Army, Maoists on collision course over government clarification

Army, Maoists on collision course over government clarificationKathmandu - In a sign worsening relations between Nepal's Maoist led government and the army, the defence ministry Monday sought clarification from the army chief alleging him and his organisation of disobeying orders.

The new crisis prompted Nepalese President Ram Baran Yadav to summon Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal and the army chief Rukmangad Katuwal separately to discuss the issue.

Earlier Monday, defence ministry led by a Maoist politician, gave army chief Rukmangad Katuwal 24 hours to respond to its allegations of disobeying orders.

Relations between Nepal's Maoist led government and the army has been slowly deteriorating since the beginning of the year.

It followed new recruitment by the army which the defence ministry tried to stop but allowed to proceed by the country's Supreme Court.

Last month, the defence ministry sent eight brigadier generals into retirement ignoring the army headquarters' recommendation that their terms be extended by another three years.

The generals challenged the government decision in court which ordered they be reinstated.

Nepalese media reports said the Maoist led government could sack the army chief if his clarification did not please Defence Minister Ram Bahadur Thapa.

The government decision to seek clarification from the army will inevitably increase distance between the two sides, political analysts said.

"The government move appears to be ill timed and has political colours to it," analyst Gija Sharma Wagle said. "If the issue is not resolved soon, it will lead to bigger problems."

Nepal's opposition Nepali Congress Party also convened an emergency meeting to discuss the issue, terming it as a potential crisis to the country's fragile peace process.

"The government is trying to destroy the country," Nepali Congress Vice-President Ram Chandra Paudel told the parliament Monday. "The Maoists decision is an attempt to demoralize the country armed forces and poses a serious challenge to the peace process."

Nepalese army was mobilised to crush the communist insurgency in November 2001 as the Maoists attacks against police and government establishments increased.

Intense fighting between the two sides left more than 14,000 people dead and displaced nearly hundreds of thousands of others.

Despite the formal end of the insurgency in November 2006, there were still hostilities between the two sides, analysts say. The Maoists gave up fighting after signing a peace deal with the government which also allowed them to join mainstream politics.

In April last year, the Maoists became the single largest party in the special constituent assembly following elections and formed a coalition government. (dpa)