Army’s indecision leaves key position vacant for months

- Binod Ghimire, Kathmandu

Nov 27, 2018-

Nepal Army has yet to appoint one of the two lieutenant generals, 75 days since the position became vacant and despite legal obligation to initiate the hiring process within 15 days.

The position, also called the chief of general staff, has been vacant since September 9, the day Purna Chandra Thapa took the command of the 92,000-strong force as the Chief of Army Staff.

Currently, Hemant Kunwar is the only lieutenant general. According to Rule 6 of the Army Regulations, it is mandatory to inform the respective departments about the vacancies within seven days and to begin the hiring process within two weeks.

Currently, Maj Gen Anuj Bahadur Basnet, who ranks third, is the only contender for the vacant position. The national defence force generally picks the senior most official for promotion.

However, Army chief Thapa, who bears the sole authority to recommend promotion, has been reluctant to elevate Basnet to lieutenant general.

Sources at the Army headquarters told the Post that Basnet has not been cleared for promotion due to “dubious academic credentials and correction of the birth date on his citizenship certificate”.

Basnet will retire if he is not promoted by December 11. Despite levelling serious charges against him, the Army leadership hasn’t taken prompt measures to investigate the case and appears to wait until Basnet retires.

The copies of academic certificates obtained by the Post show Basnet got his intermediate and bachelor degrees from the Tribhuvan University. The Post also received a copy of his citizenship certificate, which was validated by the District Administration Office, Kathmandu.

Sources close to Basnet say it doesn’t take three months to investigate the certificates if the Army leadership genuinely seeks to do so. “Both the TU and the district administration offices are in Kathmandu. The investigation could have been over within a couple of weeks,” said a person close to Basnet who asked not to be named. “This shows that the current leadership is simply buying time.”

The Cabinet in November last year had extended Basnet’s term by a year without controversy. The Army leadership hadn’t raised any questions about his credentials then.

When the Post reached the Nepal Army for a response, Spokesperson Brig Gen Gokul Bhandari refused to comment. “I have no information to share with you at this point,” he said.

Basnet has registered a complaint with Defence Minister Ishwar Pokhrel, claiming that Thapa was biased against him. He has produced the copies of all academic certificates, certification from the district administration office, and the Employees Provident Fund.

However, the ministry has no say over the issue because only the Army chief can refer an officer for promotion.

“We have no role in this,” said Baburam Gautam, spokesperson for the ministry. “The Army hasn’t made any recommendations for the position yet.”

Retired generals say it’s unfortunate that promotions have become a subject of controversy of late. “Such issues are raised at the last minute just to stop promotion. Either the leadership needs to prove the allegations or open the door for promotion,” a retired major general, who sought anonymity, told the Post.

Dev Subedi and Sharad Giri, both serving major generals, will qualify for promotion if Basnet is forced to retire next month.

Published: 27-11-2018 07:26

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