Political divisions surface over government clarification from army

Political divisions surface over government clarification from armyKathmandu - The opposition Nepali Congress disrupted a parliamentary session Tuesday in protest at the Maoist-led government's treatment of the head of the army.

The political division surfaced a day after the defence ministry headed by a Maoist politician accused army chief Rukmangad Katuwal of disobeying orders and demanded an explanation of his conduct.

The political division is now threatening the fragile coalition government and Nepal's two-and-half-year-old peace process, analysts say.

On Tuesday, Nepali Congress rallied political parties against the Maoists and met President Ram Baran Yadav.

"We urged the president to view the issue seriously and he assured us that he would act within his powers," Arjun Narsingh K C of the Nepali Congress told reporters after the meeting.

Nepali Congress has accused the Maoists of trying to grab power by demoralising the army and convened a meeting of political parties represented in the interim legislature.

Those attending the meeting included the Communist Party of Nepal - Unified Marxist Leninist (CPN-UML) - a major coalition partner, and an ethnic party from southern Nepal whose support is crucial for the government.

CPN-UML said it was not consulted before the government sought clarification from the head of the army despite being a major coalition partner.

"The meeting expressed its objection to the Maoist-led government seeking clarification from the army chief which is in breach of the peace agreement," Nepali Congress vice-president Ram Chandra Paudel said.

"We will not allow the parliamentary session to convene until we receive assurances from the prime minister that no further action will be taken on the issue."

Maoist and Nepali Congress politicians also clashed verbally in parliament, trading accusations which led to postponement of the session.

On Monday, Defence Minister Ram Bahadur Thapa gave the army chief 24 hours to respond to his allegations of disobeying orders.

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

The Maoists gave up fighting after signing a peace deal with the government in 2006 and in elections emerged as the single largest party in the special assembly.

Nearly 14,000 people died in a decade of insurgency in which the Maoists fought to convert the Himalayan nation into a communist republic. (dpa)

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