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Lessons from Nepal

Fate has certainly not been kind to the small and poor nation of Nepal, nestled among the sky-high peaks of the Himalayas. For almost 20 years now, the people of Nepal have faced political uncertainty at every turn.

From a decade-long civil war to a massacre of it's royal family to a non-performing Constituent Assembly, Nepal has seen it all. The result of this mess of Nepal's political structure has resulted in Nepal's present political situation. Today, is the 6th anniversary of the declaration of the Nepalese Republic and today Nepal happens to be a self-proclaimed democratic Republic without a proper constitution, a nation lacking a proper lawmaking body and a country with four Prime Ministers over the past 6 years.

To understand Nepal's present situation one needs to have a brief understanding of Nepal's modern history, especially in and after the 1990's. In 1996, the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) declared war against the monarchy with an aim to replace it with a people's socialist republic. Thus, began the decade long civil-war in Nepal which killed around 20,000 and displaced hundreds of thousands more.

Tragedy struck again in 2001 with the massacre of most of the Nepalese Royal Family in the Royal Palace under mysterious circumstances. The Governments claims it was orchestrated by the Crown Prince Dipendra who shot most of his family members before killing himself in response to his father's rejection of the girl whom he wanted to marry.

In this tense situation, the new King Gyanendra, the brother of the dead king took the throne. His regime was more or less full of strife due to the ongoing civil war. Meanwhile in 2005, King Gyanendra dismissed the Government and assumed sweeping powers in order to combat the Maoists.

This attempt failed miserably for by this time, a sort of deadlock had been reached. The Maoists had seized the rural areas while the military remained entrenched in cities and towns. Now, a ceasefire was announced and attempts at a mutual peace agreement were made.

Meanwhile, the citizens of Nepal were disapproving of the King's decision to dissolve the Government and take on more powers. Mass protests to call for democracy began. Facing immense pressure on all sides, King Gyanendra relented and a peace treaty was signed with the Maoists.

King Gyanendra called for elections to a Constituent Assembly, which would behave like the Parliament besides framing the Constitution of Nepal. Elections were held and the Maoists won the highest number of seats. Though lacking a majority, they gathered some alliance partners and formed the Government.

So all seems well now. The Civil War has finally ended. A Constituent Assembly and a Government are present. Democracy, which was the demand of the people, was in place. So what went wrong?

The fatal mistake of the Constituent Assembly was that the first thing they did was to abolish the monarchy and call for a Republic. They stripped the King of all his powers. Overnight, they turned him from a King to just another citizen of Nepal.

Under ordinary circumstances, i.e if the new Government was stable, it would have been all right. But the problem was that the unwieldy  coalition government was full of bickering allies. The Government was bound to fall some day.

And it fell soon too. And so did many more successive Governments. Meanwhile the Constitution wasn't framed due to the bickering between the many political parties on a number of issues. Even after an extension, the Constituent Assembly failed to come to a consensus. Thus, it was dissolved a year ago and even today, elections to a new lawmaking body are yet to take place.

 This all could have been avoided had the Constituent Assembly not been so hasty to overthrow the King. The trust deficit between the political parties and the King ruined Nepal.

Had the Constituent Assembly allowed the King to continue until the Constitution was formed all this political instability would have been avoided. While the King would have continued to govern for some time, the Constituent Assembly could have worked on a new Constitution. The political parties of Nepal too would have been pressurized to reach a consensus on the Constitution as soon as possible. The scenario would have been completely different.

Let the Nepal fiasco be a lesson to people across the world. It is highly detrimental to a country if an old political set-up is dismembered completely before a new set-up is in place. In case this lesson is ignored, there are chances that any country can go the Nepal way.

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