Yesterday, based on the reports appearing on KasamaI diaried on the rapidly developing Fight Over Civilian Control of Army in Nepal. I recounted how the democratically elected Maoist government of Nepal was confronting a series of instances of defiance by the Nepali Army of the basic principles of civilian control and was sabotaging the integration of the NA with the Maoists PLA provided for in the 2006 peace accords.
Now there is news indicating that the showdown was precipitated by a coup plot apparently involving almost the whole upper echelon of the NA's command structure.
As the Times of India reports:
In 2005, they had helped King Gyanendra seize absolute power and became branded as an army that rode roughshod over the elected
government. On Friday, the past reputation returned to haunt the Nepal Army four years later with the country’s biggest media house accusing them of having planned a second coup this month, which however was not executed due to India and other powerful donor governments.
The full story appears in Nepal's leading news outlet, Kantipur:
On Thursday, 25 generals were present at the meeting of Principal Staff Officers at the Army Headquarters. The agenda was a serious one: Maoists are in a larger mission than to eliminate Nepal Army. They were out to derail the peace process and destroy Nepali democracy. And something had to be done to stop that.
It was PSOs and Valley commanders first meeting after the Maoist-led government issued a clarification letter to Chief of Army Staff Rookmangud Katwal.
The meeting started with DGMO (Director General of Military Operations) Gaurav Rana, saying that this was a historical moment and therefore it called for a frank discussion. "We are facing a tsunami and we must stop it," he said. "The virus which is trying to destroy the Army is in this room."
Himalaya Thapa, who heads the No. 1 Brigade added, "The root of the trouble is here. We must look for it and get rid of it." A number of other generals also spoke at the meeting.
All the ire was vented against Lt. Gen. Kul Bahadur Khadka, who remained silent right through the meeting. Khadka, second in command in the Nepal Army, is the supposed Maoist choice to succeed Katawal.
At last, it was Katawal's turn. He said, "We should not let politics enter our house. We should stop this tendency to knock on the politician's door for promotion."
For the first time, Lt. Gen. Khadka found himself completely exposed in front of the generals and the Nepal Army establishment, said a senior Army officer recounting Thursday's event.
He and other Army officers recounted to the Post late Thursday how on Wednesday they came close to mounting a "soft coup" to counter Khadka and the Maoist plan. The threat, they said, pushed the Maoists on to the back foot.
This is how the plan was. Maoist leaders, ministers and other selected individuals would be arrested. Former king would be put in Nagarjun Palace in "line arrest." Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal, Nepali Congress President Girija Prasad Koirala and a number of other leaders would be cut off from the public.
Singhadurbar, Baluwatar, YCL and Maoist offices, the Ministers' Quarters at Pulchowk would be put under 'siege.' At the UN-monitored cantonments, the arms containers would be guarded, but the PLA combatants would not be harmed and would be allowed to leave the cantonments for home or for foreign employment. UNMIN monitors would be put in helicopters and flown to Kathmandu. "They would be treated with dignity," said an Army officer.
Much of the reporting in the Indian and Western media is seeking to portray the efforst of the democratically elected government to bring the military under genuine civilian control as some sort of assault on Nepali democracy.
Nothing could be further from the truth. The truth is that the NA is profoundly compromised by its historical role as a bastion of feudal power and its recent role in now deposed King Gyanendra's 2005 closure of the parliament.
Nepal is a desperately poor country in desperate need of the deep land reform promised by the Maoists and opposed by the very groups from which the army officers are drawn. Until the NA is democratized and integrated with the PLA forces that fought a 13-year long peoples war against the brutal and corrupt monarchy, it will remain a major obstacle to any improvements in the lives of the vast majority of Nepalis.