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Foul play


DEC 18 - Those in the technical trade in the Nepal Army tend to be promoted quicker than those in the Infantry. They have a different set of criteria and regulations to decide who should be promoted and when. That’s part of the reason for why Maj Gen Naresh Bahadur Basnyat, the Army officer recently recommended by Chief of Army Staff Gen Gaurav SJB Rana to be promoted, breaching the Nepal Army Act, made it to the rank of major general so quickly. His contemporaries in the infantry have barely reached the position of brigadier general. Going by the Army Act, Basnyat, as major general, cannot be promoted any further as that post is the highest that can be conferred to a member of the Army’s technical division. However, in breach of the law, the CoAS Rana recommended his promotion to the Cabinet and Prime Minister Bhattarai. This means creating an entirely new position, that of luitenant general who will then head an upgraded General Directorate of Development.

There is a larger problem here. The Army was last restructured in 1953 and that structure continues to hold, which fails to internalise massive socio-political changes since. While there is no contest that the archaic institutional model of the national Army needs reforms, including the creation of new positions, this has to follow due process. The idea to create new positions is not new. In April, former CoAS Chhatraman Singh Gurung had suggested a host of new positions to be added to the Army structure, including two additional lieutenant generals, and stressed the need for complete structural overhaul of the Army. This suggestion was overshadowed by allegations mala fide intent to promote his own brother-in-law, Gen Damannath Ghale.

With the change in Army leadership, the proposal for structural overhaul was again forwarded to the Minsitry of Defence by Gen Rana a few months ago. The Parliamentary State Affairs Committee of the erstwhile Constituent Assembly had recommended an ‘organisational and management survey’ of the Army. Clearly, a due process, albeit slow and not without hurdles, is very much underway.

Now the arbitrary recommendation and creation of positions to adjust select individuals to coveted positions, as seems to be in the case of Basnyat, comes as an unhelpful move and smacks of the times when the Palace ran the Army as its fiefdom. Gen Rana, reportedly, did not even bother to engage the Army’s Principal Staff Officers, the main advisory body of the Army, while making the recommendation, perhaps too confident in the knowledge that Prime Minsiter Baburam Bhattarai would not let him down. Unsurprisingly, there’s talk of a deal: Basnyat’s promotion will be traded for flexibility in dealing with the newly-recruited Maoist combatants. If true, it will yet again bolster growing fears that Prime Minister Bhattarai’s approach to governance has systematically dismantled the democratic framework, even as he likes to empahsise that due process is vital for the life of a democracy.

Posted on: 2012-12-19 08:38

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