Nepal: Maoists agree to hand over keys to arms containers

 [Though PM Bhattarai and UCPN(M) have been remarkably clear on the path they consider politic, a number of their supporters, and others, have held on to hopes that they would not bring to a conclusion the disarming of the PLA.  But now, it appears that actions are speaking loud and clear.  —  Frontlines ed.]

REPUBLICA

KATHMANDU, Sept 1 : In a new development on the peace process, the UCPN (Maoist) has agreed to hand over the keys of the weapons containers to the arms monitors deployed by the Special Committee at the 28 combatant cantonments.

The Maoists agreed to hand over the keys in the very first meeting of the Special Committee under the leadership of newly appointed Prime Minister Dr Baburam Bhattarai, held at Baneshwar on Wednesday evening.

“The meeting decided that the keys to the weapons containers and the command of all the cantonments should come under the arms monitors,” said JP Gupta, who is a member of the Special Committee.

The decision is expected to give a fresh push to the peace process that has remained stagnant since June after the parties failed to resolve the differences over modality of integration and rehabilitation.

“Though it has come late, it is a positive step. Let us wait and see how they will implement the decision,” said Dr Ram Sharan Mahat, a special committee member representing the Nepali Congress.

Earlier, Maoist Chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal had expressed his agreement on handing over the keys during a meeting of the top leaders of three major parties–UCPN (Maoist), NC and CPN-UML–held at the residence of Prime Minister Dr Baburam Bhattarai.

At the meeting, the NC President Sushil Koirala had asked Dahal to hand over the arms instead of just the keys to the containers, according to Mahat.

“But Dahal declined to hand over the arms, saying it would be difficult to take such a decision immediately. Though Dahal said that the party will do so after one and half months,” said Mahat.

The Maoist representative on the Special Committee Barshaman Pun termed the decision as momentous for the peace process.

Most leaders applauded the decision considering it a step toward bringing the Maoist ex-combatants and their arms practically under the command and control of the Special Committee.

The Special Committee, according to Gupta, also decided to begin the process of categorizing the ex-Maoist combatants in the next couple of days.

But Mahat refuted Gupta´s claim. “It is nonsense. How can the categorization begin before all the outstanding issues are resolved?” Mahat said.

In another decision, the Special Committee also decided to recruit experts who will work as surveyors for categorization. According to Balananda Sharma, the convener of the secretariat under the Special Committee, the secretariat has already short listed the experts but has held their formal appointments as the decisions about their deployment were yet to be made.

Gupta said the Special Committee will start discussions on the core issues of the peace process like the modality of integration and rehabilitation and the number in the next meeting slated for Sunday.

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