War On Terror
NEPAL JOINS WAR ON TERRORISM AFTER MAOIST ATTACKS
by Chiranjibi Paudyal
American Reporter Correspondent
KATHMANDU, Nepal, Nov. 28 -- The government of Nepal has declared astate=
of emergency and ordered the mobilization of Nepalese Army followinga seri= es of violent attacks by ultra-leftist Maoist terrorists who broke a four-m= onth-old cease-fire agreement with the country's rulers.
The most recent attacks by Maoists have claimed the lives of over 300 pe= ople since last Nov. 23, including more than 220 rebels who were killed in = clashes with the army and police in several parts of the country.
Much of the fighting was centered in the Syangja, Dang and Surkhet dis= tricts in western Nepal and in Solokhumbu, a Himalayan district of in north= east Nepal famed for Sherpa mountain-climbing guides who have led more than= 1,000 climbers to the top of Mount Everest, the world's tallest peak.
Ac= cording to official figures, more than 2,000 people have died --most of the= m the rebels -- since the Maoists insurgents took to arms in 1996 to estab= lish a North Korean-style Communist Republic that many people believe is a = daydream in the open, democratic and liberalized world of the 21st Century.=
The true death toll may never be known because the Maoists invariablycar= ry the dead bodies of their comrades away after clashes and bury them in fo= rests or sink them in rivers without informing family members. Many suspec= t the figure is far higher.
The deadliest fighting occurred in Solokhumbu, where over 200 Maoists di= ed in an encounter with the police and army. About 30 security personnel, i= ncluding the district's highest-ranking official, were killed.
The corpse= s of the rebels were scattered in every nook and corner ofthe district head= quarters of Salleri and nearby forests, according to eyewitnesses. Dozens o= f dead bodies were carried away by the terrorists, so many more may have di= ed.
During the Maoists' surprise attack, the police ran out of bullets. W= hen they surrendered, the rebels tied the police with plastic rope and brut= ally killed them. The terrorists put Chief District Officer Mr. Buddhi Saga= r Tripathi in a burlap sack and set him on fire while he was still alive.=
A ruling party worker was killed in Gorkha, in western Nepal Monday by c= utting off both off his legs.
The Maoists remind many here of the Taliban. Like the Taliban, theMaois= ts killed many Nepalese who opposed them.
The Maoists have been declared a terrorist organization, Much like the S= hining Path guerillas of Peru, they have been waging a bloody war to replac= e the country's multiparty democracy with a Communist-style peoples republi= c.
British-style multi-party democracy was established here in 1990 by ap= opulist people's movement after the collapse of Communism in the U.S.SR and e= astern European countries. The tiny Himalayan Kingdom is situated betweenIn= dia to the south and Tibet, run by the Peoples Republic of China to the nor= th.
The new and vastly more bloody attacks come as the world has united agai= nst terrorism under American leadership after the Sept. 11 attack on the Wo= rld Trade Center and the Pentagon. Ironiocally, the leftist terrorists are = raising their army in the birthplace of Lord Buddha, the apostle of peace.=
The government has announced that the terrorists and their supporters fa= ce life imprisonment. There is no provision for capital punishment in the p= resent constitution of Nepal, which was also promulgated in 1990. The gover= nment has also announced a cash reward for those who help to arrest the ter= rorists. A senior official said, "The award will be very attractive," but n= ot as large as those offered to the hunters of Osamabin Laden and his Al Qa= eda network.
Corruption, bureaucratic inefficiency, unemployment and poverty in Nepal= have helped the Maoists increase their organization in the remote andunder= developed parts of western Nepal, where the literacy rate is very low in co= mparison to other parts of the country.
Nepal is one of the poorest count= ries in the world, with percapita incomes of U.S.$220 and a literacy rate of = less than 50 percent.
The Maoists have presented a 40-point demand, including the establishmen= t of Communist style republic, an interim government to hold elections for = the constituent assembly to write a new republican constitution and other i= ssues, mainly related to Indian-Nepalese relations.
The new government led by Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba decided to h= old talks with the Maoists last Summer and released more than 150 Maoist w= orkers who had been arrested on charges of murder and kidnapping police, p= olitical party workers, school teachers and ordinary citizens.
The Maoist= s still hold about 150 persons, including 24 policemenkidnapped from variou= s parts of the country. The hostages are being used as human shields during= the attacks.
The Maoists declared a cease-fire with the government last July and thre= e rounds of talks were held between with representatives of thegovernment. = The Maoists dropped their demand for establishment of a people's republic = during the third round of talks, held in a resort near Kathmandu. The dema= nd had been rejected by the government and the opposition parties, saying i= t was contrary to the constitution and democracy.
"[Because] the Maoists have dropped the demand of republic, then other d= emands can be fulfilled through the present constitution," Minister for Wor= ks and Physical Planning and leader of the government talks team Chiranjibi= Wagle said. Other political parties also agreed to amend the constitution = to accommodate their demands.
The leader of the Maoist talks team and politburo member Krishna Bahadur= Mahara said, "Our major political demands are the formation of an interim = government and elections for the constituent assembly, and we cannot turn b= ack from this."
