Nepal hails reprieve as Maoists call off strike

Posted by on May 8th, 2010 and filed under International, Politics. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

Kathmandu, May 8 (IANS) Nepal bustled with frantic early morning activities Saturday, making best use of a reprieve

after the opposition Maoist party called off a general strike that had kept the country paralysed for six days.

Vehicles were back on streets and highways that had been deserted since May 2 while shops began opening early as the major political parties, human rights organisations and business groups hailed the decision to end the strike.

However, the Maoists warned that they were simply suspending the protest and would enforce it again later this month if the government failed to address its demands.

‘We have decided to suspend the strike considering the hardship suffered by people and the appeals from different segments of society,’ Maoist chief and former prime minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal Prachanda said after an emergency meeting of his top leaders Friday night to review the situation.

‘We are also doing this to foil the conspiracy by the coalition government to derive mileage from our protests.’

The move came after growing pressure both at home and the international community.

On Friday, 48 leading organisations, including commerce umbrella organisations and professional bodies, gave the former rebels 48 hours to end the strike, warning they would take steps else.

The peace rally called by the group saw thousands of people irrespective of political affiliation gather in Kathmandu and other major cities, expressing collective anger against the blockade and asking the Maoists to return to dialogues for peace and a new constitution.

The European Union had also delivered a veiled warning to the Maoists and the government, saying the imbroglio should be resolved within the weekend.

Prachanda however said his party’s protests would continue. On Sunday, it would encircle Singha Durbar, the complex where the ministries, including the prime minister’s office, are located.

‘This government is a curse for the country and should be dissolved so that there is a new constitution,’ Prachanda said.

He also warned that if the government continued to ignore the demand for a new, all-party government headed by his party, yet another strike would be called before May 28.

May 28, less than three weeks away, is another critical date for the turbulent republic.

Unless the government can enforce a new constitution by then or amend the deadline for promulgating the constitution, parliament and the government will be dissolved and chaos unleashed.

Prime Minister Madhav Kumar Nepal, who despite his party’s weak position in parliament has managed to stave off the Maoist demand for his resignation for almost a year, and his allies are now seeking to extend the deadline for the new constitution by six months.

But for that, they have to amend the constitution and need the approval of the Maoists, the largest party in parliament after the elections in 2008.

The ruling coalition says the PM can step down if the Maoists agree to empty their guerrilla cantonments before the new constitution comes into force.

There are over 19,600 Maoist People’s Liberation Army soldiers in 28 barracks and the Maoists are pressing for their en masse induction in the national army.

The government however says it will induct around 4,000 guerrillas only after a video tape showed Prachanda boasting that he had inflated the strength of his guerrilla army to control the national army.

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