Nepal’s Search for Constitutional Stability

05/11/20156:00 pm-7:30 pm
Tariq Rafi Lecture Theater, Habib University

A federal, democratic, republican constitution was adopted by the Constituent Assembly of Nepal on 20 September 2015, following seven years of effort including two elections. It is a ‘rights based’ constitution of the post-modern era, written by politicians rather than jurists and constitutionalists. It picks up from the 1990 Constitution which delivered open society to Nepal, and the 2007 Interim Constitution which managed the transition from Maoist conflict to peace even as identity politics flared. The eventual adoption of the 2015 Constitution was spurred by the earthquake of April, but the hope that it would bring immediate stability leading to economic growth was dashed because of the dissatisfaction with some provisions among a section of the Madhesi plains-based politicians, and the resulting protests led to more than 45 dead. The dissatisfaction should be and is being addressed through an amendment process in the Parliament. However, the Constitution as adopted has raised the ire of the Indian Government, which decided to take sides on the internal matters of a friendly neighbour, going as far as to organize an economic blockade. The only lesson that can be taken from this experience in one corner of South Asia is that while constitutions have to be written by democratically elected and representative constituent assemblies, there is no saying how far a powerful neighbour will go in trying to dictate the text of the document. The lecture ‘Nepal’s Search for Constitutional Stability’ will dwell on the challenges of writing the 2015 Constitution, its salient features, the voiced dissatisfaction with its provisions, and the shocking geopolitical aftermath.