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Nepal sacks army chief, key ally withdraws support

Nepal sacks army chief, key ally withdraws support
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First Published: Mon, May 04 2009. 12 17 AM IST

Locking horns: A file photo of Rookmangud Katawal. He has refused to accept his dismissal and was meeting other generals in his office. Binod Joshi / AP
Locking horns: A file photo of Rookmangud Katawal. He has refused to accept his dismissal and was meeting other generals in his office. Binod Joshi / AP
Updated: Mon, May 04 2009. 12 17 AM IST
Kathmandu: Akey ally of Nepal’s ruling Maoists withdrew support on Sunday, leaving the coalition unstable after differences over the sacking of the country’s army chief.
Locking horns: A file photo of Rookmangud Katawal. He has refused to accept his dismissal and was meeting other generals in his office. Binod Joshi / AP
“The party has decided to leave the coalition and withdraw support to the Maoists,” Ishwar Pokharel, general secretary of the Communist UML party, told reporters.
The Maoists’ move to sack army chief Rookmangud Katawal has angered government allies. The UML’s withdrawal of support leaves the Maoists with a slender majority in a 601-member parliament.
Earlier in the day, Nepal’s Prime Minister Prachanda fired the country’s army chief, accusing him of disobeying instructions not to hire new recruits. The move could jeopardize a peace deal that ended a civil war.
“The cabinet has relieved General Rookmangud Katawal of his position,” information and communications minister Krishna Bahadur Mahara told reporters after a cabinet meeting.
Katawal had refused to accept his dismissal and was meeting other generals in his office, local television stations reported.
Nepal does not have a history of military coups, but the move could wreck a 2006 peace pact that ended a decade-long civil war that pitted the army against the Maoists. The peace agreement ushered the Maoists into the political mainstream.
Opposition parties say the former rebels want to control the armed forces. Government allies say they are angry because the decision was taken unilaterally.
Ties between the Maoists and the army have been fraught since the former rebels came to power.
Katawal was due to retire in four months. The Maoists accuse him of hiring 2,800 new recruits and reinstating eight generals without consulting the government.
Mahara said Katawal was sacked because the “explanations submitted by him were not satisfactory”.
The Maoists and the army have also faced off on the question of absorbing at least 19,000 former rebel fighters into the armed forces. Katawal had resisted, saying the army could not take in “indoctrinated” cadres.
Mahara said the cabinet had appointed Gen. Kul Bahadur Khadka as acting chief of the 93,000-strong army.
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First Published: Mon, May 04 2009. 12 17 AM IST