Excerpts of a recent interview with Maoist Chairman Prachanda:
Q. You have begun election activities earlier than other parties. Have you really launched the election campaign?
Prachanda: Definitely, we have started our election campaign. There is no reason to doubt this. We are fully convinced that the Constituent Assembly elections provide the most democratic way to resolve the country’s problems, and that they should be held on time.
Q. What is the basis to say that the Constituent Assembly (CA) polls which weren’t possible in November last year would be held in April this year?
Prachanda: We see two key differences in the two (November and April) situations. One difference is political: For the first time, there is a clear mention of republic in Nepal’s Constitution. This has provided us a good environment to go for the polls. The second (difference) is related to the peace process that includes relief to the martyrs’ families, treatment to the injured, the issue of searching the disappeared persons and cantonment management, among others. The 23-point agreement has addressed these issues.
Q. Earlier, you used to claim that the CA polls wouldn’t be possible as long as the monarchy existed. Now, a republic has been proclaimed only partially. How can you be sure that the elections will be held?
Prachanda: As mentioned in the interim constituent, the country can be declared a republic before the elections if there’s any serious hurdle to the polls (by the king). This has substantially diminished the morale of feudal elements, and their resistance capacity. However, one cannot be fully assured.
Q. It has been declared that you will be contesting the polls from two constituencies— Kathmandu and Rolpa districts. Is it so because you doubt your victory in Kathmandu?
Prachanda: Absolutely not. Here, my ideological, political and a little bit of emotional relations have come into play. Because, Rolpa is the epicenter of the people’s war from where we started the revolt. On the other hand, Kathmandu has been the centre of all people’s movements through out Nepal’s history. The 19-day revolt was a fusion of the people’s movement and the people’s war that started the process of institutionalizing the (political) change. So, these two constituencies have been chosen for my candidacy so as to reflect the fusion of the people’s war and the people’s movement. It has nothing to do with winning or loosing in either of the places.
Q. Many have predicted that your party will lose the upcoming elections in an unprecedented manner. What do you say?
Prachanda: Whoever has thought that way, they have thought wrongly. The results will be just the opposite. Our party is going to emerge as the number one party. Our party’s recent central meeting was focused on an objective assessment of the polls. Assessing the reports from various parts of the country we clearly found that we are going to be the number one party and we will receive the highest percentage of votes even without forging alliance with any other party.
Q. How many seats do you think your party will win?
Prachanda: We expect to win 100 to 120 seats.
Q. If your party is that capable then why do you talk about electoral alliances with other parties?
Prachanda: We said that considering the historical demands. Winning 120 seats would also not provide a majority. This is an election to a constituent assembly and not a parliamentary one. It’s also not about ruling the entire state after securing a thin majority. It requires national consensus to formulate a constitution. We have been proposing to work together with the Nepali Congress and UML so as to facilitate the formulation of the constitution in the future.
Q. Is it true that the CPN-Maoist is uniting with the CPN-Unity Center for the elections?
Prachanda: Ever since we joined the peace process, we have been talking about unification with them. And the necessity and possibility of unification has heightened as we have decided to go for the elections. At this juncture, we have tentatively agreed to jump-start the unification process.
Q. You have geared up for the elections but how confident are you about the polls actually taking place?
Prachanda: We are preparing for the election as we are confident about it. Reason: the Nepali people do not see any alternative to the elections. That’s why the CA election will take place. And, if it does not, it will be unfortunate for Nepal.
Q. In what way would it be unfortunate?
Prachanda: If the polls are disrupted or if any attempt is made to disrupt them, two possible scenarios are likely to emerge in Nepal. First, an attempt to disrupt the elections could be made by assassinating the top leaders and making the environment volatile just like in Pakistan. However, looking at the Nepali people’s consciousness and the preparations of the political parties and the Maoists for the elections, I don’t think that the polls could be disrupted even if some leaders are assassinated.
