Kathmandu: Putting their differences aside, Nepal's main political parties have inked a historic deal that includes an agreement on integrating former Maoist combatants into the security forces, to take a major step towards concluding the stalled peace process.

The four major political forces which represent more than 85 per cent strength of the 601 member Constituent Assembly reached a seven-point agreement last night to conclude the stalled peace process within a month and to prepare a draft constitution.

An agreement on the contentious issue of integrating the former combatants was a major part of the deal which decided to integrate a maximum of 6,500 Maoist combatants into security forces and returning properties sezied during the civil conflict to their rightful owners.

Those who signed the deal at the end of a crucial meeting held at Prime Minister's residence at Baluwatar last night include UCPN-Maoist chief Prachanda, Nepali Congress president Sushil Koirala, CPN-UML chairman Jhala Nath Khanal and leader of Joint Democratic Madhesi Front and Deputy Prime Minister Bijaya Kumar Gachhadar.

As per the deal a maximum of 6,500 Maoist combatants will be integrated into the Nepal Army by creating a separate directorate, whose responsibility would be to carry out development activities, forest conservation, industrial security and crisis management, according to Nepali Congress vice president Ramchandra Poudyal.

The directorate will consist of 65 per cent personnel from Nepal Army and 35 per cent from the Maoist combatants. As per the deal, the Maoist combatants opting to join the army will be integrated into the national army on individual basis if they meet the standard norms of the army.

The ranks of the Maoist combatants joining the army will be harmonised as per the standard of the security agency and they would need to complete a bridge course and training before taking their responsibility in the security agency.
According to the agreement, the weapons stored in the cantonments will automatically come under the government's control once the process of integration starts.

The regrouping of the Maoist combatants will be completed in seven days and the integration process will complete by November 23, as per the deal.

"This is a historic agreement among the major parties and I am confident that the peace process will conclude within a month and a draft constitution will be ready by that time," said Nepali Congress leader Poudyal.

The Maoist combatants opting for rehabilitation will get a package of Rs 600,000 to Rs 900,000 for education, training and vocational opportunity while those opting for cash incentive under rehabilitation will get cash amounting to Rs 500,000 to Rs 800,000.

"The political parties have made a breakthrough in taking forward the stalled peace process and if properly implemented it will complete the peace process and a democratic constitution will be promulgated guaranteeing the rights and proper representation of the Madhesi people," Cabinet Minister and Sadbhawana Party president Anil Kumar Jha said.

However, not all were happy over the deal and hardline leader of the dissident Maoist faction Mohan Vaidya 'Kiran' opposed the agreement, so did party general secretary Ram Bahadur Thapa, saying it was against the party's decision.
"This agreement is against the people and the nation," said Vaidya.

Vaidya, however, said the Maoist party will remain intact despite the differences over the deal and that they have only exercised their democratic rights by expressing their dissatisfaction.

As part of the deal, relief package will also be given to the kin of those killed, injured, disappeared or displaced during the decade-long armed conflict.

The victims of both Maoist violence as well as of the actions of the security forces will be provided equal compensation without any discrimination.

The Maoist party will take an official decision to return the private and public properties seized by them during the armed conflict to their owners and also on dismantling the paramilitary structure of their youth wing the Young Communist League (YCL) by November 23.

The local administration will monitor and enforce the implementation of the agreement on returning the seized properties to the rightful owners.

A high-level political mechanism will be formed for expediting the constitution writing process and a team of experts will be set up immediately to make recommendations on state restructuring on the basis of consensus on Constituent Assembly.

The process will be initiated for preparing a draft constitution within a month, keeping in view the November end deadline of the expiry of the Constituent Assembly.

The deal also talks about initiating the process of forming a national consensus government in line with the progress made in the peace process and the constitution writing.

US welcomes agreement on Nepal peace

The US has welcomed the landmark agreement on Nepal Comprehensive Peace Accord and commended all the political parties and stakeholders.

"We welcome today’s landmark agreements by Nepalese political parties on implementing the Comprehensive Peace Accord, including the integration and rehabilitation of former Maoist combatants, the agreement to complete drafting theConstitution by the November 30 deadline, and agreements on other important outstanding issues," the State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said.

US encourages all those involved to implement these agreements and remains committed to supporting the ongoing peace process as appropriate, she said.

"We commend all parties for their statesmanship and leadership in forging this consensus, which we believe is a crucial step toward ensuring a democratic, stable, and prosperous future for Nepal," Nuland said in a statement.

Nepal's major political parties yesterday agreed on a historical deal to conclude a five-year peace process through consensus and signed the historic agreement.

(Agencies)