Though their strength is not clear, it is believed that the Maoists have= around 5,000 trained soldiers. They have been able to collect weapons and = funds during the last five years due to frequent changes in government and = a relatively flexible policy toward them on the part of the government and = other political parties.
The Maoists have forcefully collected money from businessmen, privatesch= ools, individuals, teachers, politicians and other residents,and they colle= ct grains from the poor farmers in the nation's remote areas, where there i= s famine and an increasing scarcity of grains every year.
"If you look at the way of the Maoists, you will find that the Maoists a= nd the Taliban terrorists of Afghanistan are similar," says a ruling Nepali= Congress member of Parliament, speaking on condition of anonymity. "The Ma= oists destroyed the factories, private boarding schools where English langu= age is taught, made a dress code for young girls, tried to stop the consump= tion of alcohol and stopped the 'cabin restaurants'in the cities," he said.
The "cabin restaurants" are popular weekend destinations for thousands= of single Nepalese men. They are often fronts for prostitution.
"That is only to bargain for money. They are terrorists," says a busines= sman who was forced to give the rebels Rs. 200,000 (about U.S.$3000)to keep h= is establishment open,
Some point out that there is also an element of hypoocrisy in the Maoist= ban on English-language education.
"This irony is that the daughter of D= r. Baburam Bhattarai, the Maoist leader, is studying in England, and his pa= rty opposes the English language middle school here, saying it is a bourgeo= is language," the principal of a private school in Kathmandu said.
"Maois= ts do not have any principles. They are criminal gangs," a diplomat from a = western country told the American Reporter.
"How can a party involved in = rape, looting, extorting money, abduction, murder, killings, suppression an= d terrorism like in the cruel Taliban system rule the country?" asks a loca= l elected representative of the main opposition party, the United Marxist a= nd Leninist Communist Party of Nepal.
While the main focus of the War On Terrorism is South Asia, where the in= ternational coalition in Afghanistan led by the United States and Britain h= as been targeting Osama Bin Laden, the main suspect in the Sept. 11 terrori= st attacks on New York and Washington, the Nepalese government has started = to fight in earnest against Maoist terror.
The United States, India, European Union and other major donor countries= say they fully support the government's move to stop terrorism.
The new= King, who like President George W. Bush was not popular in the recent past= , is fully committed to democracy, political party leadersbelieve, and he h= as allowed the army to mobilize to contain the "Nepalese Taliban."
Meanwh= ile, India has offered Nepal "whatever assistance is required" in its fight= against Maoist rebels and assured Nepal of its full support. That is impor= tant becauss most of the army's weapons are imported from India.
Most of = the fundamental rights of the people were suspended by declaration of the s= tate of emergency except the provision of habeas corpus, but the government= through a ordinance has said the main target of the emergency is to end te= rrorism so others can exercise their rights.
Though the number of Nepales= e soldiers is comparatively low, Nepal'sarmy is renowned throughout the wor= ld and they have enhanced the prestige of the nation as members of the peac= e-keeping force of the United Nations.
As wity the American government's determination to destroy al-Qaida, Ma= oists are facing a determined Nepalese army.
"The terrorism will be root= ed out," Prime Minister Deuba promised in addressing the nation on Monday, = when the declaration was made.
The government has the strong support from all sides, including the Kin= g, political parties, civil society and the major donor and neighboringcoun= tries, including the United States and India.
Maoist leader Prachand, alias Push Kamal Dahal, is said to be under pres= sure from his party comrades to fight back. He issued a press statement las= t Wednesday saying, "There is not any relevancy of the talks and the cease-= fire has also ended."
There are reports of heavy casualties on the Maoist side since the emerg= ency was declared, and the Nepalese army, along with the armed police and o= ther police forces, has been mobilized in the affected areas. The entire ra= nge of Maoist-supported publications have been shut down.
The Maoists enj= oy some connection with Indian separatist organizations and there may also = be links with the Kashmiri separatists, who are directly supported by the A= l Qaeda network of Osama Bin Laden, the prime terrorism suspect.
The government says it has learned some Nepalese living abroad, includin= g in the United States, have supported the Maoists and most of them are bel= ieved to be opposed to the present democratic system. It is not clear wheth= er a Nepalese man arrested with knives in his carry-on luggage at Chicago's= O'Hare Internation Airport had any connection with the Maoists.
"The tim= e has come to abolish terrorists from the world, and though small, Nepal's = Maoists have also left the negotiating table and remained in operation as t= errorists. That is to be finished," says a former minister.
The anti-ter= rorist campaign launched by the United States may be a blessing in disguise= for Nepal if it can help end more than five years of turmoil and mayhem. T= here is virtually no support from any side here for the Maoists and they ha= ve nowhere to go from the landlockedcountry Nepal, neither to China nor Ind= ia.
In the words of Nepal's Communist Party UML, "If the Maoists do not impr= ove its character, no any force can save it from plunging into the depth." = For Maoists, it seems the time of reckoning has come.
Chiranjibi Paudyal heads the Nepalese News Assn. and is a veteranjournal= ist who visited The American Reporter in Los Angeles two years ago under th= e auspices of the U.S.IA and the U.S. Dept. of State.