Nepal's political parties have failed to come to an agreement on the fate of the Constituent Assembly (CA) till late on Saturday night. The CA's term ends at midnight on Saturday night.

In a day packed with developments, the Unified Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist), the Nepali Congress (NC), the Communist Party of Nepal (Unified Marxist Leninist) and the United Democratic Madhesi Front (UDMF) first had their internal meetings.

The NC stuck to its demand for concrete progress on the peace process including weapons handover by Maoists, while the Maoists decided that they could agree on the terms of integration but would not give the weapons in the absence of a ‘broader deal'. Maoist military-in-charge Barshaman Pun ‘Ananta' told The Hindu: “The rank and file in the party cannot accept weapons handover. Our success has been in taking the whole party together in the peace process so far; this will break that.”

This was followed by bilateral meetings between the major parties.

Differences persist

Informed sources suggested that the NC and the Maoists were close to an agreement on numbers to be integrated, modality of integration, and a firm time-table on the peace process — Maoist combatants would be regrouped within a month, and the process would be concluded within three months. Talks between the NC, the Maoists and the UML made some headway but differences however persisted on the government's resignation, issue of weapons handover, time-frame of extension, and dual security provided to the Maoist leadership.

The Maoists and the Madhesi front then met, but could not arrive at any agreement. A Madhesi leader said they had demanded the integration of 10,000 Madhesis into the Army at the same time as the integration of Maoist combatants, commitment to a Madhes province, and the government's immediate resignation. While the Maoists are understood to have said the government could give a commitment to resign, this was not possible immediately before the extension.

At press time, major parties were continuing to hold discussions.

Reports suggested that there are differences within each party. Sections in the NC challenged the leadership to say that the CA's extension was necessary, while Maoist dogmatists were unwilling to make any more concessions. Foreign Minister Upendra Yadav, who is supporting extension, told The Hindu: “It would be collective suicide if we don't extend the CA.”

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