Nepal Army chief issue snowballs

Prerana Marasini

Kathmandu: The Maoist-led government is again caught up in a controversy.And this time, the rift between the Defence Ministry headed by a MaoistMinister and Chief of Nepal Army, appointed during monarchy, is exposed wideand clear.

The government's move to seek clarification from the Chief of the ArmyStaff, General Rookmangud Katawal, who is retiring in three months, has notjust concerned parties of the Constituent Assembly but also theinternational community.

Seventeen political parties have already concluded that the move to oustGeneral Katawal by seeking a clarification is unjustified. The NepaliCongress has maintained that it will continue to obstruct the Houseproceedings until the government withdrew its move. Ambassadors of India,United States and six other countries have told Prime Minister Pushpa KamalDahal (Prachanda) that the issue should be resolved through consensus torespect civil supremacy. President Ram Baran Yadav, who is the SupremeCommander in Chief of the Nepal Army, has told Mr. Prachanda the same.

Meanwhile, some Maoist leaders claim that it is due to "foreignintervention" that the clarification issue got hyped up. Ambassador RakeshSood, who met Mr. Prachanda twice to discuss the Army Chief's issue,suddenly left for India on Thursday. .

Though the government was supposed to take a decision on the day GeneralKatawal submitted clarification, a Cabinet meeting felt that theclarification should be studied first by all the Ministers before taking adecision. As per the laws of Nepal Army, the government can suspend the ArmyChief but for this a clarification should be sought from him. In hisclarification, the General has said the government "cannot dismiss" himusing the Army Act.

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