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Training its guns on the army

The Maoists’ ‘divide and demolish’ game could have a dangerous fallout

Written by Yubaraj Ghimire |
March 25, 2009 12:08:33 am

The 93,000-strong Nepal army is reeling after the virtual sacking of eight brigadier generals by the Maoist defence minister with the prime minister’s full backing. The measure is being seen as a Maoist masterstroke against the Nepal army,the only force it fears could offer some resistance towards the journey towards the ‘people’s republic’ or in other words,the establishment of a one-party dictatorship.

Although several political parties including ruling coalition partners like Communist Party of Nepal-Unified Marxist Leninist (CPN-UML) and the Madheshi Janadhikar Forum stood by the opposition Nepali Congress to protest the move,Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal managed to silence the former two. “Why are you supporting the Nepal army,a remnant of the feudalism that we all are committed to uproot?” The duo’s halfhearted protest turned out nothing more than a ritual.

The Maoists,ever since they joined the peace process in June 2006,have very successfully played the ‘divide and demolish game’,using the contradictions among non-Maoist parties to the hilt. First they projected the ‘monarchy’ even in its toothless form as the only enemy that all parties should fight and uproot together. The Nepali Congress that had ever since its foundation some 66 years ago remained an unwavering votary of ‘constitutional monarchy’ and multi-party democracy,became pro-republic after Prachanda promised Nepali Congress President G.P. Koirala that he would be the first president of the ‘Republic’ Nepal once the monarchy was uprooted.

Although this commitment was not honoured,which led to him sitting in the opposition,Koirala who is known for his weakness and lust for power,readily agreed to turn his party into a pro-republic one,ignoring the advice of many senior leaders that he should not fall prey to the Maoists’ game,and that they would next target the Nepal army,the independent judiciary,free media and religion,to erase any possible resistance to their openly stated aim of a people’s republic.

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But the deliberate political interference in the Nepal army now brings back the old fear back among political parties that Maoists are still fixated on power and aim to crush all resistance. According to the military act in Nepal,brigadier generals who have served for four years may get a three year extension. The general practice so far has been the army headquarter’s recommendation on the issue. The prime minister has now taken the stand that denial of extension of services to the eight generals will open enormous opportunities for officers and jawans at lower level,a populist statement that has had positive impact at the lower level. The Maoist propaganda machinery however,been interpreting the issue in a much more radical way,warning political parties,especially the ones supporting the army,that ‘you all would have been in jailed by the King’s army if the Maoists and its People’s Liberation Army (PLA) had not come to your rescue’. The Maoists are not only justifying the government ‘disowning’ the Nepal army,but also the continued existence of its private army — the PLA — something that has been the subject of concern in international quarters.

The Communist Party of Nepal-Maoists (CPN-M) that leads the government after emerging as the single largest party in a democratic election still harps on the fear of takeover by the king’s forces and the ‘Nepal army loyal to it’. The defence minister has shared his ultimate plan to have the Nepal army replaced by the PLA as the national army with many,including India’s Deputy Chief of the Army Staff S.P.H. Dhillon who visited Nepal some three months ago.

The Maoists insist that what happened to the eight brigadiers is an instance of ‘civilian control over the army’,a principle that the present government will follow. But one person who is not quite convinced about this argument is Dr. Rambaran Yadav,president of the republic of Nepal,who is also the supreme commander of the Nepal army. He has told Prime Minister Dahal that injecting politics in the Nepal army and pushing it to the wall may provoke an unpleasant consequence. The Maoists are using some retired generals to defend the government’s move. But things have not quite settled.


While the Maoists are in an apparently victorious mood,the chance of the Nepal army remaining a rallying point for political parties might bring in a dangerous drift to Nepal’s politics. Secondly,any reversal of the decision on army generals by Prime Minsiter Dahal is bound to provoke Defence Minister Badal with substantial clout in the PLA,to go against the prime minister . After all,even China has a history of the all powerful Mao Tse-Tung firing his defence ministers Peng Dehuai,and then his successor Li Biao,both blue eyed boys of the chairman in the mid Sixties and early Seventies. At the same time,the refusal to correct the ‘aberration’ in the extension-denial case will continue to make every political party and institution of the state vulnerable and suspicious towards Maoists’ move.

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First published on: 25-03-2009 at 12:08:33 am
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