By BINAJ GURUBACHARYA, Associated Press Writer Wed Dec 7,12:37 PM ET
KATMANDU, Nepal - Nepal’s king reshuffled his Cabinet Wednesday amid growing opposition from major political parties and Maoist rebels. King Gyanendra replaced eight ministers, including some controversial figures, and put in place members of the royalist Rastriya Prajatantra, or National Democratic Party.
Gyanendra removed a home minister who was blamed for security lapses last week when the motorcade of Crown Prince Paras was hit by stones from protesters. The minister for women and social welfare, who allegedly had been found misusing state property, also was dismissed.
Both were replaced with royalist ministers. Nepal has 36 ministers and junior ministers.
Maoist rebels last month announced a 12-point agreement to work with Nepal’s major political parties to pressure Gyanendra to restore democracy in this Hindu nation of about 27 million people bordered by China and India.
The rebels have been fighting since 1996 to topple the monarchy and the civil war has killed about 12,000 people.
The king seized absolute power Feb. 1, suspending civil liberties, jailing hundreds of politicians and activists and banning criticism of the government and security forces. He said the move was necessary to fight the insurgency and reduce corruption but he has faced wide criticism and ongoing street protests.
The Maoists announced last week they would extend their three-month unilateral cease-fire by another month. They said the move would increase the chance of achieving peace in Nepal.
The rebels have stopped major attacks but have continued to skirmish with government troops and kidnap people for indoctrination.
Wednesday’s announcement came after Gyanendra’s return from a three-week tour of Africa.