Archive | December, 2010

Happy Holidays!

Posted on 23 December 2010 by admin

Tis’ the holly jolly season, but it doesn’t seem to be too happy for political circles. Ontario Liberal MPPs suspect that in the upcoming provincial elections in October 2011, they will probably be losing about 8 to 12 seats in Ontario Legislature, not having Harper-like majority but a majority that will have less in control in the face of opposition.

The situation with Federal Liberal Party attracting Liberal MPPs has made the situation worse for Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty. MPP Fonseca has resigned from his position as an MPP and will be a federal Liberal candidate from Mississauga-Cooksville in the upcoming federal election. There probably will not be a by-election but a general federal election where Mr. Fonseca will be a candidate.

Conservatives are eyeing the transition of Liberals from province to federal closely with the hopes that they can secure a seat from Mississauga Crooksville –  a riding next to Conservative MP Bob Dechert – Brampton Springdale, Mississauga Brampton South and possibly one from Etobicoke. How helpful can Mayor Rob Ford and his brother Doug Ford’s ties to Etobicoke be for Conservatives remains to be seen, but it has Liberals worried, both provincially and federally.

We don’t intend to be political pundits predicting any victories or losses as voters can be unpredictable. It has to be acknowledged that the Harper’s Conservatives have made inroads into the South Asian community of the Peel region.

Mr. Jason Kenney, the federal Minister of Citizenship & Immigration and Multiculturalism is very persuasive in his arguments even if the facts may not always be accurate. His name and his work with immigrants, refugees and settlement organizations provokes an intense debate among South Asian political circles. Some are extremely unhappy with him; some have nothing but to pat him on the back for his work with the South Asian community. Some remain skeptical of Conservatives as their nominated candidates are tight lipped on issues that are of concern to the community. Some believe that appointing Ms. Salma Ataullahjaan as a Senator was a very smart move by Prime Minister Stephen Harper. This appointment has softened not only the South Asian community but the Muslim community of the GTA toward Conservatives.

Province however is a different story. Premier McGuinty has sent out Season’s Greetings cards to almost every South Asian media outlet, wishing them in 31 languages including English and French. It’s a clear indication that “Celebrating Diversity” is not just the slogan for Ontario Liberals. While a lot more needs to be done, a good first step should always be appreciated.

With too much at stake for politicians, we wish them luck and Season’s Greetings and hope that they will return with not the politics of division, but a clear vision of how they will be leading our province and our country.

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Ensuring Against False Sense of Security

Posted on 23 December 2010 by admin

I am delighted to provide an update for South Asian Generation Next readers on product safety legislation in Canada. This week the Canada Consumer Product Safety Act passed through the Senate and received Royal Assent. This is good news for Canadian consumers, who have been waiting 40 years for an update to our product safety legislation, and over two years for the Conservatives to pass legislation that they have made repeated promises to enact, but have killed twice with prorogation.

Health Canada now has the ability to order mandatory recalls on products that are dangerous, and obliges companies to report dangerous defaults in products in a timely manner. Health Canada can also ask for companies to provide test results upon demand.

However, it is important for Canadian consumers to note that the work to ensure that we are buying the safest, highest quality products is not over. There is still much to be done to ensure that the public is not given a false sense of security that their products are now safe. Regulations will need to be continually reviewed and improved, and an adequate amount of funding must be provided so that there are enough inspectors within the department. In fact, the government is providing fewer resources for product safety assurance now than in previous years. The budget for consumer product safety at Health Canada has sharply decreased since 2007-08, as well as staffing levels. New legislation will do nothing if the appropriate resources are not put in place.

How can we continue to make product safety legislation better?

The majority of product flaws happen in the design stage, not in the production stage, meaning that knowledge of a problem should become apparent early in the process of getting a product to market. We need to have better incentives for companies to take more care in the design process, so that they are not making decisions with respect to the safety of their products versus the economics related to their product once products are actually in the stores. Design stage testing should be completed by third parties so that testing is independent and results are transparent.

The public must actually receive the message that a product has a flaw in it in order to be able to decide if it poses a risk to their families. They should also be able to search a regularly updated and easy-to-navigate data base to find out which products have problems. The current rate of products that are actually returned to companies is very low. It is important that the product is actually returned to the manufacturer, not just left for a consumer to dispose, because a product could still end up being used and putting another person in danger even if it has been put in the trash, or left on the curb to be picked up. Better communication on these issues will improve the return rates on products, but it is also necessary for Health Canada to monitor the rates of return and reissue product recall alerts if the rate of return after the original recall noticed is made remains low.

Further, it seems logical that companies be mandated to report all incidents associated with an entire product line, including each model of a product, rather than simply reporting the incidents discovered with a particular model within a product line, which is the case currently.

Product safety requirements have not kept pace over the last few decades with the changes in design, manufacturing, and most importantly the globalization of trade. The latest product safety legislation is a great improvement over the previous system, but it is not perfect and it can be improved upon. The legislation must be must be backed up by appropriate funding of resources, including an increase in number of staff, as well as regulations that keep up with the rapidity of product innovation and our increasing reliance on imports.  If the current government does not take account of these factors, we will be no better off than we were before this bill became law.

Author: MP Megan Leslie is NDP Health Critic.

