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Will our leaders improve?

Will our leaders improve?

Recently, former US President Donald Trump was found guilty in a $350 million fraud case by a court. It's noteworthy that six out of the nine judges in the Supreme Court were appointed by Trump. Similarly, Pakistan’s former Prime Minister Imran Khan was jailed earlier this year in a corruption case. In developed countries, everyone, regardless of their power or position, is held accountable for their crimes.

However, in Nepal, it appears that those who have contributed to democracy are granted impunity to commit various crimes. In our democratic context, powerful personalities often seem immune to prosecution, elevating them above ordinary citizens. This acceptance of impunity has become a hallmark of Nepal’s governance system.

The era of Panchayati rule was marked by autocracy, as was the Rana period, with Jung Bahadur Rana standing out as one of the most tyrannical rulers. Notably, Jung Bahadur's visit to Britain showcased his arrogance when he demanded a higher cannon salute than his Indian counterpart, arguing Nepal's independence compared to India's British colonial status. Despite his authoritarian rule, Jung Bahadur was stringent against bribery, corruption, and profiteering, even resorting to hanging profiteers during times of crisis.

The legacy of the Rana rulers included a strict stance against the depletion of national wealth, advocating instead for internal investment. Yet, ironically, many of the palaces they built, including Singha Durbar, are now utilized by the so-called democratic government.

Throughout history, the Shah kings of Nepal demonstrated a deep commitment to the country's development. Despite controversies, King Mahendra's initiatives such as the construction of the East-West Highway and division of the country into development zones significantly contributed to Nepal's progress.

In the border region of Tarai, former soldiers are employed to safeguard the borders, while King Birendra advocated for a zone of peace to shield the nation from external manipulations, although progress has been hindered by India's opposition.

During the reign of Nepali Congress under BP, notable diplomatic strides were made, including holding firm against Indian claims on Nepal's northern border and fostering relations with China and Israel, showcasing Nepal's independent decision-making.

Subsequently, in response to allegations of corruption within his own ranks, BP took decisive action by banning his personal secretary from his residence during festive seasons and encouraging open criticism through support for a popular magazine, Samiksha.

The tenure of the first elected Prime Minister BP Koirala saw Nepal asserting itself on the global stage, making independent decisions, and facing challenges head-on, all while prioritizing national honor and dignity.

Even amidst external pressures, leaders like Koirala upheld ethical standards, as evidenced by Prime Minister Kirtinidhi Bishta's resignation following the Singhdarbar fire incident.

In a bold move, Nepal removed 17 out of 18 Indian military camps stationed in its northern region, demonstrating a commitment to sovereignty.

Tragedies like the Dashrath Stadium stampede prompted accountability, with officials like sports minister Keshar Bahadur Bista resigning, highlighting a commitment to responsibility and transparency.

Despite historical achievements and instances of accountability, there remains a pervasive attitude among some contemporary leaders, viewing past leaders solely through the lens of criticism. It begs the question: when will our leaders learn from both the mistakes and accomplishments of their predecessors?

Saroj Bhattarai 

Kathmandu School of Law, Bhaktapur

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