KATHMANDU, July 17: An internal estimation of the Nepal Army, which is sure to deepen the stalemate over integration of former Maoist combatants into the national army, has pointed out that nearly a thousand former combatants will be disqualified on the grounds of age alone.
"We estimate that around 25 percent of the former combatants will be ineligible to join the Nepal Army as they have been found to be below 18 at the time of their verification by the United Nations Mission in Nepal," said a senior army official on the condition of anonymity. "Another one percent will be disqualified because they were overaged."
Combining both the figures, the number of ex-combatants facing disqualification due to the age factor comes to be more than 800. Altogether 3,123 former combatants have shown interest in joining the national army. Integration of these combatants is one of the major components of the nearly six-year old peace process.
The army´s estimation has come at a time when the integration process continues to remain stalled due to controversy over age.
The selection committees of the Nepal Army found many combatants of either being underage or overage at the time of their verification in 2007 and declared them disqualified for integration, something that prompted the former Maoist army to stall the process that began on July 5.
The selection committees label those combatants as overaged whose age crosses the three-year concession given to them for integration purpose.
The army had started selecting ex-combatants for integration as per an agreement among major political parties last November. The agreement had finalized the modality of integration of the former Maoist combatants into the national army, ending the years-long deadlock.
"The integration started as per the agreement reached among parties and the process cannot resume until the issue is settled at political level," said the army official.