Nepali Times

Who defeated us?

Wednesday, October 26th, 2016
Nepali Congress MP Gagan Thapa in Parliament on Tuesday.

Nepali Congress MP Gagan Thapa in Parliament on Tuesday.


Translated excerpt of Nepali Congress MP and Health Minister Gagan Thapa in Parliament, 25 October

Watch full speech on Youtube

Honourable Speaker,

A few months ago, crusading physician Govinda KC demanded impeachment of the Commission for the Investigation of Abuse of Authority (CIAA) Chief Lokman Singh Karki. KC accused Karki of overstepping his mandate, abusing his power and promoting irregularities in the medical and other sectors.

Whether we needed to impeach Karki may be the subject of debate, but we should have discussed it in Parliament because the accusations against Karki were serious enough and substantiated by proof. So I registered a motion of public importance in Parliament, but the House did not discuss it.

Why not? I don’t want to dwell on it now. What I would like to dwell on is a blunder made by the top leaders of the major parties that recommended Karki as the CIAA Chief (in 2013). We were opposed to Karki, and cautioned our party President Sushil Koirala against appointing him. Koirala agreed, and said he would not give his nod to Karki’s appointment. We then met President Ram Baran Yadav who also assured us that he would not approve Karki’s appointment. But the next day, Karki was appointed head of the anti-graft body.

We asked them why. They said it was beyond their power to stop Karki’s appointment, and they were tired and defeated. We asked them: defeated by whom? We are still asking: who defeated our political leaders? Unless they reveal who forced them to change their minds on Karki, and why they cannot overpower this unseen force, we will always be defeated no matter how many times we write our constitution.

The issue is not about Karki, but about our sovereignty and whether we are able to make decisions on our own. I hereby declare that I will support the impeachment motion against Karki.

Honourable Speaker,

Karki’s appointment as the CIAA Chief was wrong, but we could have probably refrained from questioning it if he had honestly fulfilled his duty and responsibilities. The 157 MPs had to register the impeachment motion against Karki in a hurry, so they could not chronicle all of Karki’s wrongdoings in their proposal. They have included only a few examples.

We have heard and read about J Edgar Hoover, the founding director of the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). Karki chose Hoover’s path, but we took a very long time to break our silence over his tyranny. Why were we afraid of him? Was it because we are also involved in corruption and we feared that Karki might go after us?

Some MPs are wary of the impeachment motion. They are suspicious that it might break unity among political parties and jeopardise efforts to amend the Constitution. But were we really united before this motion was filed? Is it not the same House where we broke chairs and furniture? Some of us are not even on talking terms. So this motion could be the beginning of a new unity among us. If we all support it, it will bring us together on the Constitution. It will not affect the amendment process.

Those who registered the motion need not brag about it. And others who dithered also need not feel like they didn’t act in time.


Impeaching Karki

Tuesday, October 25th, 2016

Parliament on Tuesday began deliberation on the impeachment motion against the suspended Chief of the Commission for the Investigation of Abuse of Authority (CIAA) Lokman Singh Karki.

But the Nepali Congress whose support is the key to impeaching Karki is still undecided whether to support the motion, which was tabled by the UML and the CPN (Maoist-Centre) in Parliament on Sunday.

After the first day of deliberation, the House has been adjourned until after Chhath festival. The UML and the CPN (Maoist-Centre) are expected to forge a consensus with the NC during this break.

Maoist MP Mahendra Bahadur Shahi, who registered the motion in the House, presented nine reasons for Karki’s impeachment. He said Karki has disgraced the CIAA by abusing his power to fulfill his personal interests.

The NC Central Committee (CC) meeting that began last week ended inconclusively on Tuesday. The CC members were divided over the issue. While some leaders supported the motion, others saw it as a UML ploy to break the NC-Maoist coalition and undermine efforts to amend the Constitution. NC leaders say the country’s largest party will decide on this issue only after hearing a clarification from Parliament.

However, NC leader and Health Minister Gagan Thapa supported the motion in Parliament. He said Karki’s appointment three years ago as the CIAA Chief was a blunder and the impeachment is an opportunity for the parties to correct their past error.

NC President Sher Bahadur Deuba has hinted that he no longer backs Karki, but it seems he will be happy if his party does not have to vote for or against the impeachment motion. Deuba seems to be waiting for Karki to step down so the UML will not get the credit for removing Karki, who allegedly abused his power to benefit his family, take revenge against his critics, showed contempt for the Supreme Court and disregarded the Constitution.