The second possibility is recurrence of what transpired in Bangladesh. There is army coup in Bangladesh with a civil face. A strong backing from the western powers behind it is apparent. And, here in our country also some new faces have been inducted in the cabinet in an abnormal manner. That gives rise to the suspicion that Nepal could be moving towards an incident similar to Bangladesh.
Q. You talked about an assassination plot, is that aimed at you?
Prachanda: It could be targeted not only against us, but could be aimed at the rank and file of any political party.
Q. Who is posing such a threat?
Prachanda: One of them could be the royalists and feudalists as the country would be declared a republic soon after the CA polls. Second, some international power centers do not want to see a communist dominance here. Western agencies like the CIA are notorious when it comes to carrying out such assassinations. So the possibility that they could make similar attempts here cannot be ruled out. For, a communist dominance in this country through elections would not only influence Nepal but the whole of South Asia and the world.
Q. You only accused the royal palace and America. You don’t see any threat from India?
Prachanda: International power centers mean not only the US but also India.
Q. If such conspiracies are really being hatched, how insecure do you personally feel?
Prachanda: Though there is a possibility (of being a target), I personally do not feel insecure so far as I am inside the security ring of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA). Recently, the state has also deployed police force (for my security).
Q. A few months ago you had claimed that a conspiracy to murder American diplomats was being hatched. But, you failed to respond with evidence when the then US ambassador (James F.) Moriarty sought bases (to substantiate the claim). Isn’t your latest claim similar to the previous one?
Prachanda: Before he returned to America, Moriarty had realised that whatever I had said at that time was true. And, the current American establishment also clearly knows that what I had said was true. I had passed on this information to them in direct/indirect manner through an inner-level.
Q. It seems that you have some internal ties with the US even though you criticise it outwardly?
Prachanda: I am not talking about any such internal-outer thing. Our friends have gone to the US to participate in a United Nations programme. In some function of the intellectuals they had met with the US ambassador. But, we don’t have formal relations. Unless the US removes the terrorist tag imposed on us we cannot talk about cordial relations. However, it is moving towards a progressive direction.
Q. Yet, you perceive threats from the CIA?
Prachanda: (Nodding) Yes, the threat still persists.
Q. Earlier, you pointed out at the possibility of a “democratic coup” like the one staged in Bangladesh. What does that mean?
Prachanda: It means a few people with a democratic face run the government but with the backing from the army. Unlike what Parvez Musharraff did by bringing the army directly to the forefront, stage a coup by showing a civil face.
Q. Is that possible in Nepal?
Prachanda: I don’t see that possibility. However, a small section supporting the status quo and the hard-liners in the Nepal Army may dream that sometimes. There are also some persons who think likewise in the major parties.
Q. Is that why you expressed anger over Chief of Army Staff General Rukmangad Katuwal during the joint assembly at the Open Air Theatre?
Prachanda: The important point is whether it was correct or not, rather than the anger. First of all the Army Chief seemed to be trying to encourage enmity by making remarks on a one-month old issue after returning from Delhi. Secondly, he tried to do politics while speaking against politics before leaving for China. It can be thus understood that he was trying to play politics since it was unnecessary to speak on the army integration issue. Even the parties have no problem with this issue (Nepal Army-PLA integration).
Q. Since the Army Chief under your government had spoken blatantly, departmental action could have been taken against him rather than making a speech against him at the Open Air Theatre, right?
Prachanda: As the Army Chief had made disillusioning remarks publicly, he needed to be responded publicly. Hence, we adopted the same measure. Discussions on taking action against him will surely be carried out among the seven parties since it is a technical matter.
Q. You have been stating that you met with two Generals of Nepal Army in the hotels of Kathmandu. The army, however, denied your statement. What is the truth?
Prachanda: The meeting was not carried out secretly. The first meeting took place after consulting with Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala. Besides, his security advisor was also present during the meeting with the three Generals of Nepal Army at Hotel Ambassador in Lazimpat. Our party’s team comprising of 3-4 leaders was also present there. The meeting dwelt on the ways of resolving the army integration procedure. After that, our second meeting with three Nepal Army Generals took place in a hotel during the visit of a security specialist from South Africa. That discussion was also carried out openly; there was no restriction on such a meeting taking place. I was surprised when the Nepal Army refuted the meetings.
