Concerns about Nepal Communist Party (NCP) govt’s restrictions on civil liberties grew with new proposed legislation granting attorney general (AG) discretionary powers to decide on implementation of recommendations made by National Human Rights Commission (NHRC); legislation would empower AG to request further evidence before registering NHRC-recommended cases. NHRC officials rejected move and claimed it would curtail commission’s authority and undermine constitutionally-guaranteed autonomy. Rights activists also criticised govt demand that media houses share payroll and bank details of journalists as latest attempt to restrict press freedom; govt claim effort aimed at ensuring journalists being paid over minimum wage. Following widespread criticism of govt for previously ruling out negotiations with Communist Party of Nepal (CPN) led by hardline Maoist leader Netra Bikram Chand, reports claimed some ruling NCP leaders are reaching out to CPN leaders for informal talks. Second meeting of Inter-state Council (constitutionally mandated mechanism to resolve disputes between federal and provincial govts) 26 April dominated by tensions over lack of devolution of power to provinces, security arrangements and appointment of local administrators. Nepal Army 12 April denied reports of requesting to withdraw 231 troops guarding UN Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) HQ amid unrest in Tripoli and concerns about inadequate evacuation arrangements (see Libya).
Since it was passed amid deadly protests in September 2015, Nepal’s new constitution has deepened ethnic, social and political fractures. The country’s national parties and protesting groups need to find ways to address constitutional disagreements and underlying disputes. There is a clear risk of escalating violence unless all sides understand that without compromise and good faith Nepal faces an existential threat.
Nepal’s major political parties must urgently agree on a roadmap to negotiate on federalism and write the new constitution, whether by holding elections to a new Constituent Assembly or reviving the previous body.
With the future of the Maoist combatants finally settled, Nepal’s peace process has gained momentum after a long stalemate, but challenges remain, particularly the design of a new federal state and evolving coalition and factional dynamics of the parties.
Nepal’s Maoist combatants urgently need to be integrated into the national security forces and rehabilitated or retired to consolidate the peace process.
The parties to Nepal’s fitful peace process have less than eight weeks to agree on integration of Maoist combatants and federalism before the term of the Constituent Assembly elected to draft a new constitution expires.
International Crisis Group worked regularly on Nepal from 2003-2012, publishing 33 reports in the period leading up to and following the 2006 Comprehensive Peace Agreement that ended the country’s decade-long civil war. Since 2012, Crisis Group has maintained a watching brief on the country.