KATHMANDU, Jan 14: Even as former People´s Liberation Army (PLA) combatants have been released from the cantonments with some of them undergoing trainings at various Nepal Army (NA) barracks, the political document endorsed by the ruling UCPN (Maoist) general convention organizing committee on Saturday has proposed forming a national army by developing PLA as a professional army and democratizing NA.
"The national army will be formed through dignified integration of PLA and democratization of NA," reads the political document. The document also states that the party should focus on dignified integration of the PLA into NA.
A total of 1,442 former Maoist combatants have currently been undergoing trainings in various NA barracks. Of them, 71 are being trained for officer level positions in the NA. Six of the former combatants had opted for rehabilitation package, while another 17,000 had opted for voluntary retirement. In the initial phase, there were around 32,000 former combatants in the cantonments of which only 19,602 were verified by UNMIN.
“The integration process is yet to complete. Various issues, including inclusion, are yet to be settled," party secretary Post Bahadur Bogati told Republica.
There is only one issue yet to be decided and that is the determination of the ranks of the combatants undergoing trainings for officer level positions. The Maoists have been seeking the post of a colonel and two lieutenant colonels, while the Special Committee has recommended major as the highest rank for PLA.
The Maoist fighters were cantoned various seven main and 21 satellite cantonments following the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Accord. In the seven-point deal among the major political parties, the parties agreed to integrate 6,500 former combatants in NA.
Over 9,000 former combatants had opted for integration after Chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal faction issued a whip to this effect. However, only 6,500 were allowed to join the integration process. In the second phase of regrouping, over 3,100 had opted for integration but only 1,442 are currently undergoing training in the NA barracks.
Differences on the issue of PLA integration was also one of the causes of split between the Dahal faction and faction led by then senior Vice Chairman Mohan Baidhya. While Dahal claimed that the combatants had been ensured dignified integration, Baidhya said such an integration only meant “surrender”
Interestingly, the document also claims that the party leadership made a serious mistake by signing the seven-point deal. Former PLA commanders had expressed disagreement with Dahal and Prime Minister Baburam Bhattarai terming the seven-point deal a “surrender”.
“Dignified integration could not be ensured due to the party leadership´s liberal stance on the issue of age, education and marital status of the former combatants," reads the document.
The document, however, remains silent on the issue of alleged irregularities in the PLA fund.