However, UML-Maoist leaders who tabled the motion urged the NC to rise above party politics and impeach Karki. UML MP Rabindra Adhikari said: “It is not a party’s agenda. We must stand united on this issue and punish the man who insulted the people by disobeying Parliament.”


Impeachment motion tabled

Sunday, October 23rd, 2016

The impeachment motion against the suspended Chief Commissioner of the Commission for the Investigation of Abuse of Authority (CIAA) Lokman Singh Karki was tabled in Parliament on Sunday, and discussion on the motion is expected to start on Tuesday. The process is expected to take up to six weeks.

The move is being spearheaded by the UML, and the ruling CPN (Maoist-Centre) has instructed its MPs to vote in favour of the motion even though its coalition partner and largest party in Parliament is still undecided.

NC President Sher Bahadur Deuba met Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal on Saturday and reportedly assured him of his support for the motion. Student leaders also met Deuba on Sunday and urged his party to go for Karki’s impeachment. Debut is said to be in a dilemma because although he personally is supportive, many influential leaders in his party are against impeachment.

The NC is resuming its Central Committee (CC) meeting on Monday to decide. The impeachment motion was registered in the parliamentary secretariat by 157 MPs from the CPN (Maoist-Centre) and the UML.

Last week, most NC leaders who spoke in the CC meeting had dubbed the impeachment motion a UML ploy to break the NC-Maoist coalition and undermine efforts to amend the Constitution. However, the NC also faces tremendous pressure from activists, professionals and the civil society to impeach Karki. Some younger NC leaders have also supported the motion.


Karki’s impeachment process

Thursday, October 20th, 2016


Political developments in Nepal don’t evolve, they happen in fits and starts. And so it was with the leaders of the three main parties coming together Wednesday morning to rush impeachment proceedings against Lokman Singh Karki of the Commission on Investigation of the Abuse of Authority (CIAA). Since his appointment in 2013, the anti-corruption czar had emerged as a political figure more powerful than the prime minister by targeting businessmen, politicians, lawyers, and silencing critics, editors and publishers.

Working swiftly and in top secrecy while Karki himself was en route from Abu Dhabi to Kathmandu after a month-long holiday, the UML and the Maoist Centre got 157 MPs to register the impeachment motion in parliament on Wednesday evening. The top three leaders didn’t suddenly get pangs of conscience and act to save democracy, they had received information that Karki was preparing to file court cases against dozens of top politicians.

A two-thirds majority is required for impeachment, and the Nepali Congress needs to be on board to muster the 397 votes needed. Several senior NC leaders were said to be against impeachment as the Central Committee began its meeting on Thursday afternoon in Sanepa. However, the NC’s Gagan Thapa and Dhana Raj Gurung are confident the party will endorse the impeachment motion and come on board.

The NC has been caught in a dilemma: it is in the governing coalition but has to decide on an impeachment project led by two communist parties, one of which is in the opposition. But if it doesn’t join in the impeachment process, the negative publicity of being seen to be coddling kleptocrats may affect its prospects in the next elections. Congress leaders say that as the largest party in parliament, it shouldn’t be seen as following the lead of the second and third parties. The impeachment issue therefore could have wider ramifications on national politics, especially with ongoing negotiations over amendments to the constitution.

House Speaker Onsari Gharti has cancelled her proposed trip to Geneva, and is expected to endorse the impeachment motion on Sunday. Thereafter, Parliament’s 11-member Impeachment Committee formed this week will summon Karki to investigate the seven charges leveled against him, which include overstepping his jurisdiction to interfere in medical education, violating the constitution and the laws of the land, and pursuing personal vendetta to unlawfully persecute individuals and institutions critical of him. The Committee must present its recommendation to the full House within seven days. Aside from Parliament, Karki is already being investigated by the Supreme Court about his qualifications for the post and he has repeatedly ignored the Court’s summons.

The Nepali language media has also come out with its own exposes on how Karki was nominated, the role of former President Ram Baran Yadav, Chief Justice-Prime Minister Khil Raj Regmi and other politicians in his appointment 2013. There are also questions about why watchdog groups like Transparency Nepal, Amnesty International and media protection agencies did not speak out when the CIAA went on an extortion spree against businesses and conducted witch-hunts on critics.  The answers to these questions are needed to prevent similar unelected and unaccountable figures from rising up again in future.

