Basanta Pokharel
Basanta PokharelExecutive Director
Basanta Pokharel serves as Executive Director of Niti Foundation and is accountable for overall strategic direction of Niti’s thematic areas of work and support to the Strategic Advisory Group.

Prior to joining Niti Foundation, Mr. Pokharel worked in various capacities at Pact (2014 – 2022) where he also served as the country director for the Nepal office in 2018 – 2022. Mr. Pokharel has more than 25 years of experience as an international development expert in implementing programs related to human rights and right-based approaches, accountability, local governance, civil society strengthening, and public policy programming in countries including Nepal, Mongolia, and Vietnam. In his capacity as a manager and thought leader, Mr. Pokharel has led USAID and FCDO projects as Chief of Party and Team Leader. He has also published research on themes relating to education, governance, political economy, public policy, gender, conflict, social exclusion, and corruption.

Mr. Pokharel is a founding member of Niti Foundation and served on the Board from 2010 to 2022.

Mr. Pokharel holds a Master of Arts in Asia Pacific Policy Studies from the University of British Columbia, Canada as well as a Master of Arts in International Development from Clark University, USA.

George Varughese
George VarugheseSenior Strategic Advisor
George Varughese is responsible for strategic direction across all Niti Foundation programs and convenes the Strategic Advisory Group.

Prior to working at Niti Foundation, Dr. Varughese worked with The Asia Foundation in different capacities from 2000 – 2018. Most recently, he was country representative in Nepal (2009-2018), where he oversaw programs supporting an effective political transition. Prior to this, he served as the country representative for Afghanistan (2005-2009) and the deputy country representative in Nepal (2000-2005) in both cases working to strengthen the capacity of democratic institutions to assure good governance and the rule of law. Prior to joining The Asia Foundation, he was advisor for the United Nations Development Program in Nepal.

During the 2015-16 academic year Dr. Varughese served as Excellence Chair and Visiting Professor at the University of Wyoming’s Global and Area Studies program, in 2010 he was a Senior Visiting Fellow of The Australian National University’s Asia-Pacific College of Diplomacy and in 2008 the Senior International Fellow of the City University of New York’s Graduate Center for Philanthropy and Civil Society.

Dr. Varughese has a joint doctorate in public administration and political science from Indiana University, Bloomington, with an emphasis on public policy, political theory, and environmental policy.

As of July 2022, Dr. Varughese has relocated to the University of New South Wales in Sydney and can be contacted at

Surendra Bahadur Shah
Surendra Bahadur ShahSenior Fellow
Surendra Bahadur Shah is a security expert who leads Niti Foundation’s Work in the ‘Security Sector Reform’ thematic area.

Mr. Shah has decades of security experience ranging from police training to criminal and anti-terrorism investigations, intelligence operations, and policy formulation. Mr. Shah is a former advisor (equivalent to State Minister) to Nepal’s Minister of Home Affairs, and previously served in the Nepal Police under different capacities for nearly three decades. At the time of his retirement from the police in 2017, his rank was Additional Inspector General of Police and he served as the Executive Director of the Nepal Police Academy, the apex police training body. He worked as an expert member of the monitoring group established pursuant to the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1455 (2003), based at the UN headquarters in New York (2001-2004). He also served in Bosnia-Herzegovina as a member of the UN’s International Police Task Force in 1996 and 1997. Mr. Shah is a member of the International Association of Chiefs of Police, the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Asia Pacific Chapter, and the International Association of Directors of Law Enforcement Standard and Training.

Mr. Shah holds a graduate degree from the National Academy of the Federal Bureau of Investigation in the US, and a Bachelor’s degree in Science from Tribhuvan University, Kathmandu.

Hon. Keshari Raj Pandit
Hon. Keshari Raj PanditSenior Fellow
Hon. Keshari Raj Pandit is a former Chief Judge of the High Court, who leads Niti Foundation’s work in the ‘Rule of Law, Judiciary and Access to Justice’ thematic area.

Hon. Pandit has decades of experience in Nepal’s Judicial and Legal system. He started his career at the Government of Nepal as a public prosecutor for 8 years and later on promoted as the Undersecretary at the Ministry of Law. He was appointed as Judge at various districts and the High Courts. At the time of his retirement from the Court in 2013, he was the Chief Judge of the High Court. He has also served in various other reputed positions such as the Executive Director of the National Judicial Academy, member of the Central Justice Sector Coordination committee at the Supreme Court of Nepal (2014-2018), Chairperson of Justice Sector Coordination Committee, Court of Appeal, Hetauda and Patan (2008-2013) as well as Chairperson and Law Member of Revenue Tribunal Kathmandu, Nepal (2005-2008) among other prominent designations.

