When a parliamentary vote made Nepal the newest republic five years ago, it ended almost two-and-a-half centuries of the monarchy. A year earlier in April, political parties and their leaders had spearheaded a popular movement promising epochal changes. A joint front of seven political parties and the rebel Maoists compelled King Gyanendra, who had dissolved the elected parliament, to give up his powers.
The anti-king alliance succeeded in its mission, as solidified in the 12-agreement between the seven parties and the Maoists. This brought the leaders cheers from the Nepali people, who aspired for an effective end to both the monarchy and insurgency. The parties drew up a republican future in an interim constitution, removed Gyanendra from the palace and elected a Constituent Assembly in 2008 to write, in two years, the new destiny of this nation. Four years down the line, however, political transition is still the talk everywhere, from the parliament halls to the tea stalls, let alone the bits and bytes of the news media.
The conclusion of the peace process, which meant integrating the former rebel Maoist militia into the Nepal army or giving them other options, has been a major breakthrough so far in all these years. Then again a repeat of the same uncompromising stands of the political parties, and bargaining for the right, identity, state and what not, through days and weeks of bandhs and sit-ins under these sponsors and others of different guises has undermined the immediate prospects of a long-term peace.
Unless the leaders really engage the people in creative politics and pro-people reforms, chances of popular frustration running deeper and turning into violent resentment are very real. The nation cannot afford to see another round of conflict gripping it. The risks are greater this time because the new conflict might find a plug into the discordant communal notes being played out loud across the country of late.
The Republican Day celebrations, as usual, will take note of these aspects fully. But the leaders, who extended the CA term several times without delivering the promises, will now need to tell the people why things did not happen as promised. Why did the situation get more complicated as the CA deadline ended? After the Supreme Court shut the doors on another CA extension, the leaders have been forced to act. Otherwise, as many people said, they had been doing nothing but extending the term to continue receiving their perks from the parliament. The uncertainties in the CA until its last hours of existence speak volumes about the capability of the political leaders, on whom the people had reposed their full trust to accomplish the twin tasks of completing the peace process and writing the new constitution.
The people may not excuse the leaders this time if they remind us of the nationís past gains by squandering the present opportunities to complete the political transition and deliver a secure future.