Kunda Dixit

Who is afraid of the CIAA?

Sunday, October 16th, 2016


From the Nepali Press

Ameet Dhakal in, 5 October

Historically, whenever Nepal’s political class has failed to defend democracy, it has been the Nepali media that has had to come to the rescue. Today, both these pillars of democracy are being tested.

The head of the Commission on the Investigation of Abuse of Authority (CIAA) Lokman Singh Karki has tried with all his might to silence the media. He has overstepped his jurisdiction, and mobilised other agencies of government to gag the press.

This time, his weapon has been the Internal Revenue Department which has been used to force a full audit on Republic Media, the publisher of Nagarik and Republica newspapers. He has forced a three-year full audit of Himalmedia. It has forced the Money-laundering Investigation Department to probe Kailash Sirohiya of Kantipur, Nepal’s top media house.

A friend who works in a private bank called me the other day and said he had got a letter from the Central Bank asking him to furnish details of my bank account. I wouldn’t know if the Central Bank sent the letter on its own or at the behest of the CIAA. But I can confirm that the CIAA has been calling advertisers of Setopati where I am Chief Editor to stop advertising with us. It is clear that Karki’s strategy is to silence media critics by tangling them in financial investigations.

At Setopati, our accounts are above board. We have tried to set an example by being transparent about where we receive funds from, and have publicised them in the past even without being asked. Personally, I have paid 25% taxes on my salaries and all remunerations from international organisations. That means I have been contributing a quarter of all my work and time to the Nepali state. I am proud of the fact that the time I have not spent with my family and five-year-old daughter is devoted to the upkeep of the Nepali state. My taxes are deposited in the national treasury which pays Nepal’s politicians and Karki’s salary. Therefore as a responsible citizen I have earned the right to question politicians and also Lokman Singh Karki whom they appointed.

I never thought I’d ever have to do this: go public with my personal tax revelations. And the only reason I am doing it is that Karki is trying to trample on individuals and institutions by exploiting their weaknesses. The politicians were incapable of challenging him. Nepali society is doomed if Karki gets his way, and that is why it is important to stand up to him.

It is clear that the issue is not about whether media companies have paid their taxes or not. Karki has used a section of his lapdog media for propaganda, and launched an offensive on the papers that were opposed to his actions to exact revenge on them. But there is no reason for media companies to be afraid of Karki. The real question for journalists is whether they will stand up for the citizen’s right to information despite the campaign to isolate and frame charges against them.

Coincidentally, Karki’s targets this time are the same individuals who had stood up against the royal regime. At that time I was News Editor at the Kathmandu Post and still remember being censored by Army majors. The Chief Secretary of the royal regime was none other than Lokman Singh Karki and he used to threaten us about our news content. But at a time when politicians were in jail and the Maoists were still in the jungle, the publishers and editors decided to stand up and take an initial leadership role as the ‘Eighth Party’ against the royal regime.

I do not believe that the media that once stood up so resolutely against the royal regime will today cave in to threats from an appendage of that establishment. I haven’t given up on the politicians either. It is still possible to reinvigorate them so that the political parties can build up the correct direction and momentum. A small group of conscientious youth are ready to rise up, and the Bibeksheel Party can in future lead if the mainstream parties continue to wither. If Bibeksheel can’t do it, another party will come up. Nepalis will not tolerate forever the musical chair of these  discredited parties.

Article 119 (3) of the Constitution clearly spells out the criteria for the appointment of the head of the CIAA: the candidate needs at least 20 years experience in designated fields. I want to ask the politicians, does Karki have the requisite experience? Not only does Karki not have the qualification, he was also named as being unsuitable for government service for his role in the suppression of the pro-democracy movement. Yet, his appointment was pushed through with the connivance of the intelligence handlers of a neighbouring government. Lokman Singh Karki himself boasted to relatives and close friends that RAW’s Peter Hanaman had a hand in his appointment.

It is now clear that Nepal’s politicians are not going to speak out against Karki’s appointment. The Supreme Court will not decide whether it was constitutional or not. However, politicians will have no choice but to react to Karki’s activities after he became head of the CIAA. And the latest victim of his arbitrary action is the research thinktank, Social Science Baha. The CIAA again overstepped its mandate by asking the Baha to furnish its internal documents and also distorted the truth to publicly defame the organisation.

