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Insurgency in Nepal

Nepal, with a population of approximately 29 million, is a federal democratic republic. The political system is based on the Interim Constitution of Nepal 2063 (2007), with a prime minister as the chief executive and a Constituent Assembly (CA), which is responsible for drafting a new constitution. The CA extended the deadline for the completion of a new constitution several times without agreeing on a final text. On 24 May 2008, the Supreme Court ruled that a further extension was unconstitutional, and three days later, Prime Minister Baburam Bhattarai, of the Unified Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) (UCPN(M)), dissolved the CA. For the remainder of the year, there was no legal parliamentary or constituent assembly body, and no constitution. Domestic and international observers generally characterized the 2008 CA election results as credible, although there were reports of political violence, intimidation, and voting irregularities.

There was violence in the Tarai region, although the number and severity of incidents decreased markedly following the end of the Maoist insurgency in 2006. Armed criminal gangs and groups associated with the governing UCPN(M) and a breakaway Maoist party, the Communist Party of Nepal-Maoist (CPN-M), reportedly committed acts of violence, extortion, and intimidation.

The most significant problems were the country’s inability to promulgate a permanent constitution that would enable a more stable political structure for the national government, the failure to hold elections to replace the dissolved CA, the continued absence of transitional justice mechanisms such as a truth and reconciliation commission to account for past human rights abuses, and the related failure to implement court-ordered arrests of military personnel, Maoists, and other individuals accused or convicted of human rights violations stemming from the country’s 10-year insurgency.

In February 1996, the leaders of the Maoist United People's Front began a violent insurgency, waged through killings, torture, bombings, kidnappings, extortion, and intimidation against civilians, police, and public officials in more than 50 of the country's 75 districts. Over 13,000 police, civilians, and insurgents were killed in the conflict. The government and Maoists held peace talks in August, September, and November of 2001, but they were unsuccessful, and the Maoists resumed their violent insurgency.

In April 2006, the major political parties, in cooperation with the Maoists, organized massive countrywide demonstrations for the restoration of democracy, forcing the King to relinquish power. On April 24, 2006, King Gyanendra reinstated the 1999 Parliament. Former Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala of the Nepali Congress Party was selected by the Seven-Party Alliance (SPA) of political parties to again lead the government. The Maoists declared a unilateral cease-fire on April 26, and the new Koirala government announced its own unilateral cease-fire and plans for peace talks with the Maoist insurgents on May 3, 2006. The SPA and the Maoists have since signed a number of agreements, including, in November 2006, a Comprehensive Peace Agreement to end the decade-long insurgency. Both sides also agreed to an arms management process and elections for a Constituent Assembly.

The prime minister, Madhav Kumar Nepal, of the Communist Party of Nepal - United Marxist Leninist (UML), took office on 25 May 2009 following the resignation of former prime minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal whose party, the United Communist Party of Nepal - Maoists (UCPN-M), has a plurality in the Constituent Assembly. Domestic and international observers generally characterized the 2008 election results as credible, although there were reports of political violence, intimidation, and voting irregularities. Civilian authorities generally maintained effective control of the security forces, but there were frequent instances in which elements of the security forces acted independently.

During 2009 members of the security forces, the Maoist militias, the Maoist-affiliated Young Communist League (YCL), and members of other small, often ethnically based armed groups committed human rights abuses. Members of the Nepal Army (NA) were confined to their barracks in accordance with the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) of 2006. Members of the Nepal Police (NP) and Armed Police Force (APF) occasionally used excessive and lethal force in response to continued demonstrations throughout the country. Maoist militias engaged in arbitrary and unlawful use of lethal force and abduction. Violence, extortion, and intimidation continued throughout the year. Numerous armed groups, largely in the Terai region in the lowland area near the Indian border, attacked civilians, government officials, members of particular ethnic groups, each other, or Maoist militias. Impunity for human rights violators, threats against the media, arbitrary arrest, and lengthy pretrial detention were serious problems

During 2009 there was significant internal conflict in the Terai. Numerous armed groups, many ethnically based, clashed with each other and with the local population. Police had a limited mandate and were unable fully to promote law and order. Members of the Maoists, the Maoist-affiliated YCL, and other ethnically based splinter groups in the Terai frequently committed acts of violence, extortion, and intimidation throughout the year.

