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A Nepal army colonel is arrested in the UK. What does it portend for Maoist leaders?
Nepal's peace process that completed six years last November remains vulnerable. The constitution has not been written and Maoist transformation has suffered major hiccups, as dismantling 19,000 combatants and absorbing some into the army has not been accomplished credibly. Moreover, the commitment to probe all human rights violations committed by the state and by the Maoists has not happened yet.
The international community, mainly the EU, has raised the demand for a probe by constituting the promised Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) — with no positive response so far. But the arrest of a Nepal army colonel in East Sussex on Thursday by the UK government, invoking its universal jurisdiction claim over cases of gross human rights violation, may have far-reaching consequences. Colonel Kumar Lama, currently deployed for UN peacekeeping in Sudan, was in the UK on holiday.
The arrest makes most Maoist leaders, as well as other officials of the army and the police, vulnerable to such acts. It also brings under strain relations between the Nepal and British armies. The British action has been hailed by some human rights groups, like Advocacy Forum in Nepal. But there is palpable fear and anger among top Maoist leaders and in the government. Maoists fear a similar fate should the UK change its friendly relations with them. The arrest has brought the once worst of enemies — the army and the Maoists — together. A day after the arrest, Maoist vice chairman and deputy prime minister Narayan Kaji Shrestha, also in charge of the foreign ministry, lodged a protest with the British government and challenged its right to arrest a Nepali national. The army has been suspicious of certain officials of the British army — of their links with Maoists even during the insurgency. In the post-2006 phase, which brought the Maoists to mainstream politics, the British chose not to take drastic action against Maoist leaders, including Prachanda, during their visits to the UK.
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