Saturday, February 04, 2006

Invoking The Laws of Necessity

"The laws of necessity, of self-preservation, of saving our country when it is in danger, are of higher obligation. To lose our country by a scrupulous adherence to the written law, would be to lose law itself."

The preceding quote is not from King Gyanendra, although it pretty much sums up his belief.
Danger Nepal is in. When the European Union dismisses the municipal elections as a setback to democracy, you get a better picture of the crisis. (The strongly worded text from Brussels was probably a partial result of the jolt triggered by Hamas' victory in Palestinian Authority polls.)
Those who have been urging King Gyanendra to loosen restrictions on civil liberties apparently aren't reading Nepali newspaper headlines. No Nepali has been exposed to the kind of calumny being heaped on the monarch.
The best part about it? Not a single Nepali soul has been forced to depart for its next abode for criticizing the king. The Maoists, one must be clear, are being targeted by the state as terrorists. Since these facts don't seem to have swayed the world, King Gyanendra should shelve Article 127 of the constitution and invoke the doctrine of necessity. He should urgently invite the Maoists to lead an interim government. He should then sit back and let the dynamics play out.
If the Maoists rebuff the monarch's offer, then let the seven-party alliance come out with a clarification on the operating paragraph of the 12-point deal. If a full-fledged republic was what they intended, the palace would be better able to respond.
The palace must not insist the Maoists disarm before entering Singh Darbar. Let the Maoist prime minister do that within three months of taking office.
Of course, one important thing needs to be taken care of before that. Maoist supremo Prachanda, long cast in the head-of-state mold, would probably not accept anything short of the presidency. So the next in line would be Dr. Baburam Bhattarai, whose understanding of ground realities is documented in his powerful prose.
An architect known more for his destructive abilities, he should be given a free hand in sketching the plan, section and interiors of his coalition. If Dr. Bhattarai can form a purely Maoist government, with the explicit support of the seven-party alliance, all the better. If not, the onus should fall on the signatories to the 12-point to allocate posts and portfolios.
Once the Maoists disarm, the country can set its sights on the election to a constituent assembly. The future of the monarchy can be debated in the broader context of the sweeping change the Nepalese state urgently requires. Moreover, a constituent assembly election would at least raise the hope of settling an issue that has poisoned Nepalese politics for over half a century.
King Gyanendra has little to lose. The Maoists know they need a head of state. If they really expected to storm Narayanhity, they would have done so long ago. Moreover, the Maoists would end up campaigning against an institution they would be cohabitating with.
The international community, which seems to see the palace as the principal impediment to peace, would face a significant test. For the Bush administration, the successful mainstreaming of a communist-cum-terrorist organization in Nepal could provide pointers to an eventual truce with Al Qaeda. Terrorists, too, hold some truths to be self-evident.
Oh, yes. The man who uttered the sentences that opened this entry was Thomas Jefferson.