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Khanal expands Cabinet amid controversy

More than three months after taking office, Prime Minister Jhalanath Khanal gave full shape to his government late on Wednesday night.

However, this triggered major intra-party differences in both the Prime Minister's Communist Party of Nepal (Unified Marxist Leninist), and its key ally, the Unified Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist).

Mr. Khanal swore in representatives from the Maoists, the Madhesi Janaadhikar Forum (Nepal), and other smaller outfits. He appointed Maoist leader and Deputy Prime Minister Krishna Bahadur Mahara as Home Minister — Mr. Mahara was earlier the Information and Communication Minister. MJF chairman Upendra Yadav was sworn in as Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister.

The decision to give the Home Ministry to the Maoists provoked an outcry from a section within the UML, which claimed Mr. Khanal had acted against party direction. The faction led by the former Prime Minister, Madhav Kumar Nepal, and senior leader K.P. Oli had warned the Maoists must not be given the Home Ministry as long as they had a “private army” and did not move on the peace process.

But after the swearing in, Mr. Khanal's media adviser Surya Thapa told reporters that Maoists were being given Home to enable movement on the peace process. On Thursday, the UML politburo met, with members divided about decision.

The Home Ministry row had a fall-out within the Maoists too. A key aide of chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal ‘Prachanda' and Minister of Peace and Reconstruction Barshaman Pun ‘Ananta' resigned from the Cabinet after he was not given the Home Ministry as promised earlier by the party leadership. The Maoist hardline faction, led by Mohan Vaidya ‘Kiran', had also laid a claim to the Home Ministry.

Two Ministers from Mr. Kiran's faction boycotted the swearing in, claiming past agreements had been violated. Party secretary C.P. Gajurel, representing the Kiran faction, said: “The chairman's unilateral decision will take a toll on party strength and unity.” Maoist women MPs criticised the party leadership for not selecting women Ministers on a proportionate basis.

The United Nations Office of High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) has also expressed concern over the appointment of Maoist leader Agni Sapkota as the new Minister for Information and Broadcasting. The Office said: “Sapkota is named as a suspect in a police report in 2008 regarding the alleged abduction and killing of Arjun Lama in 2005.”

It added the appointment of an alleged human rights violator contradicted with Nepal's commitment towards accountability for serious human rights violations and abuses committed during the conflict.

Meanwhile, Foreign Minister Upendra Yadav, in his initial statements on Thursday, termed the Nepal-India relationship as “special” and “multi-dimensional”.

He expressed his commitment not to allow any activities against diplomatic norms.


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Printable version | Jun 10, 2021 4:48:24 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/international/khanal-expands-cabinet-amid-controversy/article1994206.ece

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