The Informal Sector Service Center (INSEC) reported that during the year armed groups killed 229 civilians; of that number, the state killed 37. The OHCHR documented nearly 40 credible allegations of extrajudicial killings attributed to the NP in both the current year and 2008. Maoists and Maoist-affiliated organizations continued to commit abuses during the year in contravention of the CPA. Maoists regularly extorted money from businesses, workers, private citizens, and NGOs. When individuals or companies refused or were unable to pay, Maoist recrimination was violent or implied the threat of violence.

The Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) called on the NP and the APF to enforce law and order across the country. Police did not respond to most incidents of violence, particularly events involving Maoists and armed groups in the Terai. There were multiple incidents in which police detained Maoist and YCL cadres for illegal acts, but political leadership within the Home Ministry freed the detainees or other political leaders intervened.

Although the government and Maoists agreed to support the voluntary return in safety and dignity of IDPs to their homes following the 10-year civil war, in practice the agreement was not implemented. In 2013, an explosion at a Government office in the Sarlahi district near the border with India, injured 12 people.

Nepal's interim government called on the newly elected Constituent Assembly to hold its first meeting on 22 January 2014. The assembly would attempt to write a new constitution and function as the parliament. Nepal held an election in 2008 after the monarchy was abolished. However, hopes of turning the country into a full-fledged democracy have been paralyzed for five years because of political wrangling, as well as ethnic, socio-economic and regional differences.

Nepal's parliament elected a prime minister February 10, 2014, ending a deadlock that has lasted since an election two months earlier. Sushil Koirala, the chief for the Nepali Congress party, was elected (with 405 votes of the 605-member parliament) Monday with the support of the communist UML party. It was not immediately clear whether other parties will join the coalition government. Koirala, 76, is the fourth member of his family to become prime minister. He must now oversee the drafting of a new constitution. The previous parliament was supposed to have written a new constitution in 2008 following the end of a decade-long Maoist insurgency and the overthrow of the centuries-old monarchy. However, the legislative body was riven by infighting and never finished its work.

Protests in Nepal's southern provinces bordering India from mid 2015 to February 2016 resulted in shortages of fuel and other essential supplies throughout Nepal with resupply trucks from India unable to cross into Nepal. The situation has now eased with all border points now reopened and hotels and restaurants back to running full services. Although the violent protests and strikes over Nepal's new draft constitution that occurred in parts of the country have abated, it is possible these protests could reoccur over coming months.

More than 50 people had been killed in the first six months of 2016 in protests in the south where the minority Mashesi oppose a plan to divide their fertile plains bordering India into parts of several provinces. The unrest, which caused fuel shortages in Kathmandu as the Madhesis blocked imports of essential goods from India, was a threat to Prime Minister K.P. Oli, who survived an attempt by the opposition to topple his fractious coalition early this month. Many Madhesis want their region, home to half of the country's 28 million people, to become an autonomous state within Nepal and not be broken up into parts of six of the seven federal provinces as envisaged in the new constitution. Covering 23 percent of landlocked Nepal, the region is the country's bread basket, providing rice, wheat, and is home to industries including jute and sugar.

A number of violent incidents, including bomb attacks, occurred at crowded locations and on public transport throughout the country. Illegal roadblocks and enforced national or local bandhs (strikes) can occur without notice and continue for lengthy periods. At these times, businesses close and vehicles are not allowed on the roads. Access to the airport can be disrupted and taxis are not usually available. Even when possible, travel (including by taxi) can be dangerous.

