I recently had an opportunity to do some intensive field work with the Tharu, Boate and Musahar indigenous people in the Tarai (plains) of Nepal. I have been working, off and on in Nepal for more than a decade. But this time around, I was particularly moved transitions caused by remittances and the new constitution. I think there are lessons with the way Nepal is negotiating its myriad challenges that deserve our attention.Nepal for the past decade has become one of the highest per-capita suppliers of labour to the Gulf and South-East Asia markets. The result has been a transformation, that we in Pakistan are not so unfamiliar with. People’s faces have changed with improved nutrition as have their lifestyles with booming consumerism. We, in Pakistan, have been experiencing the same remittances driven transformation in community profiles across the country for the past four decades. The difference is the trajectory that Nepal seems to be taking, which may distinguish it from the well known one that we have followed to where we are. Nepal now has a Maoist leftist government with a strong majority in the parliament. It is implementing a constitution where all power is being transferred to the local level. It also has a strong social justice agenda whereby all lagging minorities and castes are to be empowered and taken along as equal partners in a democratic society. To many in South Asia such intentions are precisely that — pious intentions. The question legitimately is, where is the evidence?The evidence number one is that Nepal is the one government in South Asia still investing in public housing for the poor. The two room houses in Chitwan buffer zone, that I saw are not much, but they are something. The evidence of the same is also in the multiple engineering consultant offices around the mayor’s office in the Kawasoti, municipality in South Central Nepal. Engineering firms and other service providers are moving en mass to small tehsil level towns, because that’s were the budget and power is to undertake public works projects of which thousands will be undertaken, thanks to financial and administrative devolution, and a national commitment to state led development and welfare. Nepal now has a Maoist leftist government with a strong majority in the parliament. It also has a strong social justice agenda whereby all lagging minorities and castes are to be empowered and taken along as equal partners in a democratic societyThe evidence number two dates back to before the present Maoist government. Nepal was synonymous with deforestation. But in a very short period of time, thanks to social forestry the mid-hills and the Mahabharat range are again covered in vast canopies of secondary growth forest. Social forestry handed over control of the forests to the local communities to manage, away from the forest service. The community management committees not only managed to bring back the forests but also became the local level cadre of the Maoist party. That government is at therefore committed to peasant uplift. In the rest of South Asia, including Pakistan, social forestry experiments were initiated by INGOs in the 1980s and 90s but they were successfully sabotaged and defeated by the entrenched forest services with the results we know too well. Today, under the Maoist government these empowered community institutions that form the bedrock of the present government are expected to sustain and provide the ecological and material benefits of the forests to the communities, and the world.The third evidence of why Nepal may be headed in a different trajectory than others, may be the conversation with the game warden in Chitwan National Park. A Nepali colleague who had been a junior warden in the national park back in the 1990s asked how he dealt with the military, which was stationed in the park to prevent poaching and provide security. My colleague’s biggest challenge was preventing the military from killing the wild life, especially deer, because the quickly rotating men never had much understanding for the value of wild life and only thought of it as sport or food. The warden’s answered, ‘I have no such problems with the military. Today the military serves the elected government of the people and therefore the people. It is no longer a military that only answered to the monarchy.’ Is there corruption, incompetence, casteism and political paralysis in Nepal — of course there is. But the democratic expectations have sprouted deep roots in the society. How deep is something that a street barber doing my haircut reminded me of as the following dialogue unfolded:B: People here like Imran Khan. They hope that with him in power, India and Pakistan can be friends.M: Perhaps he wants it too, but our military won’t allow it.B: Why? Is your military not in the hands of the Sarkar (Government)?M: Not really.B: Strange thing that the military is more powerful than the government. You sure have a Zateelsamasiya (heavy problem).It is a Zateel Samasiya indeed.The writer is a researcher in Politics and Environment at the Department of Geography, King’s College, London. His research includes water resources, hazards and development geographyPublished in Daily Times, December 21st 2018.