KATHMANDU, Aug 28: In a major development in the management of former Maoist combatants, the Special Committee has decided to resume the stalled integration process from September 6 and bring the Maoist arms under the control of the Nepal Army from the same date.
This happened after the members of the cross-party mechanism on Monday resolved unanimously the controversy over age and education of the Maoist combatants and agreed to carry out the integration process without "hurting" the dignity of former Maoist combatants in close coordination of the Secretariat of the Special Committee.
As decided Monday, the selection committees of the Nepal Army will determine the age of the combatants who have two dates of birth -- one in the UNMIN-issued identity card and another in the citizenship -- on the basis of their citizenship, said Ram Sharan Mahat, Nepali Congress representative on the Special Committee. And the service period of such combatants will be counted from the date they turned 18 years of age. The cross-party mechanism also decided to give three years of consession to those combatants who are overage.
Special committee meeting. (Photo: Dipesh Shrestha)
The decisions were taken in line with the suggestions made by the Secretariat of the Special Committee to the end the impasse over the integration of 3,123 former Maoist fighters into the Nepal Army.
Started on July 6, the integration process was stalled three days later after the selection committees of the national army started disqualifying those former combatants who were found underage at the time of joining the Maoist army though they were 18 years of age at the time of verification by the United Nations Mission in Nepal (UNMIN).
However, the Special Committee did not change its previous decision relating to academic qualifications despite demands by former combatants to recognize their academic degree earned after they joined the peace process in 2006.
"It will not be judicious to apply two standards in the same project," said Chief Secretary and Spokesperson of the Special Committee Leela Mani Paudyal, reading out the decisions of the Special Committee meeting held at the secretariat of the Special Committee in New Baneshwar.
According to Paudyal, the arms of the former Maoist combatants will come under "complete control" of the army once integration starts -- September 6.
Although the secretariat had suggested to the Special Committee to take necessary decision on forming a directorate or division whichever is suitable to accommodate the former Maoist fighters before resuming the integration process, the Special Committee said the issue will be decided only after the selection process completes and actual integration number becomes clear, according to Paudyal. The meeting also decided to send the combatants on a 45-day paid leave after their selection and before their training begins.
A step for building trust
In the meantime, Nepali Congress leader Ram Sharan Mahat said the decision of the Special Committee has been a step toward building trust among the political parties.
"There was enough ground to create obstacles in the process, but we compromised this time to take the peace process forward," said Mahat, commenting on the progress in resolving the deadlock.
"It will help build trust among the political parties. The development will create favorable environment," said Mahat.