At the meeting, Dahal and Prime Minister Baburam Bhattarai sought the approval of the division commanders for a proposal to send home PLA personnel opting for voluntary retirement.
But contrary to the expectations of Dahal and Bhattarai, the division commanders vehemently countered the proposal, saying they are against a piecemeal approach to the integration and rehabilitation process that will put the PLA at a disadvantage, according to sources.
“We first want clarification of the confusion surrounding the integration process, including rank harmonization, age and education, among other things, before those opting for voluntary retirement are sent home. What will you do if the Nepal Army (NA) goes its own way, neglecting the sentiments of those opting for integration?” a commander quoted himself as saying during the meeting.
According to the meeting participants, the division commanders had also asked Chairman Dahal to clarify their status before the second phase of the integration process pushes ahead. “You must clarify whether the division commanders are getting any senior positions in the NA directorate,” the division commander quoted a colleague as asking the chairman.
During a general staff meeting immediately after the seven-point deal on November 1, Dahal had told the commanders that he had reached a “gentlemen’s agreement” with other political parties on the appointment of some of them to senior positions in the directorate.
Chairman Dahal, Prime Minister Bhattarai, party Vice-chairman and Deputy Prime Minister Narayankaji Shrestha, Military Bureau chief Barshaman Pun, PLA chief Nanda Kishor Pun, Deputy Commander Chandra Prakash Khanal, party leader Janardan Sharma and all the division commanders were present at the meeting.
According to sources, there were heated exchanges between military chief Pun and Dahal also. “We had been bargaining for a better integration deal for the last four years, but you struck the deal at one go. How can you place everything now upon my shoulders?” a commander quoted Pun as asking Dahal.
Pun also vented his ire on Khanal and Tej Bahadur Oli, members of the secretariat under the Special Committee, for bringing a proposal at the last Special Committee meeting to immediately wrap up the voluntary retirement process and press ahead with integration of the rest into the NA.
But Janardan Sharma, who was removed from his post on the Special Committee after Bhattarai became prime minister, countered Pun: “Without any specific directives, you just ask them to wrap up the process at the earliest. How can you now heap the blame on them?”
Sources say Dahal and Bhattarai, who had earlier proposed wrapping up the voluntary retirement process immediately, were left crest-fallen. “The chairman was excited while making the proposal at the beginning, but he looked depressed at the end,” another commander stated.
After sensing the gravity of the situation, Prime Minister Bhattarai stated: “Don’t worry. We will soon solve the issue amicably.”
The meeting then ended without going into the details of the proposal.
The last Special Committee meeting, which was held on Friday, had decided to immediately conclude the voluntary retirement process, and move forward with the integration of the rest into the NA.
Talking to media persons, Special Committee member Pun, who is also the finance minister in the current coalition, had stated that the next meeting of the Special Committee would be held on Sunday.
Then the Maoists again said that the meeting would be held on Tuesday. But leaders close to Prime Minister Bhattarai told Republica that the meeting has been put off yet again.