The Nepal cabinet, comprising only of Maoists and devoid of partners from other parties, today sacked army chief General Rookmangud Katawal, replacing him with Lieutenant General Kul Bahadur Khadka, who has been reported to have planned for the Maoist takeover of the Nepal Army and the integration of the Maoists People’s Liberation Army with the Nepal Army.
Nepal’s Republica reported Government spokesman, Information Minister and Maoist Secretariat member Krishna Bahadur Mahara, as saying, “The government under the military act of 2063 has sacked Nepal Army Chief General Rookmangud Katawal.”
This statement was made after a vote in a cabinet meeting called by Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal (AKA ‘Prachanda’) which witnessed a boycott by other ruling partners of the Maoists. The dissenting parties, which included Madhesi People’s Rights Forum (MPRF), Sadbhavana Party, Communist Party of Nepal (Unified Marxist-Leninist) and Communist Party of Nepal (United), staged a walkout from the meeting, disagreeing with the Maoist proposal to dismiss General Katawal.
Former Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala of the Nepali Congress is reported to have urged the Prime Minister to refrain from dismissing the army chief.
Meanwhile, sources in the Indian Army have indicated the possibility of a fightback by the Nepal Army, which may unite behind the General Rookmangud Katawal and seize power.
Analyst Major General Afsir Karim, formerly of the Indian Army calls this an internal matter of Nepal. “When we dismissed our Navy Chief some years back, that was our internal matter,” he points out.
He goes on to indicate a ‘period of unrest and turmoil’ in Nepal, before the situation stabilizes. “It depends on what kind of discontent it generates in the army. The Nepal Army had been under the monarchy, while now it reports to a democratic government. There might be elements in the Nepal Army that may rebel against the dismissal, perhaps amongst the junior ranks. The situation is uncertain and will become clearer as events unfold,” says the General, adding, “We also have to wait to see what the President (Ram Baran Yadav, who belonged to the Nepali Congress) has to say on this.”
According to some reports, the cabinet decision has to have the approval of the President before it can be enforced. Other reports from Nepal also indicate General Katawal to have refused to accept his dismissal letter and he is said to be conferring with his aides at Army Headquarters.