APR 11, 2012 KATHMANDU – Finally After several hiccups, the integration process has gained momentum with the Special Committee declaring on Tuesday that the former Maoist combatants, their weapons and the cantonments have come under the command control of the Nepal Army with immediate effect.
Right after the decision, the Nepal Army (NA) teams took charge of most of the 15 cantonments where they were welcomed warmly. The Special Committee has asked the NA to oversee the combatants, weapon storage containers and infrastructure, and ensure security of the cantonment sites.
The decision is a major step in detaching the Maoist party from its combatants and kick-starting the much-awaited army integration process. “This is the beginning of the integration process. The combatants have now gone under the chain of command of the Nepal Army,” said Finance Minister Barsha Man Pun. Both the voluntary retirement and integration process will now move ahead simultaneously, he added.
The decision comes two days ahead of the April 12 deadline set by the Special Committee last week for vacating the cantonments and handing over the weapons.
Nepali Congress leaders said the clashes between the combatants and their commanders the other day and the resulting insecurity in the cantonments prompted the Maoist leadership to take the right decision.
“Growing insecurity was one of the major reasons to push the Maoist party for this decision. Even officials deployed by the Special Committee Secretariat were unsafe because of the infighting in the camps,” said Congress leader and Special Committee member Ram Sharan Mahat.
On Monday, there were reports of protests in and outside the cantonments as well as theft of infrastructure by the commanders.
The tension led to the suspension of the process of awarding voluntary retirement in the cantonments on Tuesday afternoon.
The process will resume on Wednesday. The NA itself will transport combatants willing to go for integration from the Maoist camps to its integration centers set up in the closest NA barracks.
The Special Committee has also decided to continue offering retirement option to the 9,705 combatants who chose integration in the first phase of regrouping. The combatants will get a chance to choose retirement or rehabilitation options at the integration centers even after their handover to the NA.
The Special Committee has instructed the government to introduce a code of conduct for the combatants following a new development. Prime Minister Baburam Bhattarai will consult with Coordinator of the Special Committee Secretariat Balananda Sharma before unveiling it.
The code will stipulate interim arrangements to which the combatants should abide by until their selection for training to serve in the Nepal Army. The opposition parties have demanded the combatants give up the PLA uniforms and insignia right after their handover to the NA for screening.
Leaders have committed that the next Special Committee meeting slated for Wednesday will decide on outstanding issues like the process to set up the general directorate and the mechanism to select combatants to serve in the NA. Parties are closer to consensus on duration of training and rank determination, added a Special Committee member.
“Today’s decision is an important step towards beginning the integration process,” said CPN-UML General Secretary Ishwor Pokharel. “We will now sit together for talks and forge consensus on other contentious issues.”
UCPN (Maoist) Chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal himself had proposed the transfer of the ownership of cantonments and combatants to the government during a three-party meet held on Tuesday afternoon.
A step ahead moving forward to the success of Peace process and constitution writing, Nepal May be able to implement the long awaited new constitution within the time frame set by the parties which has 47 days to end its deadlines.