Hon.Pandit holds a Master’s of Commerce and Bachelors of Law from Tribhuvan University, Diploma in International Law from Institute of Social Studies, The Hague and ‘Government Legal Advisors’ course at Institute of Advanced Legal Studies London.

Bishal Kumar Chalise
Bishal Kumar ChaliseFellow
Bishal Kumar Chalise provides support to Niti Foundation’s Strategic Advisory Group, which makes analysis, guidance, and recommendations widely available to policy-makers implementing federalism in Nepal.

Mr. Chalise’s research interests include governance institutions and economic growth. Before joining Niti Foundation, he worked as a research consultant for the Nepal Administrative Staff College, the Ministry of Finance, and the Ministry of Federal Affairs and Local Development. He served as Business Development Officer at Nepal SBI Bank Limited from 2008-2012. He also was a visiting faculty member at the Kathmandu University School of Management.

Mr. Chalise holds a Master’s degree in International and Development Economics with a focus on energy and climate policies from The Australian National University. He also holds a master’s degree in Business Administration from Kathmandu University. Mr. Chalise is currently pursuing his PhD at the University of Melbourne.

Prakritee Yonzon
Prakritee YonzonFellow
Prakritee Yonzon currently serves as a Fellow at Niti Foundation, conducting research on commercial mediation and arbitration in Nepal. Her research interests include constitutional law, alternate dispute resolution, investment law and commercial law.

Ms. Yonzon is currently pursuing her PhD at the University of Hong Kong on arbitration in South Asia. She is a qualified lawyer in India and Nepal, and is also registered as a Mediator in Nepal. Prior to her PhD, she was working as a Senior Associate in Pioneer Law Associates. She has also taught as a lecturer in Kathmandu University School of Law, National Law College and Nepal Law Campus.

Ms. Yonzon completed her Masters in Law from the London School of Economics and Political Science in 2012.

Alok Pokharel
Alok PokharelSenior Program Officer
Mr. Alok Pokharel provides support to Niti Foundation’s Strategic Advisory Group and oversees the programmatic and analytical aspects of work at Niti Foundation. His research interests include comparative constitutional law, constitutionalism, parliamentary processes, and electoral governance.

Mr. Pokharel is a faculty member in the Chakrabarti Habi Education Academy, College of Law affliated to Purbanchal University. Prior to joining Niti Foundation, he worked as a constitutional and legal analyst at Democracy Resource Center Nepal and a fellow at Law and Policy Forum for Social Justice (LAPSOJ).

Mr. Pokharel has a graduate degree in Political Science from Tribhuvan University. He also holds an LLM from Boston College Law School, Massachusetts, USA.

Sanat Shrestha
Sanat ShresthaSenior Administration & Finance officer
Sanat Shrestha handles finance, budgeting, taxes, procurement, and other administrative duties at Niti Foundation
Mr. Shrestha has 15 years of experience in administration, finance and marketing. Prior to joining Niti Foundation, he worked for a commercial bank and other private firms.

Mr. Shrestha holds a Bachelor’s degree in Commerce with a specialization in marketing from Tribhuvan University, Nepal.

Renuka Duwadi
Renuka DuwadiAdministration and Finance Officer
Renuka Duwadi assists in the handling of administrative and financial duties at Niti Foundation.

Previously, she worked in administration and finance for Green Foundation Nepal.

Ms. Duwadi holds a Bachelor’s degree in Business Studies from Shanker Dev Campus (affiliated to Tribhuvan University) and is currently pursuing a Master of Business Studies degree from the same institution.

Shristi Sundas
Shristi SundasAdministrative Assistant
Shristi Sundas is responsible for managing daily administrative work and supervising the office support staff.

Prior to working at Niti Foundation, she was involved at Early Childhood Development Center from 2019-2021.

Ms. Sundas has a Diploma in Mechanical Engineering from Balaju School of Engineering and Technology.

Astamaya Maharjan
Astamaya MaharjanSupport Staff
Asta Maharjan provides housekeeping services as well as support to administrative work.
Balananda Paudel
Balananda PaudelSenior Fellow
Balananda Paudel leads Niti Foundation’s work in the State restructuring and Governance thematic area. He is thus involved in interlocution and developing strategic policy advice regarding state restructuring, sub-national governance, and other thematic areas.

