Nepal’s last chance for drafting its new constitution

A mass rally organised by young Nepalis through Facebook calling people to pressurise politicians for timely drafting of constitution. Photo: Robert Price

One year. Six months. Three months. And again six more months.

In a series of extensions Nepal has yet again extended its constitution writing deadline, and this time for the final time.

The Himalayan nation known for Mount Everest and later on a decade-long Maoist conflict, was supposed to have a new constitution last year. But lack of unity and consensus among political parties coupled with changes in leadership has kept the country away from its new constitution.

A new constitution would define a new Nepal—a young republic after the 240-year old monarchy ended in 2008.

A new constitution would mean a hope for new beginnings—a new hope for the 26 million Nepalis living in the post-war Nepal after the civil war ceased in 2006.

But so far, that hope and dream hasn’t been able to materalise. What’s not working?

Initially it was issues like the integration of Maoist combatants in the national army. But now, that issue has been solved. Last month, in a historic deal, Nepal’s major political parties have agreed to integrate 6,500 of the 19,000 former Maoist combatants.

This should solve one of the biggest constraints for the constitution.

Something that Nepali leaders should consider is consensus and power sharing. We heard these so much that they have lost its value. But it they were to put these words into application, much of the problems would be solved.

In May, in a roundtable discussion at my office, a week before the constitution deadline, Gagan Thapa, a young MP, said, “Until and unless there is power sharing among the parties, this issue will not move forward.”

Also, the political leaders who have taken the entire responsibility of building the new Nepal should fulfill their responsibilities. These leaders from the older generation should also pave way for the new generation like Thapa to make decisions and lead.

As young leaders, Thapa said they don’t have the power to make substantial decision thus being in the backseat.

“Unless that thought of responsibility is sown in the brains of the leadership, it’s not possible,” he said of the meeting the deadlines for the constitution. “We’re leaders but on different layers, so we aren’t capable of making any decisions.”

After the uprising in the Arab world via social networking, Nepali youth also generated some momentum during the summer. They created a Facebook group asking people to pressurise the politicians. A group of young Nepalis gathered in weekends, rallied around the city and started advocating on the political issue.

More than six months later, though they’ve been successful in creating a discourse and bringing the online mass to the streets, they haven’t achieved what they wanted. The aliveness seen during the initial weeks seem to have settled down, if not died.

It’s just six more months before the much-waited constitution turn into a reality. Nepal’s Supreme Court has ruled this extension to be the last. And if unsuccessful, the current Constitutional Assembly will be dissolved and a new election held.

The country elected these 601 members in a historic election in 2008. They were supposed to draft a new constitution. They represented 26 million Nepalis. They constituted change and hope. And yet, in all these years, they haven’t been able to do what they’ve been chosen for.

In six months, let’s say there is another election. We elect another set of parliamentarians. But is there any guarantee that they’ll be different?

Nepali politicians and leaders have long lost their trust from the people. It’s high time for them to prove the people wrong.

We’ve waited enough. We’ve been playing the blame game for a long time. There’s still some time left and we still have hope.

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