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Spice of Life

By P. Kharel

  • Mole in the Rabbit Hole
    Charles Shovraj, now serving life term in a Kathmandu jail for murder, once boasted of the possibility of smuggling an elephant through the Tribhuvan International Airport. Subsequent events confirm that Shovaraj’s was not too big an exaggeration. Inormation leaks like water in a sieve to those with the right connections and right incentives.
    Two pieces of information in the press on the same day in June made familiar stories: one was reated to an incident in which Armed Polie Force’s motor vehicle was used for timber smuggling. The other story reported that only 15 per cent of the gold circulated in the Nepalese market is legitimate; the rest comes through smuggling.
    The 33 kg gold scandal, which has dragged so many government personnel, including senior police officers, has all the ingredients of a cine-crime thriller—smuggled gold vanishes; torture follows; death occurs; failed negotiation for removing the body beyond trace; arrests follow more arrests, with some of the detainees hinting that other more powerful ones were also involved in the illegal trade.
    As the confession trail led to bigger names, the investigation began to slow down, prompting a number of retired senior police officials to question serious lapses in the on-going investigation, questioning the faulty methods applied as if in a deliberate bid to mislead the probe and protect the more powerful.
  • Flashback
    Poush 1, 2017 BS: the previous night a senior political leader, found in his birthday suit at the dead of night, was deposited in a police detention centre. On the orders of the Palace, he was released at 4 in the morning. A few hours later, he and a number of other Nepali Congress leaders were arrested even as the state of emergency was announced following the dissolution of the parliament. UPI correspondent Bhola Rana used to taunt the leader in the 1990s as to what he was doing the night before the Poush 1 incident. In a cavalier mood and manner, the politician would boast: “I was with not ONE but TWO girls.”
    Only few persons know that Bhutan’s present King Jigme Keshar Namgyel was born at Bir Hospital in Kathmandu. His father King Jigme Singhe Wangchuck had immense confidence in King Birenadra to arrange for the safe delivery of the royal baby. At the 2010 Shanghai expo, King Jigme Keshar was bowled over by the Nepal Pavilion. The Oxford-educated king congratulated the pavilion’s executive director Binayak Shah: “Brother [Dajoo], you have done very well. It is very good. By the way, I too was born in Nepal, at Bir Hospital in Kathmandu.”
    India, which supervises Bhutan’s foreign and defence policies, was in for a big surprise and intrigued that King Jigme had his queen hospitalised in Nepal and not in any reputed hospital in Calcutta or some other city in India.
  • Pervasive & intrusive
    INGOs in Kathmandu are known to have paid handsome remunerations to the team members who were involved in negotiations with the armed Maoists during the latter’s decade-long insurgency. The job was typically to provide “an analysis” on the issues rekated to insurgency, its problems and what could be the solutions. The reports presented by these individuals to the sponsoring agencies were tallied by the sponsors among themselves to arrive at their own conclusions. No wonder Lal Babu Pandit, Minister for Federal Affairs and General Administration, the other day announced that civil sevrvants would not be allowed to work for any I/NGO for at least years after retirement.
    Magsaysay award, funded by the US, is given away by the Philippines government. The year Bharat Dutt Koirla received it, an Indian recipient involved in social work came down heavily on the US policy toward developing nations. A comment in the Philippines press reminded the Indian recipient that the cash for the prize came from the US government. In a huff, the awardee said he would not accept the prize money.
    Former CIA Chief Stansfield Turner reveals that more than 700 articles, broadcasts, editorials and similar items were sponsored in the United States and Chile in the 1970s. It is now public knowledge that the US army generals produced 1,500 articles that were planted in West Asian news media during the Gulf War. WikiLeaks revelations showed that the US government secrets had a document quoting an official that “our man” is in the Public Accounts Committee of Nepal’s parliament, though no government pursued the matter.
    In Britain, The Economist, Spectator, The Times and The Telegraph became state propaganda tools on different occasions through journalists or their directors. Free European Press Service (FEPS), specialised in news from behind the Soviet Union, was a propaganda unit just as Radio Liberty and Radio Free Europe operated from the West was directed against Russia and Eastern Europe. VOA materials are virtually banned from being broadcast in the US.
    On their part, intelligence agecies go at great length to protect the information in their possession. Stansfield Turner, when writing his book Secrecy and Democracy, was forbidden to state that Britain has a secret intelligence service still operating in peacetime and commonly known as MI6!
  • Expendables
    Mainstream party leaders frequented the Nepalese Maoist leaders’ not-so-secret hideouts in India. Prachanda and Bhattarai; CP Gajurel and Mohan Vaidya; Bam Dev Chhetri and Matrika Yadav; Nepal government and its security agencies—all being appeased. They practiced triple standard; not just double standard. The lowest in the order were the most expendable.
    Former IGP Achyut Krishna Kharel underscores the importance of institutional intergrity for efficiency, backed by knowledge. He recalls that there was no interference from the palace or government in earkier decades when he worked. The government laid out the policy and the police under the IGP implemented it as per regulations. Hence accountability was traceable and deriable.  The palace realised that theirs was not a one-term question but for ages to come. So as long as things went smooth in the administration and security, their insitution was secure. Political parties looked only for sycophnats and cronies, which led to the destruction of public institutions.
    A senior army officer told an established newspaper editor that “I find that the intelligence system had been turned upside down so badly.” Rabi Raj Thapa, former AIG of Armed Police Force says that scurity forces were discredited in the heat of the 2006 movement. Age bar 30 and 32 for retirement was played up. Control command collapsed as a result.
    Such being the conditions at the vital intellgence agencies, the prevailing conditions point out at the obvious. The past worked better, as so many political party members privately confess. The question renmains: What then is stopping them to re-energise the same? The answer should rest in the cmobined character of knowledge, honesty and efficiency, which is something extremely rare to be recognized, honored and mobilized in Nepal today.

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