Sunday, November 13, 2011

No rollback on Dhungel pardon decision: PM

KATHMANDU, Nov 13: Prime Minister Baburam Bhattarai said on Saturday that he will not withdraw the recommendation his cabinet made to the president to grant a pardon to court-convicted CA member Bal Krishna Dhungel.

The prime minister said this upon arrival at Tribhuvan International Airport from his five-day visit to the Maldives to participate in the 17th summit of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC).

“The move has been taken in the context of a specific stage in the post-conflict situation. Over 15,000 people were killed during the conflict. If we look into every case, none of us will be spared,” said Bhattarai.

Bhattarai argued that the government took the step in accordance with the seven-point deal and the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA).

The prime minister accused NGOs of blowing the Dhungel case out of proportion. “I have nothing to say as the case is being treated in an exaggerated fashion by those doing NGO work for foreigners’ dollars. But the responsible political parties should take the issue seriously and understand the situation,” he said.

Besides human rights organizations, the NC and UML have raised serious objection to the cabinet decision to recommend to the president to pardon Dhungel.

Bhattarai stated that he met US Assistant Secretary for South and Central Asian Affairs Robert O Blake during the trip and the latter informed him that the US has already begun the process for removing Nepali Maoists from its list of terrorist organizations.

Bhattarai said the SAARC summit was held in an amicable environment and ended on a positive note.

The summit concluded adopting a 20-point declaration that emphasizes economic development in the region and proposes a regional mechanism to ensure empowerment of women and gender equality in the sub-continent.

Four agreements were also signed, including the SAARC Agreement on Rapid Response to Natural Disasters, the SAARC Seed Bank Agreement, SAARC Agreement on Multilateral Arrangement on Recognition of Conformity Assessment and the SAARC Agreement on Implementation of Regional Standards.

The prime minister said that he held amicable talks with his Indian counterpart Manmohan Singh, and also had talks with Nepalis residing in the island country. He said he held talks with Maldives officials to establish air links between the two South Asian countries.

Bhattarai has come under controversy for expanding his council of ministers the very day he embarked on his Maldives visit, increasing its number to 46 and making it the second largest cabinet in the history of the country.

The prime minister, who was earlier hailed for his austerity measures, came under criticism for expanding the cabinet to jumbo size and incurring extra expenditure for state coffers.

The NC and UML have objected seriously to the expansion of the cabinet, saying it undermines the agreement on forming a national consensus government.

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