The CIAA has repeatedly defied the Supreme Court’s order not to overstep its jurisdiction, first in the case of advocate Sambhu Thapa, after that in the decision on journalist Kanak Mani Dixit, then the doctors of Teaching Hospital. Karki has time and again thumbed his nose at the orders of the apex court.

On the day that the Supreme Court was starting its investigation on his appointment, the CIAA called a sudden press conference at an hour’s notice in which it said it had asked 30 Maoists leaders to appear and explain corruption in the internment camps for fighters. It has been 17 days and no such summons have gone out. It is clear this was just the CIAA trying to blackmail and scare Maoist leaders.

I want to ask the politicians: are you on Karki’s side against the media? Democracy does not guarantee development or prosperity. It doesn’t guarantee resolution of problems. Democracy only ensures that there will be free debate. But you don’t want to talk about Karki at all? Like ostriches you want to bury your heads in the sand? Why isn’t there a debate in Parliament about Karki’s anti-constitutional activities?

You have discredited the movement for democracy to such an extent that you can’t even gather three representatives in parliament to register an impeachment proceeding against Karki. And the reason is that they are afraid of being disciplined by their own party leadership.

Politicians, you now have just two options: either you revive democracy by asking three MPs from each party to register an impeachment motion against Karki. Or you do nothing, let things drift, and go home to binge on mutton curry. Youth politicians, are you silent because you have chosen the second option? If so, remember Nepal’s political map will change either though a rebellion or widespread hopelessness. Either way, it will sweep you away.

For the longer Nepali original:



Thursday, October 13th, 2016



Pradumna B Rana

India and four other countries pulled out of the 19th summit of the South Asia Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) which was to be held in Islamabad in November. This was a fallout of the deadly attack on the Indian Army base in Kashmir on 18 September. Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, and Sri Lanka followed suit and this led to the cancellation, and the pronouncement by several commentators that ‘SAARC is dead’.

However, this is not the first time for a SAARC Summit to be cancelled. They have either not been held or postponed in roughly half the times. In all the cases, the main reason has been tension between India and Pakistan, the club’s two nuclear-capable members. The death of SAARC, however, may be exaggerated.

Even so, boycotting the summit will weaken further a weak institution. Member states should instead work to strengthen SAARC mechanisms to address regional concerns. Decision-making is often stymied because SAARC needs a full consensus of all its members. ASEAN is more flexible because it has the ‘ASEAN Minus X’ scheme under which members that are not ready to commit to an initiative can opt out so that progress will not be held up. SAARC Minus X could be a helpful mechanism.

South Asian countries should also venture out of the SAARC framework through bilateralism and sub-regionalism. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi supported this approach at the 18th Summit in Kathmandu in 2014, where he remarked that regional integration in South Asia should go ahead “through SAARC or outside it, among all of us or some of us”.

Bilateralism was a key pillar of Prime Minister Modi’s ‘Neighbours First Policy’ and his first day in office in May 2014 was dedicated exclusively to bilateral meetings with the leaders of SAARC countries. His first state visit was to Bhutan and then Nepal. Unfortunately, the outcomes of this grand vision have been disappointing and limited to a number of connectivity projects with three  countries, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, and Sri Lanka.

Sub-regionalism could also be less sensitive for SAARC members. These include the ADB-led South Asia Sub-Regional Economic Cooperation (SASEC) whose members are India, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Maldives, Nepal, and Sri Lanka. The ADB has approved 40 infrastructure and IT projects worth $7.7 billion for this grouping.

The Bangladesh-India-Bhutan-Nepal (BIBN) is another sub-regional grouping that shows promise after the signing in June 2015 of the BIBN Motor Vehicle Agreement. This Agreement enables vehicles to enter any of the four countries without the need for trans-shipment thereby reducing costs. Plans for energy cooperation are also under consideration.

South Asian countries should also  enhance their inter-regional linkages with  ASEAN, their largest market. Historiclaly, commercial and religious links between South and Southeast Asia were strong and led to a prosperous and integrated Asia.

More recently, economic relations between South Asia and Southeast have surged but their full potential has yet to be realised. South Asian countries need to implement policies to link themselves to production networks in ASEAN and to develop production networks within their own countries. Such policies will lead to a win-win situation for all countries, and help to jump-start economic integration in South Asia.

The Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC) is the appropriate institutional framework to promote inter-regional cooperation because it connects South Asian countries (except Pakistan and Afghanistan) with some  East Asian countries (Myanmar and Thailand). In a survey of Asian opinion leaders four out of five leaders felt that BIMSTEC should play a more active role in promoting regional connectivity and integration in Asia.

India is slated to host the BIMSTEC Summit in mid-October on the sidelines of the BRICS Summit where issues related to transport as well as electricity and broadband connectivity are to be discussed. Another inter-regional grouping is the Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA) in which the recently held India-led Indian Ocean Conference 2016 is a step in the right direction.

Before the partition of India and Pakistan in 1947, South Asia was one of the most integrated regions of the world. At that time more than one-half of Pakistan’s imports and nearly two-thirds of its exports were from India. It is estimated that the volume of intra-regional trade in South Asia then stood at about 20 per cent of its total trade. This has fallen to a dismal 5 per cent due to political conflict and mistrust.

Boycotting the SAARC is not the answer. South Asian countries should adopt SAARC Minus X with bilateralism, sub-regionalism, and inter-regionalism outside of the SAARC framework.

Pradumna B Rana is Associate Professor at the S Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS), Nanyang Technological University, Singapore. 

Nepathya rocks San Francisco

Friday, October 7th, 2016

Nepathya in San Francisco


For Nepalis residing half a world away, music serves as an emotional connection to a motherland which inspires both reverence and frustration.  Nepali music is important to us.

Music is more than a linking of rhythm to melody.  It is a shared experience between families and friends.  It is an expression of a community’s thoughts, be it mundane, or tragic.  Recently Nepal has come to know tragedy in many ways.


Nepathya’s frontman Amrit Gurung in San Francisco.

On 1 October, Nepathya shared its music with an American city steeped in musical tradition.  The home town of Journey, Huey Lewis and the News, Janis Joplin and Carlos Santana welcomed Nepal’s noted folk-rock band. Nepalis from all across Northern California, many who drove for hours, queued up at the historic Warfield Theater in San Francisco to see and hear Amrit Gurung and his band.

Among the revelers were children born and raised in the United States, and it was their first time at a Nepali concert.  The spirit of Dasain filled the air as three generations of Nepalis: children, parents, uncles, aunties, and grandparents mingled in excited anticipation of the concert opening.

As the countdown to the opening song reached thirty seconds, a line of young men interlocked their arms at the shoulders and shouted in unison “Nepathya, Nepathya…”.

For the next two hours some 1,500 Nepalis reveled in beloved classics including Resham, Tal ko Pani, as well as new songs like Rama Rama. During many of the songs, Amrit Gurung received constant vocal accompaniment from the audience.


Nepathya in San Francisco

Following Jomsomai Bazar ma, an unexpected encounter took place in the audience between two complete strangers: Bishnu Subedi, a man in his late twenties originally from Pokhara, and Sujay, a ten-year-old born and raised in California, who speaks no Nepali.

“If you want to understand the essence of Nepali music, you must listen to Amrit Dai, this is music that touches the soul of Nepal,” Subedi told Sujay in English. Soon, the two were dancing together in the aisle to the beat of Bheda ko Oon Jasto as special effects snow began to fall from the ceiling.


Nepathya in San Francisco

Between songs, Amrit Gurung asked the audience to always remember Nepal and help Nepal in various ways, to loud applause.  He linked this appeal with the song Timi pani Nepali, Ma pani Nepali. The concert had added significance because it coincided with Dasain. The Bay Area Nepali community embraced Nepathya’s message of unity and support for Nepal. It was a spectacular evening of song and dance, but the themes throughout the evening went beyond music alone to nationhood and a united Nepal.

The last song, Rato Ra Chandra Surya, brought the audience to its feet again. Complete strangers sang it together and wished each other Happy Dasain.

Something unique and historic happened on the evening of 1 October in San Fransisco.  A theater that has hosted Louis Armstrong, Bob Dylan, and Jerry Garcia had just hosted a band from Nepal.  San Francisco seemed like Pokhara for a short time.  In the city where Tony Bennet left his heart, Nepathya left its mark with a uniquely Nepali flavour.

(Suresh Ojha is a second-generation Nepali-American.  He works as an engineer in the Silicon Valley.)