KATHMANDU, March 14: The government’s decision to ban the Netra Bikram Chand-led Communist Party of Nepal (CPN) will further corner the splinter Maoist rebels and might eventually push the country toward another round of conflict, political leaders and experts have warned.
In a possible breach of the constitution, a meeting of the cabinet on Tuesday outlawed the political activities of the CPN, in response to the growing incidence of extortion and violence by the outfit. Details of the government’s move remain unclear, but some ministers said the CPN would be treated as a criminal gang rather than a political outfit.
CPN is an offshoot of the former Maoist rebel party. It first broke away from the UCPN (Maoist Center ) and then from the Mohan Baidya-led CPN Maoist after the Maoists joined the peace process in 2006.
The decision to outlaw a political group is being met with mixed feelings. Leaders of the ruling party describe it as a move in the right direction, arguing that it has cleared the way for the law enforcement agencies to take necessary action against the security challenges posed by the outfit. However, Nepal Communist Party (NCP) leaders from the erstwhile Maoist party have criticized the decision which they claimed was taken without consultations within the ruling party. “This is a political problem with its roots in civil war and it needs to be handled with care. A ban will only worsen the situation,” said Mani Thapa, an NCP leader who fought alongside some leaders of the Chand-led outfit during the Maoist armed insurgency.
The main opposition Nepali Congress and other parties have also criticized the ban, saying it would only escalate tensions.
“It’s a good thing that the government is waking up to the seriousness of the problem and appears worried about the security situation, but the ban can’t resolve the (political) problem,” said NC spokesman Bishwa Prakash Sharma. He called on the government to rethink its decision and find a solution through talks. Talking to reporters earlier in the day, NC President Sher Bahadur Deuba had supported the government’s move.
Naya Shakti Party chief Baburam Bhattarai also expressed concern over the ban and called on the government to give the former rebels one last chance for reform. Bhattarai said he was baffled by the ban, which came just a few days after the government signed an agreement with secessionist leader CK Raut. It had shown inconsistency in the government’s stance, he said.
The ban was not entirely surprising as leaders of the ruling parties including the prime minister had repeatedly signaled they were taking stronger measures to combat the semi-underground outfit.
Legal experts, meanwhile, have questioned the legal validity of the ban, which they say was taken in breach of the constitution. They said the government had undermined several of the rights guaranteed by the constitution, including the right to political participation, right to assembly, and right to freedom of speech and expression.
“No provision in the constitution allows the government to ban political parties… to form a political party is a fundamental right of every citizen guaranteed by the constitution,” constitutional lawyer Bhimarjun Acharya twitted.
Minister for Agriculture and Livestock Development Chakrapani Khanal, however, said the ban was justified, given the Chand outfit’s open involvement in bombings, extortion and similar crimes. He said Chand and his followers were using politics to evade justice. “The government will now do everything to ensure safety and security and guide the country toward prosperity,” said Khanal.