Prachanda tape ripples hit Gaza Strip
KATHMANDU: The ripples created by a leaked video tape that exposed Maoist chief Pushpa Kamal Dahal Prachanda as having deliberately exaggerated the strenght of his guerrilla army fivefold before the UN have now reached the Middle East with the Israeli government using it to discredit another UN investigation.
Israel’s foreign ministry, smarting under a damaging UN inquiry into military attacks in the Gaza Strip, is now doubly discrediting the probe, saying it was headed by the same UN official who also oversaw the controversial verification of the Maoist army in Nepal.
Ian Martin, who two years ago was appointed UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s special representative for Nepal, headed the UN Mission in Nepal (UNMIN) that verified the Maoists’ People’s Liberation Army (PLA) and certified it had over 19,000 combatants when the actual number was around 7-8,000.
This year, Martin was assigned to the Gaza Strip and headed an internal committee that probed the damage to UN installations during Cast Lead, a security operation by Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) that began in December, focussing on Hamas targets in the Gaza Strip. The UN investigation came down heavily on Israel, saying IDF shelled six of its installations.
Israel’s foreign ministry immediately rejected the criticism last week, saying the report was "tendentious, patently biased, and ignores the facts presented". It also accused the UN committee of preferring "the claims of Hamas, a murderous terror organization, and by doing so, (misleading) the world."
Now the UNMIN faux pas over the PLA verification has given Israel a fresh weapon.
"These allegations (that the UN was duped in Nepal) cast a long shadow over the Gaza board of inquiry's reliability," Israeli foreign ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor said Tuesday. The Tel Aviv-based Jerusalem Post also quoted an unnamed diplomatic source as saying that "if Martin failed to get the facts right when dealing with terrorists in Nepal, who can believe he got it right in Gaza, where he was also dealing with terrorists."
There was no immediate reaction from the Maoists, who Wednesday remained locked in their new war on parliament. With their lawmakers disrupting parliament since last week, there is little chance of the two other major parties - the opposition Nepali Congress and the communists - being able to put together a new ruling alliance.
The Maoists have not budged from their stand that they will not allow the house to sit till the President, Dr Ram Baran Yadav, "corrects his unconstitutional step" and sacks the army chief, Gen Rookmangud Katawal, who in a way triggered the fall of the nine-month-old Maoist government.
A top Maoist leader and one of the hardliners, Mohan Vaidya Kiran, today said that there was no question of parliament convening before May 17, when his party’s protest programmes would peak.