India hopes the resignation of Nepal’s Prime Minister, K.P. Oli, will pave the way for a restoration of warm ties with New Delhi. Oli had steered the Himalayan nation closer to China, which has been trying to increase its influence in South Asia. However, analysts say Beijing’s growing footprint in Nepal may be there to stay. Oli resigned on 24 July 2016 just before a no confidence motion that could have toppled him. The two large groups that pushed for his removal, the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist Center) and the Nepali Congress are expected to form a share power-sharing government with Maoist chief Prachanda becoming prime minister.

Some of his supporters blamed New Delhi for the political jockeying that forced him to step down. Many were angry with India for putting pressure on the Nepalese government to address the grievances of the Madhesi community. During a visit by Oli to Beijing in March 2016, Beijing offered to improve road and explore building rail links over the high mountains to improve transportation links, which are minimal.

Nepal - Background

Nepal, a small South Asian nation of 25 million people, landlocked between the world's two most populated nations, India and China, faced a guerilla war by Maoists rebels. With eight of the world's 10 highest mountain peaks--including Mt. Everest at 8,848 m (29,000 ft.)--Nepal is a tourist destination for hikers and mountain climbers. Yet an unstable security situation hampered the growth of the tourist industry.

Landlocked between India and China with some of the most rugged topography on earth, Nepal was never colonized and remained totally isolated from outside influence until 1951. Since opening its doors, Nepal has made a remarkable transition from an isolated medieval kingdom without the most rudimentary infrastructure to a modern nation state.

In 1961, the monarch King Mahendra overthrew Nepal's first-ever elected government and banned political parties. In 1990, Nepal made a dramatic political transition from a traditional Kingdom to a modern constitutional monarchy. Democracy was re-introduced after three decades of absolute monarchy. Many people in Nepal fear a return to political oppression. Nepal has been a monarchy for most of its history and largely isolated from the rest of world.

In 1990, the political parties pressed the king and the government for change. Leftist parties united under a common banner of the United Left Front and joined forces with the Nepali Congress Party to launch strikes and demonstrations in the major cities of Nepal. This "movement to restore democracy" was initially dealt with severely, with more than 50 persons killed by police gunfire and hundreds arrested. In April, the king capitulated. Consequently, he dissolved the Panchayat system, lifted the ban on political parties, and released all political prisoners. An interim government was sworn in on April 19, 1990, headed by Krishna Prasad Bhattarai as prime minister presiding over a cabinet made up of members of the Nepali Congress Party, the communist parties of Nepal, royal appointees, and independents. International observers characterized the May 1991 elections as free and fair in which the Nepali Congress won 110 seats out of 205 to form the government.

The transition to democracy produced an array of leftist political parties. The 1994 election defeat of the Nepali Congress Party by the UML made Nepal the world's first communist monarchy, with Man Mohan Adhikary prime minister. The 1994 elections resulted in a Nepali Congress defeat and a hung Parliament, with a minority government led by the United Marxist and Leninist Party (UML). One communist party faction was excluded from participation, and subsequently started a campaign of retribution against the ruling Nepal Congress Party. This communist party faction withdrew from the political process. Vowing a Maoist revolution modeled on Peru's Shining Path, it pledged to end parliamentary democracy and bring down the economic system. In mid-1994, the Parliament was dissolved due to dissension within the Nepali Congress Party. The subsequent general election, held November 15, 1994, gave no party a majority and led to several years of unstable coalition governments. The next 5 years saw five successive governments. Although the Nepali Congress won a clear majority (113 out of 205) in the parliamentary elections held in 1999, the pattern of short-lived governments persisted.

Nepal's military consisted of an army of about 70,000 troops. The army was organized into three divisions - eastern, central, and western - with 16 infantry brigades, including the Royal Palace, Artillery, Engineer, Signal, Parachute, Logistics, Transportation, and Air Transportation. There were 4 independent companies, 37 battalions, 15 brigades, and 3 divisions in the Nepalese Army. US training assistance was provided via an annual International Military Education and Training program (IMET) grant. Nepal also purchased US military equipment through Foreign Military Financing (FMF) and Foreign Military Sales (FMS) programs. Other military hardware and training assistance was provided by India, China Pakistan, Bangladesh, and the United Kingdom.

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