KATHMANDU, Aug 21: Prime Minister and the Coordinator of the Special Committee Baburam Bhattarai and Maoist Chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal have asked the former People´s Liberation Army (PLA) commanders to be ready for the integration that has remained stalled since July.
Bhattarai and Dahal held a meeting with ex-commanders of the PLA at the latter´s residence on Tuesday and informed them that the stalled process would resume soon, according to former commanders who attended the meeting.
"The chairman and the prime minister called the meeting to know our opinion on resuming the process. We have learned that an agreement among political parties and the army has been reached on restarting the process," said a commander.
The process was stalled on July 6 over a dispute on age of some hundred combatants who were found underage by the army. The army disqualified such combatants during its selection process.
Sources said that all the parties, including NC and CPN-UML, had agreed to count the number of years in service only after the combatants turned 18.
"They indicated that the meeting was called after reaching the agreement among parties, " said another commander, "We are ready to resume the integration if such an agreement was reached."
The commanders also suggested the prime minister and the chairman to swiftly move ahead with the integration by addressing their concerns vis-à-vis their integration. They also warned that delaying the process would be "counter productive" to the party and country.
"We suggested them not to delay the integration anymore," said Tej Bahadur Oli, former PLA forth division commander.
The commanders also raised the issue of their academic qualification and asked Bhattarai and Dahal to bring other parties and the Special Committee on board to recognize their academic qualification that was earned after joining the peace process. As per an agreement among parties in November, the army will recognize only the academic qualification of the former Maoist combatants earned before they joined the Maoist army.
"They assured us that they will try to resolve this issue in the Special Committee," said Oli.
According to Oli, Dahal and Bhattarai told them that they would take a decision to complete the selection process within one or one and half months.
They also discussed who should lead the PLA in the integration but no conclusion was reached.
Earlier, the Maoist party had decided that the first division commander Yam Bahadur Adhikari would lead the PLA as a Colonel and Padam Bahadur Tamang, second division vice commander and Basudev Ghimire, fourth division vice commander would be Lieutenant Colonels.
But Adhikari and Lama have now been nominated as the party´s general convention committee members. This means their possibility of leading the PLA during the integration has become slim as they have been nominated in the committee that is equivalent to central committee of the party.