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Last Updated: Tuesday, 1 March, 2005, 07:37 GMT
Analysis: Nepal one month on

By Charles Haviland
BBC News, Kathmandu

Soldiers in Kathmandu
The army has been much strengthened by the royal coup
One month after King Gyanendra took direct power, sacking the last in a line of royal-appointed prime ministers, Nepal is still under a state of emergency and in the bad books of its closest allies.

India, the United States and Britain were swift to condemn the coup and temporarily recalled their ambassadors.

Washington's envoy said he would hold the king to an apparent guarantee to ease restrictions within 100 days.

With 28 days gone, little has changed.

The king's men who now run the country have rebuffed the critics.

The political parties are cowed, their key figures detained or confined to their homes

Like King Gyanendra, they have pressed home the message that the coup's main purpose was to strengthen the fight against what they term terrorism, namely the Maoist rebels.

Tulsi Giri, cabinet deputy chairman, said it was no different from America's action after 11 September or India's war in Kashmir.

They also say it was both necessary and legitimate, referring to Article 127 of the constitution which states that if "any difficulty" arises in implementing the constitution, "His Majesty may issue necessary orders to remove such difficulty".

However, the same sentence continues: "and such orders shall be laid before parliament". Parliament was dissolved in May 2002.

Traditionally loyal

Nobody doubts the firmness of the king's grip on power now.

The administration's two key men are ultra-loyalists to the palace.

King Gyanendra
The king has appointed ultra-loyalists to help him

Mr Giri, who belongs to Nepal's tiny Jehovah's Witnesses religious community, has returned from self-imposed exile in Bangalore, India.

A minister in Nepal's first democratically elected government of 1959-60, he then sided with King Mahendra - Gyanendra's father - when he sacked that administration, and played a key role in 1960-1990, when there was no democracy, serving as prime minister.

The other key man, information technology adviser Sharad Shah, was also powerful pre-1990 and is described by one observer as "smart and shrewd - a royalist hardliner".

He has been in India trying to sell the king's move to the government and opposition - so far, it seems, unsuccessfully.

The army, traditionally loyal to the monarch, has been much strengthened since the 1 February coup. A group of top officers are believed to be advising King Gyanendra.

Military men are overseeing bureaucrats in areas such as transport management, and are censoring the press as well as briefing journalists.

One way the king has increased his grip is through the Royal Commission on Corruption Control, newly set up even though there is already a commission to investigate abuses and a special court to consider its prosecutions.

The Royal Commission can investigate even Supreme Court judges, and its critics say it unfairly combines the roles of prosecutor and judge.

Common cause

Where does this leave the country's other players?

The political parties are cowed, their key figures detained or confined to their homes.

A new alliance of five parties has announced fresh protests for next week, but would-be demonstrators face possible arrest.

Maoists in rural Nepal
The Maoists have urged all "pro-people forces" to ally

Another party has cold-shouldered them, berating two big parties for serving in the last government.

The Maoists would like to make common cause with the political parties, as suggested by their leader Prachanda's statement on Saturday calling for all "pro-people forces" to ally.

Many analysts - and foreign governments - believe the coup strengthened the rebels by enabling them to concentrate on a single enemy and removing King Gyanendra's ability to blame big problems on the parties.

However the parties continue to spurn the Maoists as long as the latter pursue violence.

And the lifting on Sunday of a two-week road blockade by the rebels raises questions.

As with previous blockades, it failed to provoke the urban uprising the Maoists want to see.

It is not clear whether either side has been gaining the military upper hand, but violence continues.

The past month has seen numerous casualties, both government and rebel, and reports suggest extra-judicial killings by both sides.

Many Nepalis do support the king's move.

Blockades notwithstanding, many businessmen and women feel they can now work more securely.

Kathmandu, at least, ignored the last Maoist call for a general shutdown - media censorship meant hardly anyone knew about it.

Other Nepalis, however, deplore that lack of information, the suspension of rights and the detentions without trial.

One month on from his takeover, King Gyanendra has still to prove to his critics that he can turn around an already desperate situation for the Himalayan kingdom.

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