Nepal Army general Pande resigns over conflicting birth datesTara Dhoj Pande was in line to become the army chief after General Prabhu Ram Sharma’s retirement next year.
Nepal Army Major General Tara Dhoj Pande, who was in the running to be the army chief, has resigned from his post, after the defence force launched an investigation into the controversy over his dual birth dates. Now the deck is clear for Major General Ashok Sigdel to become the chief of Nepal Army after the incumbent General Prabhu Ram Sharma retires.
Pande on Friday submitted his resignation, which was forwarded to the Ministry of Defence, Nepal Army spokesperson Brigadier General Krishna Prasad Bhandari confirmed to the Post. The government has to approve his resignation. The Nepal Army headquarters has forwarded his resignation to the Cabinet, said a source at the Ministry of Defence.
Pande’s career prospects were marred by the controversy over his dual birth dates. Complaints have been filed against him at the Commission for the Investigation of Abuse of Authority (CIAA), the parliament’s State Affairs Committee, the Prime Minister’s Office, the Defence Ministry, and Hello Sarkar, the government’s public complaints platform.
The CIAA has instructed the defence ministry to probe Pande’s birth date, a source at the commission told the Post. The ministry has forwarded the letter to the Army headquarters.
Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Defence Purna Bahadur Khadka has also instructed the Army headquarters to look into the matter and report to the ministry.
A senior official at the Prime Minister's Office said there have been several documented cases of tampering with one’s birthdate to obtain two citizenship cards, which is a criminal offence.
“This is repeatedly happening in the judiciary, bureaucracy and security agencies. The government has to come up with clear guidelines and have a consistent policy on such contradictory claims. The Prime Minister’s Office should take a lead,” the PMO official said.
Pande put in his resignation on Thursday evening and the information was revealed on Friday, an official at the defence ministry said.
The national army had formed a probe committee led by Lieutenant General Sitaram Khadka at the direction of the Chief of the Army Staff Sharma. Sources said the three-member committee has been investigating the issue for the past three days. General Khadka was also against promoting Pande.
Lieutenant General Saroj Pratap Rana retired in October last week and it was unclear who would next lead the national army. As per the Army Act, a senior major general is recommended for promotion to lieutenant general.
Accordingly, the army headquarters had started the process for Pande’s promotion. According to military regulations, the headquarters had also solicited complaints against Pande with a week’s deadline. Copies of Pande’s citizenship and educational certificates with different dates of birth reached the defence ministry and other agencies as the army initiated the process to promote him. The discrepancy in his year of birth was evident in the documents.
The complaints were filed by one Niraj Dhakal who has urged the various government agencies to retrieve archive and original documents from relevant government agencies before reaching any decision. Besides possessing two citizenship cards (one original and another a copy of the same) with conflicting birth dates, General Pande was also found guilty of breaching diplomatic decorum and protocols while he met foreign army officials at a recent function in Kathmandu.
General Pande has obtained two different citizenship cards (numbered 1681-16086 and 3086), government records show. In one citizenship card, whose copy the Post has obtained, Pande’s birthday is 2023-8-23 BS, while his recent registration card released by Office of the Controller of Examinations stated that he was born on 2021-10-12 BS.
The Office of the Controller of Examination had issued the card on 2019-08-08. Pande has submitted the citizenship card issued on 2023-8-23 BS, so that he could be promoted to the Chief of Army Staff when General Sharma retired next year.
General Pande, according to two Nepal Army officials, showed his latest birth certificate to get promoted, which is against the law and existing practice. Even the archive of the Office of the Controller of Examinations was tampered with. On 2042-12-25 BS, the original record of the Office of the Controller of Examinations was altered to change Pande’s birth date to 2023-8-23 BS. He obtained his citizenship certificate in 2043 BS. He sat the School Leaving Certificate exam in 2038 BS. According to school records, Pande’s date of birth is 2021-10-12 BS.