Nepal’s four major parties have reached a landmark deal to divide the country into six provinces, each sharing its border with India, resolving contentious issues of federalism under the new constitution, a crucial development praised by Prime Minister Sushil Koirala.
Following a marathon meeting, the Constitutional — Political Dialogue and Consensus Committee (CPDCC) of the Constituent Assembly finally inked an agreement at midnight to carve out the six federal units.
“A constitution with federalism and demarcation has been ensured,” Prime Minister Sushil Koirala tweeted. “I call on everyone to not be stuck on minor disagreements and work to build and develop the country.”
The four major parties also agreed to incorporate in the citizenship clause the provision of allowing children to acquire citizenship certificate in the name of either father or mother, according to Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Local Development and Federal Affairs Prakash Man Singh.
Prime Minister Koirala and top leaders of CPN-UML, Nepali Congress, Unified CPN-Maoist and Madhesi Peoples Rights Forum Democratic (MPRFD) were present during the meeting.
However, UCPN-Maoist and MPRFD, have signed the deal with some reservations.
“Although we have some reservations in certain clauses of the proposed constitution, we will fully abide by the agreement,” Dinanath Sharma, spokesperson of the UCPN-Maoist told PTI.
The MPRF—Democratic, a key Madhesi party and the UCPN-Maoist have signed the agreement with dissent notes.
Dividing the state was one of the thorny issues of the new constitution. With signing of the agreement among the major parties on the issue of federal model, the constitution drafting has reached its final phase.
Although the political parties have agreed on numbers and boundaries of the federal units, they have yet to agree on the names of the federal units which will be decided later on.
In the agreed model of federal structure, all the six provinces have direct access with Indian border. Kathmandu, the capital district, lies in province No. 2 and except this all other provinces have three geographical divisions, mountain region, hilly region and southern plains.
The province No. 2 consists of eight districts, all of which lies in the southern plains bordering India.
However, some Madhes based parties were opposed to the deal demanding not to mix hilly districts with the Terai districts while federating the country.
According to Nepali Congress leader Krishna Prasad Sitaula, the Constituent Assembly will now be able to deliver the new constitution by the end of August as yesterday’s deal has cleared the way for the new statute.
In the proposed constitution, provision has been inserted to ensure equal rights to parents to pass on citizenship to their children if either the mother or father is Nepali.
The parties also increased the number of members of the Upper house from 45 to 51. As per the new provision, each province will send eight members, including three women, one Dalit and one differently-abled person or from a minority group to the Upper House and three members will be nominated by the president.
The parties, however, failed to reach a conclusion on the issues of secularism. Further discussions were going on among the major parties on whether to continue with secularism or not. There were demands from different quarters to return to Hinduism instead of secularism or to mention religious freedom instead of secularism.
Before its finalisation, the draft constitution will be presented in the Constituent Assembly meeting today evening for endorsement.