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Army ranks beckon Nepal’s former Maoists

Utpal Parashar, KATHMANDU (HT): Till a few years back they were fighting the country’s army. Now they will be joining it. Some will even become officers and command troops once their enemies. Nepal’s peace process is taking crucial strides. With cabinet approval on Sunday, former Maoist rebels in this Himalayan nation are all set to chart a new course—six years after end of civil war. Technical aspects of the rare integration were agreed by all parties on Saturday evening—four days after Nepal Army took charge of Maoist arms and cantonments.

“As all issues have been addressed, there should be no further hurdles in peace,” said Bhim Rawal, Communist Party of Nepal (Unified Marxist Leninist) leader involved in the integration process.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon commended fresh developments in the peace process and hoped it would be completed smoothly.

Reports say there has been agreement on providing one rank of Colonel and two Lieutenant Colonels to Maoist commanders in the directorate general (DG) to be created to integrate former rebels.

The DG would have separate directorates dealing with industrial security, infrastructure development, security of forests and disaster management.

Nearly 65% personnel of the DG would comprise of existing NA soldiers while the rest would be former Maoist Peoples’ Liberation Army personnel.

Those selected to become officers will undergo a nine-month bridge course while non-officers will train for seven months. All will undertake three more months of rank-specific training.

“PLA personnel with minor scars will not be barred from selection, but those facing serious human rights violations cases will not get integrated,” said RK Yadav, member of the special committee overseeing integration.

Nepal’s peace process that began in 2006 has remained uncompleted due to differences on details of merging the former rebels into Nepal Army.

During a verification drive last year, 9,705 PLA men opted to join NA while others chose retirement and rehabilitation. This is more than the 6,500 figure agreed by the parties.

Fresh verification is underway among the 9,705 PLA personnel giving them another chance of joining the NA or opting for retirement or rehabilitation with monetary benefits.

Published Date: Sunday, April 15th, 2012 | 01:50 AM

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