Q. You have said that the process of integrating the Maoist People’s Liberation Army (PLA) into the Nepal Army has to be started before the CA polls. Is that possible?
Prachanda: The interim constitution itself mentions that discussions on army integration must be forwarded by forming a special committee. However, the integration cannot and should not take place before the CA at any cost. Nonetheless, its discussions must be started now.
Q. But the Nepal Army has been saying “No” to the integration idea?
Prachanda: The army is not supposed to make statements on the integration issue. The 12-point agreement was reached on a political level, which is mentioned in the interim constitution. The Nepal Army cannot issue remarks in this regard since the issue has been included in the peace agreement.
Q. How do you think the integration could take place?
Prachanda: We do not believe that the entire Nepal Army and PLA should be mixed in the national army to be formed. The exact number (of PLA fighters to be integrated in the national army) has not been mentioned anywhere so far. The agreement reached till date accepts the identity and fostering of both the armies and according to the principle both has to be mixed and integrated. The conclusion is that the qualified PLAs must be there in the new national army and in case of Nepal Army only “fit” and “qualified” can be integrated in the new army.
Q. Will the democratization of the Nepal Army be judged qualitatively that way?
Prachanda: The Nepal Army still has one “culture” since yesteryears; their notion of “owing to the King” has to be changed. The way the officers treat the juniors has to be stopped. On the other hand, the PLAs who do not meet the minimum “criteria” internationally required to make an army professional cannot join the national army. They may join the police or industrial security force. What I am trying to say is- those possessing feudal attitude have to be terminated and also those unfit professionally.
Q. Some people have also accused you of planning a “grand design” of capturing the central power by integrating PLA in the Nepal Army?
Prachanda: Plainly speaking, that is nonsense. Some Generals of the Nepal Army are loyal to a handful of elites and feudalists; they have always disliked change and democracy. That’s why they want to disrupt the peace process by making false allegations on Maoists. But now, institutionally the Nepal Army does not seem to be a hurdle in the peace process. What we’ve understood in one and a half years is that 95 percent of the army officers say we have to harmonize with the Maoists, and not fight. They say the monarchy has ended and want to maintain peace by establishing a republic. Hence, we believe the Nepal Army will not be an obstacle to creating new Nepal. I don’t have any personal grudge against the (Army) Chief. The way he comments contradictorily in the middle of something shows that he himself is vacillating.
Q. Is there any chance of you heading for agitation or revolt if the CA polls are not held on the stipulated date?
Prachanda: We will not return to guerrilla warfare if that kind of situation emerges, whether the setback is in the name of Madhes or the royal palace. It means we will rather bring about the change through a peaceful struggle assembling millions of people on the streets. We will work towards returning the leadership to the hands of the people and creating election atmosphere.
Q. Let’s change the topic; PM Koirala is not in a very good health, will the country take pace in this situation?
Prachanda: I do not want to comment about Girijababu (PM Koirala) now. Currently, the country faces a great challenge. The Prime Minister’s illness, age has become a subject of great concern for all of us. I don’t see any alternative (to PM Koirala) before the elections at the moment. In the current context, rather than giving personal comments, I wish nothing happens to Girijababu until the election.
Q. Earlier you used to talk about making Girjababu the founder president, but lately there are talks about you yourself becoming the president. What is the truth?
Prachanda: We are not talking about becoming the president before the constituent assembly. It is still true that Girijababu will be the president if the country is declared a republic before the CA polls. We don’t have any problem with that. As far as the decisions of our central committee and the recently concluded national assembly, Republic Nepal’s first president should be our party chairman.
Q. Does that mean you will be President by 2008?
Prachanda: Our party will definitely win a majority in the elections. Even after that the situation will be in favour of our party, thus the announcement was made confidently.
Q. So, you will be the first president…
Prachanda: Our party chairman will be, not me.
