Q&A: Nepal crisis
BBC News, April 30, 2005
King Gyanendra of Nepal has lifted a three-month
state of emergency during which he sacked his government and assumed
direct powers. The move came after a long period of political
turmoil and amid a bloody campaign by Maoist rebels. The BBC News
website looks at the background to the crisis.
Why did the king sack the government
He accused Prime Minister Sher Bahadur
Deuba's government of failing to win the support of Maoist rebels
for a 13 January deadline for peace talks and failing to prepare
the ground for elections in the spring.
However, analysts suggested the king might
be using these issues to strengthen his own role in Nepalese politics,
perhaps seeking to create an absolute monarchy.
Was this a coup?
One government minister, Bimalendra Niddhi,
said Nepal was in a "state of coup against democratic practices".
The king denied carrying out a coup. He
insisted human rights would be respected and he had promised "effective
democracy" and peace within three years.
In the capital, Kathmandu, phones lines
were cut, the airport shut and armed vehicles sent out on patrol.
Soldiers were posted outside the homes
of senior members of the ousted government.
What was the reaction at home and abroad?
Prime Minister Deuba, placed under house
arrest, said the "anti-democratic step" had thrown Nepal
into a "grave crisis".
India, Nepal's giant neighbour, voiced
"grave concern", accusing the king of violating the
The foreign ministry suggested the move
played into the hands of the Maoist rebels seeking to both "undermine
democracy and the institution of monarchy".
So does the lifting of the state of
emergency mean everything is back to normal?
No. The king appears to retain the extraordinary
powers he took on in February.
It is not clear how much press freedom
there will be, or whether the army will have to give up some of
Constitutionally, the three-month state
of emergency granting the military extra powers of search, arrest
and curfew had to end or be formally extended before 1 May.
Opposition leaders have given a cautious
welcome to the lifting of the state of emergency, but they have
also called for the Royal Commission for Corruption Control (RCCC),
set up a fortnight after the emergency was imposed, to be disbanded.
Critics say the powerful commission is
used as a tool of political intimidation. It has sweeping powers
to arrest and investigate politicians and bureaucrats.
How bad has the fighting in the civil
There has been heavy violence since Maoist
rebels pulled out of a seven-month truce in late August 2003.
In parts of the country fighting between
the two sides has been worse than ever, with both sides accused
of carrying out human rights abuses.
Despite several rounds of talks over the
last three years, the two sides still fail to agree on the central
issue - the role of Nepal's constitutional monarchy.
The Maoists want a special committee to
be set up to draft a new constitution for the country, which would
offer the option of abolishing the monarchy.
The government's room for negotiation
was restricted by the king's decision to assume executive powers
and dismiss successive prime ministers he appointed after parliament
was suspended in October 2002.
Will either side emerge victorious?
Analysts say that as the war has progressed,
it has become increasingly clear that neither side has the military
muscle to win the war decisively.
The rebel blockade of Kathmandu in 2004
illustrated this point. For a few days in August 2004 the city
was cut off by the rebels, but they were either unable or unwilling
to maintain their stranglehold.
The Maoists continue to remain strong
in remote areas - especially in the west - but the government
remains in control in Kathmandu and Pokhara.
In November 2004, the rebels rejected
a two-month deadline set by the government to begin peace talks.
The Maoists' leader, Prachanda, said he
was keen to enter into talks but feared the government's move
was a conspiracy.
Analysts say there is little hope of the
key sticking point of the monarchy being resolved in the near
How long has the conflict been going
The Maoist leaders took their communist
faction underground in 1996 after winning only nine of the 205
seats in parliament in earlier elections.
Within months, leaders had created a highly
More than 10,000 people are estimated
to have died since 1996 - over half of them since the army joined
the fight in late 2001.
Attempts at peace talks in August of that
year stalled after three rounds of negotiations - again over the
question of the monarchy.
The Maoists walked out of the negotiations
and in November, broke the ceasefire and resumed attacks on government
A state of emergency, which lasted for
10 months, was imposed and the army was ordered to fight the rebels
for the first time.
What do we know about the rebels?
Very little is reliably known about the
Maoists, eight years into what they call their "people's
They claim to be inspired by Chinese revolutionary
leader Mao Zedong and want to establish a communist state.
Their shadowy leader's name, Prachanda,
is translated as "the fierce one".
The group is modelled after Peru's Maoist
Shining Path guerrillas.
Senior military officers say there are
between 10,000 and 15,000 well-trained Maoist fighters, known
as the movement's "hard core".
It is estimated that there could be up
to 50,000 so called "militia" who fight alongside them.
How strong are the rebels?
Some analysts say that the rebels now
control roughly 40% of Nepalese territory, but this figure is
disputed by the government.
The Royal Nepalese army is better equipped
than the rebels and is receiving increased help from the US.
But mountainous terrain favours the rebels
who also can rely on popular support in some areas. Recently however
there have been reports that war weary villagers in remote parts
have begun to question the Maoist campaign.
The rebels continue to call frequent
general strikes, with allegations that in Kathmandu they are only
observed because many people fear reprisals if they do not take
The strikes usually result in the temporary
closure of businesses, and normal life coming to a standstill.
The deserted city streets showed the revolutionaries still have
the power to paralyse the economy.