Mr. Paudel served as the Chairman of the Local Level Restructuring Commission (LLRC) that was responsible for determining of the number and boundaries of local governments (2016-17). Prior to chairing the LLRC, Mr. Paudel served as secretary of the Government of Nepal from 1988-2012. During his tenure, he worked in various ministries and departments including Ministry of Education & Sports, Ministry of General Administration, Ministry of Energy and Ministry of Women, Children and Social Welfare, etc. He also served as the chairperson of various government owned or funded entities like Nepal Electricity Authority, Janak Education Material Center, Nepal Stock Exchange, Budhanilkantha School and was the founder chairperson of Hydroelectricity Investment and Development Company Limited (HIDCL). Mr. Paudel has been involved in various independent research and studies on issues ranging from education, personnel management, public administration to sub-national governance and federalism. He has been playing a prominent role in the discourse surrounding the institutionalization of the federal structure in Nepal.

Mr. Paudel has a Master’s degree in Public Administration and a Bachelor’s degree in Law from Tribhuvan University, Kathmandu.

Sushav Niruala
Sushav NirualaProgram Analyst
Mr. Sushav Niraula provides analytical support to Niti Foundation’s Strategic Advisory Group. Within comparative politics, he specializes in ethnicity and political parties. In addition, he is interested in religion and politics, ethnic conflict, state-building, and the role of security agencies in democracies.

Mr. Niraula has a graduate degree in Politics and Public policy from Sciences Po, Paris, where he was awarded the Emile Boutmy Scholarship. His undergraduate training in Economics and Sociology is from Jamia Millia Islamia in New Delhi, which he attended through an Indian Council for Cultural Relations scholarship.

For more details, please visit his website here:

Tara Kumari Kanel
Tara Kumari KanelFellow
Tara Kumari Kanel currently serves as Fellow in Niti Foundation and looks after the ‘Addressing Marginalisation and Vulnerability’ thematic area.

She is also a visiting scholar at the Department of Women Studies at Padma Kanya Campus – Tribhuvan University where she teaches post graduate students. Having trained in Law and Social Policy, Mrs. Kanel has over 10 years of experience in the development sector, particularly in the areas of social protection, governance, gender and social inclusion, and child protection. In the past, she was associated with Plan International, Save the Children and UNICEF in different capacities.

She focuses on facilitating policy discussion among policy makers, civil society organizations and beneficiaries. She also works on designing and conducting studies to understand social protection policy impacts on target groups. She has published a number of research articles in national and international journals on various social issues as well as human and women rights. Some of the peer reviewed academic journals that she has contributed research articles to include Asian Journal of Women Studies, and Gender, Technology and Development.

Ms. Kanel holds a Master’s degree in law from Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand. She also holds a Master’s degree in Social Policy from the University of Melbourne, Australia.

Mohan Das Manandhar
Mohan Das ManandharExecutive Director / Senior Fellow
Mohan Das Manandhar serves as Executive Director of Niti Foundation and is accountable for overall support to the SAG. He also leads the work within Niti’s ‘Energy Infrastructure and Hydropower’ thematic area.

Prior to his work at Niti Foundation, Mr. Manandhar was a policy advisor to the Government of Nepal’s National Inclusion Commission within the Prime Minister’s Office, where he helped make development and personnel policies more inclusive. He designed a research program on social inclusion in Nepal that addressed the issue of exclusion as one of the root causes of conflict and helped establish the Norwegian-funded Social Inclusion Research Fund (SIRF) in 2006. Mr. Manandhar also worked with the Ash Centre for Democratic Governance and Innovation at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government to develop a program to build the state’s capacity for managing large-scale emergencies. He served as a board member of the Government of Nepal’s Alternative Energy Promotion Development Board.

Mr. Manandhar holds a Master of Business Administration from International University of Japan and a Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering from Roorkee University (IIT-Roorkee), India.

Yanki Ukyab
Yanki UkyabFellow
Yanki Ukyab serves as a fellow in Niti’s Strategic Advisory Group where she supports the thematic area of infrastructure development (Water, energy, hydropower).

At Niti, her work lies at an intersection of economics, governance and public policy as it pertains to the infrastructure and natural resources sector in Nepal. She draws on her diverse experience spanning over ten years in the public and private sectors. After working as a senior analyst in fortune 500 firms like AES Energy and the Sprint Corporation in the US, she joined the Investment Board of Nepal (IBN) where she led a financial analytics unit to support high-level commercial negotiations for infrastructure projects between Nepal and India. More recently, she was Nepal Economic Forum’s Senior Economist where she researched the political economy of federalization as it pertains to the energy sector and private sector engagement in general.

Yanki has a Masters in Public Policy from the University of Oxford and a Masters in Economics from the University of Missouri-Columbia.