The Karki imbroglio and Madeshi demand have the potential to make Nepal risk another spell of uncertainty with the the usual polemics of outside interference gaining momentum to whip up peoples’ sentiments. The situation calls for a very calibrated response, says the analyst
Nepal Prime Minister, Pushpa Kamal Dahal, also known as Prachanda, is on the horns of a dilemma over two tricky issues- impeachment of the ill-famed Chief of the all-powerful anti-graft body, the Commission for the Investigation of Abuse of Authority, CIAA and amendment to the one-year old statue that has made the Madhesis to hit the streets. These two issues are dominating the political discourse in the Himalayan country.
During a recent visit to Kathmandu and other places in Nepal, I noticed that people in general and the business community in particular are not much interested in the political manoeuvres that are in full play. People seemed to be more concerned about their day-to-day life which has not seen much change sine Nepal became a Republic in 2008.
So no surprise, therefore, the impeachment proceedings against the CIAA Chief Lokman Singh Karki have not made much impact on the people. In the Terai region, of course, the mood is different.
The Madeshis and other minorities are threatening to resume their agitation ‘if nothing tangible comes soon’ by way of amendments to the constitution. What they want primarily is equality in citizenship rights, and re-organisation of Terai into two Provinces instead of attaching the area with adjoining Hill Provinces.
Frankly, the timing of impeachment motion against Lokman Singh Karki has baffled many. It is not for the first time that a campaign is mounted to remove him though. In fact, the Supreme Court is hearing a case challenging his very appointment to the anti-graft body. He did not acknowledge the notice from the apex court for a long time. He is charged with obstructing court proceedings. He was summoned to appear before the court. After ducking the summons for a while he presented himself before the bench only to justify his appointment and his every action. As of now, Karki stands suspended, and he has refused to resign.
On 19th October, 157 lawmakers belonging to the ruling Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist Centre) and the Opposition Communist Party of Nepal -Unified Marxist Leninist, (CPN-UML) registered the impeachment motion against Lokman Singh Karki with the Parliament secretariat. Debate started on October 25. The motion will be passed if two thirds of the members vote in favour for removing Karki as Chief of the CIAA. The House has an effective strength of 596 members.
The Nepali Congress, the largest party with 206 members, has not made its stance public. NC is a partner in the Prachanda coalition. Without its support, the anti-Karki motion cannot sail through Parliament. Some of its lawmakers have spoken against Karki both inside and outside Parliament and have demanded his scalp. However, a large section of Nepali Congress appears to keen to hold back a decision till the Supreme Court gives its verdict on the very appointment of Karki to the high profile post.
Lokman Singh Karki, was Chief Secretary during the last days of Monarchy in 2006. He was ruthless in the campaign to suppress the Jan Andolan, (People’s Movement) that had brought curtains down on the monarchy. A commission of inquiry had recommended criminal proceedings against him.
Yet, in May 2013, he became Chief Commissioner of the Commission for the Investigation of Abuse of Authority, CIAA when Chief Justice Khil Raj Regmi was heading the government. To be fair to the Regmi regime, it did not act alone. It in fact went by the recommendations of a Committee of top leaders of the Communist Party of Nepal-Maoist (now Maoist Centre), Nepali Congress, CPN -UML and some Madeshi parties.
The CIAA is a creation of the interim Constitution of 2007 to investigate cases against persons holding any public office and their associates who are accused of indulging in corruption or improper conduct.
Karki is understood to have initiated inquiry against a number of political leaders, including those connected with the management of Cantonments where Peoples Liberation Army (PLA) cadres of the Maoists are housed following the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA). These leaders belong to the ruling Maoist Centre. The conduct of some leaders belonging to the CPN (UML) and of the Nepali Congress is also being probed. Some business and media houses are also under the Karki radar.
The main charge against Karki is that he has indulged in large scale witch hunt, particularly of those who had opposed his appointment to the coveted post. A top media professional and founder Editor of Himal publications, Kanak Mani Dixit, who openly carried out a campaign against Karki’s appointment, was arrested. Six members of the 10 member Regmi Cabinet which appointed Karki are also said to be facing CIAA probe.
If Karki is misusing his authority as widely reported, Prachanda government should have tried to find a Constitutional remedy. Given the majority of the ruling coalition, it may not be impossible to curb by law the unfettered powers of the anti-graft Commission. This was not done for reasons unclear as yet.
The timing of the impeachment motion has been questioned largely by the leaders of Madeshi parties. “It (the motion) has been brought to distract attention from our demand for a Constitution Amendment,” assert United Democratic Madeshi Front and the other Madeshi parties.
Significantly, CPN -Maoist Centre and the CPN -UML, which drew daggers at each other just three months ago, have joined hands on the Karki question. In another six months, Prachanda is to hand over power to the Nepali Congress under the deal his party had signed with Nepali Congress. The Karki imbroglio has the potential to cast a shadow over the transition of power.
In case the Nepali Congress and the Madesh parties chose not to support the impeachment motion, the ruling coalition will plunge into crisis. The advantage will shift to CPN-UML once again. All this would also jeopardize the efforts to amend the Constitution as also the implementation of the very statute.
This, in turn, could harm the interests of the Communists and the Maoists in the Terai region since the Madeshi parties will sound their bugle once again. The elections to local bodies, provinces and Parliament are to be held before January 2018. Any political crisis would upset the poll schedule.
Put simply, the situation demands careful and calibrated simultaneous handling of the Karki imbroglio and Madeshi demand. Otherwise, Nepal runs the risk of plunging into another spell of uncertainty. Such a scenario could lead to crisis of confidence and the usual polemics of outside interference could again gain momentum to whip up peoples’ sentiments.
—– by Rattan Saldi