WASHINGTON — The United States on Thursday removed Nepal’s ruling Maoist party, which heads up a caretaker government in the Himalayan nation, from its blacklist of terrorist organizations.
After almost a decade as a designated global terrorist body, the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist), or CPN(M), which laid down its arms in 2006 to enter politics, was struck off the list, the State Department said.
An estimated 16,000 people died in a brutal 1996-2006 “people’s war” fought by the Maoists against the centuries-old and once absolute monarchy before the rebels turned to politics and swept to power in elections two years later.
“After a thorough review” the State Department said the party was “no longer engaged in terrorist activity that threatens the security of US nationals or US foreign policy.”
The delisting means that US organizations and companies can now conduct business with the Maoist leadership, and any property or interests that were frozen in the United States are no longer blocked.
Formed in 1994, the party was designated a global terrorist entity by the United States in 2003 and added to the terrorist exclusion list the next year.
“At the time of the designations, the CPN(M) was engaged in a violent war with the Nepalese government,” a State Department official told AFP.
The party’s “terrorist activities resulted in the death or disappearance of thousands of Nepali citizens, and resulted in the murder of two US embassy security guards.”
More recently, however, it “has participated in democratic elections, has taken steps to dismantle its capability to conduct terrorist activities, and has demonstrated a credible commitment to pursuing the peace and reconciliation process in Nepal as the current head of Nepal’s coalition government,” the official told AFP.
The Maoists won elections in the Himalayan nation in 2008 and oversaw the abolition of the monarchy.
But the party split into rival factions in June pushing the impoverished Asian nation deeper into political turmoil.
The Maoists are now running the country as a “caretaker” government with no parliament and no real mandate after the legislature was dissolved when after years of wrangling the political leaders failed to meet a May deadline to write a new peacetime constitution.
Nepal’s Election Commission has also said it lacks a legal framework to hold elections which had been promised for November.
A State Department official clarified that both factions of the party following its June split had been delisted as a global terrorist entity and taken off the terrorist exclusion list.
“Today’s delisting does not seek to overlook or forget the party’s violent past, but rather looks ahead towards the party’s continued engagement in a peaceful, democratic political dialogue in Nepal,” the State Department added.
Just last month a leading international think tank warned that Nepal risks handing power to extremists unless its major political parties act urgently to resolve the political stalemate.
Experts from the Brussels-based International Crisis Group (ICG) said the country’s “mainstream politicians have to manage their parties better, listen to diverse opinions and clarify their own agendas.”
“Otherwise they risk ceding political space to extremists who might appear more action-oriented or sympathetic to a frustrated polity.”