Q. Lately you have been stating Nepal needs a new Jung Bahadur and Buddha. What does that mean?
Prachanda: I said so metaphorically. The Nepali people want peace, which means they want a new Buddha. And they also want a new form of Jung Bahadur to end the prevailing anarchy. If we look up in history, there was excessive anarchy and confusion in the country after the signing of the Sugauli Treaty until the rise of Jung Bahadur. I don’t have sympathy for Jung Bahadur, nonetheless if a character like his had not appeared, the situation would have gotten worse.
Q. You mean a kind of dictator is needed even now to establish peace?
Prachanda: To establish peace somebody with a “broad” mind like that of Gautam Buddha is needed. But, the authority has to exercise tyranny as well to end anarchy. Authority means tyranny. There won’t be authority if it can’t practice tyranny. Therefore, I mentioned Jung Bahadur and Buddha metaphorically for dictatorship and peace. However, now a people’s democratic tyranny is needed and not the kind of tyranny Jung Bahadur practised.
Q. Is your party trying to play the role of a new form of Jung Bahadur and Buddha?
Prachanda: The point is peace has to be maintained and anarchy ended as well. Only the CPN-Maoist can and must play that role. The whole implication is that we who are in leadership must prepare ourselves for this.
Q. Another topic again; how will the King be sidelined whilst implementing a republic? Earlier there were talks about making him the founder president, but now that you yourself are a candidate?
Prachanda: First of all, the King had a chance to become the founder president before February 1, 2005. But now the people won’t consider that. Secondly, the Nepali people have a big heart and will spare (the King) if he says he wants to live a normal life peacefully. And, our party will also work towards creating environment for him to live like a normal citizen and do his business since our party feels the transformation of republic must not be necessarily done violently. However, I think the Nepali people also know how to punish those who maintain their old notorious character.
Q. Despite playing a significant role in moving the country towards a republic, you yourself have been socialising with pro-monarchists. Isn’t this contradictory?
Prachanda: Our stance in terms of ending the status quoist monarchy and establishing a democratic republic has never changed. But, those persons, who can also be called nationalists, thought the King could protect the country in the yester years; and all of them must not be eliminated. Instead, we believe that the country can be protected and a new Nepal can be constructed only if we include and jointly work with them.
Q. How do you see that the country is at stake?
Prachanda: Any nation becomes weak during transitional phase. The power-centres worldwide are playing their own ways to take advantage of Nepal’s current situation. Hence, we are saying our nationality is at risk. The extremist section of the Indian establishment, too, wants the instability in Nepal to continue. Even a superpower like America wants to influence India and China taking advantage of Nepal’s geo-political situation. Communal slogans like Terai-Hilly, Eastern-Western are being chanted openly. While this has put our nationality at risk, our land at several bordering areas including Susta and Kalapani is being encroached upon. Therefore, it seems that all Nepalis must unite to secure territorial integrity and sovereignty.
Q. You said our nationality faces threats from India, but you meet with the chief of Indian secret service agency, RAW, and run to the Indian embassy to talk with the ambassador. What does this mean?
Prachanda: India is a big country; there’s another India in the same India. There’s a good India and a bad India too. The Indian establishment comprises of both extremists and liberals. We definitely have good relations with those in favour of a positive change and peace in Nepal. Naturally we have relation at diplomatic levels. So, meeting the ambassador or some Indian agency falls under diplomatic ties.
Q. Can the meeting with a secret service agency chief be dubbed as a diplomatic contact?
Prachanda: The matter of meeting with officials of a secret agency is false. Many people, representatives of Indian political parties come through the embassy to meet us. They (Indian Embassy officials) must have sent some people stating they were intellectuals or experts while hiding that they were actually from a secret service agency.
Q. Final question, when do you think will Nepal enter the phase of peace and stability?
Prachanda: Nepal will enter the phase of peace, stability and development after the CA polls. The Nepali people will have reached a decision by the end of Nepali year 2065 BS even if the elections do not take place by then