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Effective Management of the Maoists Arms and Combatants: Prerequisite for Free and Fair Election

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The Maoists has finally agreed to commence second phase of verification of their combatants following the release of allowances to the combatants by the government. It is indeed good news that the process of demobilization of combatants once again is on track. Now there are two important aspects of it - first of all, it is an opportunity for the Maoists to show their commitments to national and international community that they are sincere and honest towards ongoing peace process by fully cooperating with the verification team. Second of all, it is a test for the UNMIN to effectively conduct the verification so that no child soldiers or newly recruited combatants (those recruited after 12 Jestha 2063) are left behind in the cantonment sites.

 It is open secret that the Maoists had no more than 10000 combatants at the time they declared ceasefire following the Jana Andolan II. It is also known to all that more than half of those numbers are either not registered with the UNMIN in cantonment sites which are now operating as members of the Young Communist League (YCL) or they have already left the Maoists organization. Majority of those who are now kept in camps are newly/forcefully recruited combatants who are concentrated and trained during post Jana Andolan II period. A sizeable number of combatants are below the legal age and there are war wounded and minors as well who are also enjoying privilege of combatants.

 Those who are kept in camps are becoming burden not only to the government of Nepal but also to the Maoists themselves. The Maoists are becoming very unpopular amongst the populace because they are continuing collecting donations, extorting people, conducting illegal trade of lumbers and other natural resources, collecting taxes illegally and even getting loans (as they claim) in order sustain large number of combatants. Since the Maoists have given attractive assurances to lure to newly recruited cadres, they have no alternates but to find ways and means to make the combatants satisfied.

 As it is committed during peace pact, the government is liable to allocate very high amount of budget to sustain the combatants. The government is forced to cut budget of other areas to divert to the Maoists. The government has so far provided more than two billion rupees, which are obviously very unproductive expenses. Since the Maoists are spending this budget on their own, there is no transparency and no proper planning, programming, budgeting, accounting and auditing to such expenses. There lacks a mechanism from government side to monitor whether the budget allocated to the Maoists is used for the actual cause.      

 The Maoists now have to show highest level of honesty and sincerity to cooperate with the verification team. Segregating those which are no "real" combatants will not only reduce the burden to Maoists, it will also help reduce the government's liability. The UNMIN and the government can initiate process of demobilization, rehabilitation and reintegration simultaneously with the second phase of verification so that those who are not qualifying as "real" combatants will not be left neglected.

 There are big challenges and responsibilities on the part of Mr. Ian Martin's office and other UN organizations those who are involved in second phase verification, particularly representatives from UNICEF. I trust they are well aware that any actions and decisions taken by them will have significant impact on future of Nepal. They must find effective ways of verification to identify child combatants. If they are 18 years old on 12 Jestha 2063, then they are below the legal age when they fought so called people's war. It is well understood that the UN officials have to work under tremendous pressure from the Maoists, however, they have to understand that any undesired decisions taken under pressure will not only violate the UN's principle but they will also loose credibility in the face of people of Nepal. They have to be bold and impartial while taking any decisions. There action must be credible and justifiable so that they will not give validity to illegal combatants, which is against the UN's principle.     

 Last but not least, the government officials involved in joint verification process must also be able to act on the interest of Nepal. They must be able to resist pressure from the rebels and convince the latter on government's view points. The government side must have a workable plan to rehabilitate and reintegrate to those who are not qualifying as real combatants in to society.

 All stakeholders involved in the verification process must realize that failure in proper verification of the combatants will have significant bearing in future of Nepal. The Maoists intent to keep large number of combatants even after joining interim legislative parliament and government cannot justify their sincerity and honesty to peace process. As long as they maintain large number of combatants and show reluctance to timely demobilize and rehabilitate them, threat to national security will continue to remain. Peace and stability in Nepal is only possible when the Maoists combatants are fully demobilized and rehabilitated in to society. Free and fair election of Constituent Election is not at all possible when the Maoists combatants and weapons are kept intact in cantonment camps and the Maoists hooligans, YCL, are not banned. People of Nepal will not feel secured to go to polling booth when there is a big size of politically indoctrinated and affiliated militant standby in the camps who are holding "key of the weapon containers" on their hands.

 

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