- The Washington Times - Friday, February 17, 2006

Crisis in Nepal

The U.S. ambassador to Nepal fears the Himalayan kingdom will plunge into chaos unless the king eases his repressive rule and works with political parties to defeat a ruthless and violent Maoist insurgency.

Ambassador James F. Moriarty this week cited the failure of recent local elections as the latest example of the political deadlock in the nation of 27 million people. Major parties boycotted the elections, and the rebels threatened voters and assassinated two political candidates.

He also warned politicians against trying to reach an alliance with the rebels in order to apply pressure on the king to restore democracy. In November, seven political parties reached a 12-point understanding with the Maoist United People’s Front, but Mr. Moriarty noted that rebel leaders continue to call for the violent overthrow of the government and the execution or exile of King Gyanendra.

“We believe cooperation along the current lines between the Maoists and the parties is fraught with danger for the political parties themselves and for the future of the Nepalese people,” Mr. Moriarty said.

“Political terror by the Maoists, practiced with particular ferocity in the run-up to the municipal elections, sets a fearsome precedent and could impair the democratic credentials of their political party partners.”

In his speech at the Ganesh Man Singh Academy, he recalled recent statements by rebel leaders and added that “to Maoist thinking, bloodshed is the byproduct of politics.” The rebels began their uprising in 1996.

A rebel leader known only as Prachanda told British Broadcasting Corp. radio recently that the king will “either be executed by the people’s court or maybe exile.” Another rebel leader, Baburam Bhattarai, said in an interview that “every revolution in history demands its quota of sacrifice.”

“There is no way for the [political] parties or the king to successfully ride the Maoist tiger for their own advantage,” Mr. Moriarty said. “One could easily fall and tigers get hungry.”

Gyanendra assumed the throne in 2001 after his nephew, Crown Prince Dipendra, killed his father, King Birendra, his mother, Queen Aishwarya, and other members of his family before committing suicide.

The king declared a state of emergency in 2001 and dismissed parliament a year later. Last year, he grabbed total control of the government.

Mr. Moriarty said Nepal faces three possible futures.

“If the king and the parties reconcile, they can find a path back to genuine democracy and an effective means to counter the insurgency,” he said.

“If the king and his government opt for greater repression, their attempts will ultimately fail and Nepal will suffer greater misery and bloodshed.

“And if the armed Maoists and unarmed parties successfully implement Prachanda’s and Baburam Bhattarai’s vision of a violent revolution, the Maoists will ultimately seize power, and Nepal will suffer a disaster that will make its current problems pale in comparison.”

Muslim humor

Outraged Muslims rioting throughout the Islamic world show one should not poke fun at the prophet Muhammad.

However, Muslims are not humorless. Filmmaker Albert Brooks, director of the new movie “Looking for Comedy in the Muslim World,” searched for Islamic humor among Muslims in India. He should have visited the Saudi Embassy in Washington, where Ambassador Prince Turki al-Faisal has shown that Muslims can tell a joke or two — mostly safe ones about the weather.

In a speech in Houston this month, Prince Turki recalled the story of visitor who asked a rancher if it ever rains in Texas.

“Yes, it does,” the rancher replied. “Do you remember in the Bible where it rained for 40 days and 40 nights? … We got about two and a half inches of that.”

In Glendale, Ariz. he said, “I actually think people from Arizona are among the few in world who can visit the kingdom [of Saudi Arabia] and say, ‘I think it is cooler here than at home.’ ”

Call Embassy Row at 202/636-3297, fax 202/832-7278 or e-mail jmorrison@washingtontimes.com.

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