARMY IN POLITICS, POLITICS IN THE ARMY
COMMENTARY ARCHIVES, 17 May 2009
The confrontation between the United CPN (Maoist) and the then Royal Nepal Army began when the former first attacked the Army barracks in Ghorahi, Dang on November 24, 2001 and continued up to the initiation of the Popular Movement (Jana Andolan II) in April 2006. When the present Prime Minister (PM), Puspa Kamal Dahal, popularly known as Prachanda, first appeared in the media two years ago, along with Dr. Baburam Bhattarai at Baluwatar, he harshly criticized the Nepal Army (NA). Even his retraction soon after did not untie the knot that had developed in the relationship. The result of Constituent Assembly (CA) widened the gap. This gap intensified more due to the Maoists having their own army, the People’s Liberation Army (PLA).
The anti-Maoists generals felt abandoned, and the national and international forces who were against the Maoists-led government were (are) able to exploit their feelings to serve their interests. Their traumatized psyche aligned them towards politics. They knocked on doors of their near and dear ones, forgetting their structured and disciplined duties and responsibilities. The NA generals, particularly the incumbent Chief of Army Staff, (CoAS) Rookmangud Katawal, started to deliver political lectures as if they were political leaders, against the Interim Constitution, elected government, peace process (integration or formation of a new national army), and so forth. The vested interests of a few generals fomented distrust with the civilian government.
On April 21, 2009, the Cabinet gave Katawal a 24-hour ultimatum to furnish clarification about the new recruitment of 2,884 soldiers, reinstatement of eight retired Brigadier Generals without the consent of the concerned line ministry and the Army’s boycott of the National Games. The clarification now has become a major political issue, where all the political actors are playing various political games with the army to attract it into their fold. There has been extensive coverage of a coup attempt in the media. Several competing modes of thought have developed after the clarification initiative began in Nepal.
Present Nepal has been divided into civilian supremacy versus military supremacy. There are several schools of thought in the anti-Maoist notion. The Maoist-led government should be ousted as they are trying to uplift the interest of commoners. People centric work means their political carriers would be doomed. The Maoists shall impose an authoritarian regime, controlling the big house media, judiciary, and Nepal Army. The infamous leaders have fears that they shall be punished on charges of corruption if the government is continued. These notions compelled them to get behind the NA and prop it up as a shield. Although a powerful section in the Nepali Congress advocates sacking the CoAS as it disobeyed the government decision.
There has been huge internal pressure to sack the CoAS from inside the Maoist party. The present government leadership does not want an ambush of their strong power holders in the party. As the Maoist PLA commanders are worried for their future. Due to the extreme pressure of all anti-Maoist forces, including the NA, not to integrate them into the army in the concluding year 2008, the PM initiated the sacking of the CoAS in order to include a larger number of PLA into the integration process, regardless of the Nepal Army’s professional standards. A large section in the CPN (UML) is against the CoAS due to his position seemingly being that of a political leader rather than a civil servant of the government.
CONTINUE READING IN THE ORIGINAL – CONFLICT STUDY CENTER, NEPAL
This article originally appeared on Transcend Media Service (TMS) on 17 May 2009.
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