United Nations, Oct 24: Peace process in Nepal is facing unprecedented challenges, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said, urging the parties there to reach an agreement on future steps, including a realistic timetable for elections that have been postponed to an as yet undetermined date.
In his latest report to the Security Council, Mr Ban said on Oct 23 that Nepal stands at a crossroad, with the political parties having made significant progress amid persisting and serious difficulties.
''The peace process in Nepal is facing its most difficult challenges to date,'' he wrote. ''The second postponement of the Constituent Assembly election has been a major disappointment for the people of Nepal and the international community.'' The Secretary-General called on the parties ''to take a hard look at their differences and the underlying weaknesses of the peace process''.
In particular, he called for the Seven-Party Alliance's members ''to set aside their lesser differences and maintain their unity in the interest of the common national agenda''.
The past year saw unity among eight key Nepali parties tested by their failure to carry out agreements, including those covering responsibilities toward Maoist personnel, and the return of properties seized during the 10-year conflict.
Recommending a review of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement and its implementation, he wrote, ''The shortcomings and enduring strengths of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement need to be assessed in order to build on its achievements.
He further wrote ''The parties need to jointly and expeditiously identify the main issues that are of critical importance for the success of the peace process. They should engage in a debate on these issues, allowing for adequate public participation, and arrive at a broad road map to carry forward the peace process.'' Painting a grim picture of the human rights situation in the Himalayan nation, he reported, ''The overall situation has grown more worrying, with increasing violence and instability in parts of the country.'' He wrote of ''real or perceived threats and intimidation'' against political parties and the civilians continuing to suffer.
''The police have mostly been unable to protect the civilian population and curtail the activities of the groups.'' In this environment, the Secretary-General said it remains to be seen how far political parties will be able to exercise their freedom of assembly and association.
He urged all concerned to protect against abuses. ''A pattern of repeated human rights violations and continuing impunity will not only have the cumulative effect of diminishing the prospect of a free and fair electoral process, but could also negatively impact the possibility of a more democratic and inclusive society that many Nepalese hope for,''he warned.
The UN Mission in Nepal continues to monitor arms and armed personnel ''to serve the important purpose of fostering confidence and goodwill,'' the report stated.