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Harper Government’s Consumer Product Safety Act Receives Royal Assent

Canada Consumer Product Safety Act (CCPSA), has received Royal Assent, and is now Canadian law.

“I am delighted our Government’s Consumer Product Safety Act is now the law of the land,” said Minister Aglukkaq. “This will give the Harper Government important new tools to deliver stronger, more effective protection for Canadian consumers and their families.”

The new CCPSA will better protect the health and safety of Canadians by:

·        prohibiting the manufacture, importation, advertisement or sale of any consumer products that pose an unreasonable danger to human health or safety;

·        requiring industry to report when they know about a serious incident, or death, related to their product to provide government with timely information about important product safety issues;

·        requiring manufacturers or importers to provide test/study results on products when asked;

·        allowing Health Canada to recall dangerous consumer products; and

·        raising fines and penalties for non-compliance.

An accelerated implementation plan is being developed in order to facilitate the Canada Consumer Product Safety Act coming into force in the next few months.  To make the transition from the Hazardous Products Act to the new legislation as smooth as possible, the Government will be actively communicating with industry to inform them of the coming-into-force date and their new obligations and requirements under the Act.  The Government is also committed to keeping consumers informed as to how the legislation will affect them and the products they buy.

Over the past year, the Harper Government has demonstrated its ongoing commitment to  consumer product safety through new regulations on lead, cribs and cradles, and surface  coating materials.  With the Canada Consumer Product Safety Act, the Government will continue to provide a high level of  protection for Canadians and will be able to do even more to address emerging consumer product safety issues.

For more information, please visit www.health.gc.ca/ccpsa

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Liberals Propose Public Solutions for Public Health Care

Posted on 23 December 2010 by admin

Three members of the Liberal Party’s health care team presented Canadians with a choice between the current Conservative governments’ refusal to take responsibility for Canada’s health and health care system and a future Liberal government that will defend the Canada Health Act and work to improve public health care.

“Since Stephen Harper came to office, health care has been cut from the federal agenda,” said Liberal Health Critic Ujjal Dosanjh. “The Conservatives refuse to defend Canada’s public health care system – and Canadians are rightly worried that it won’t be there for them or their families. Only the Liberal Party can be trusted to safeguard and enhance public health care.”

Liberal Health Critic Ujjal Dosanjh

MP Dr. Carolyn Bennett

MP Dr. Hedy Fry

In speeches delivered in Ottawa, Toronto and Vancouver today, Mr. Dosanjh, and Liberal MPs Dr. Carolyn Bennett and Dr. Hedy Fry warned that the Conservatives want to weaken public health care by replacing the cash portion of the Canada Health and Social Transfer with tax points – which would make it impossible to uphold the Canada Health Act, resulting in the end of Medicare.

“We have a Prime Minister who once said ‘It’s past time the feds scrapped the Canada Health Act,’” said Dr. Bennett. “In 2005, just before he took power, he said he thought two-tier health care ‘would be a good idea.’ We must oppose this loudly and strongly.

“The 2004 health accord expires in 2014. The next federal government will be responsible for shaping what comes after. The work must begin right now. We cannot afford to delay,” Dr. Bennett said.

Liberals argued that public solutions can help alleviate pressures on the health care systems. For instance, the Liberal Family Care Plan will help alleviate the bottleneck of patients who could be discharged from hospital and cared for by a family member in the comfort of their own homes, through two measures:

  • A new six-month Family Care Employment Insurance Benefit, similar to the EI parental leave benefit; and
  • A new Family Care Tax Benefit, which will provide hundreds of thousands of families with a tax-free payment worth up to $1,350 per year to help defray the costs of providing family care.

In addition, the Liberal Party will:

  • Promote healthy eating through Canada’s first-ever National Food Policy;
  • Implement a national brain strategy, to help more Canadian families face Alzheimer’s and other dementias;
  • Forgive up to $20,000 in federal student loans for doctors, nurses and nurse practitioners who choose to practice in a designated, underserved rural community, and apply an equitable share of fund towards regional health needs in Quebec;
  • Achieve full high-speed internet access to bring 21st-century health innovation to rural and remote areas; and
  • Make sure that all Canadians benefit from electronic health records, through the Canada Health Infoway.

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MPP Charles Sousa, new Minister of Labour

Posted on 23 December 2010 by admin

As the reports of MPP Peter Fonseca’s (Mississauga-Cooksville) nomination for federal riding surfaced, MPP Fonseca was “urged” to resign as Ontario Minister of Labour.

Premier Dalton McGuinty appointed MPP Charles Sousa (Mississauga South)  as Minister of Labour following the resignation from Cabinet of Peter Fonseca. In his statement, Premier McGunity stated “Charles will continue to put Ontario workers and their families first, particularly as we implement the workplace safety recommendations in the Tony Dean Expert Panel. I know Charles will continue to bring together our workers and businesses to uphold employment standards and improve the health and safety of our workplaces.”

In his statement, the new Ontario Minister of Labour said “I will put Ontario workers and their families first.  I had an opportunity today to speak with Tony Dean about his report. I reconfirmed the government’s commitment to address his recommendations, including a new Chief Prevention Officer. This will help ensure effective health and safety services and enforcement at workplaces throughout Ontario.”

Premier McGuinty acknowledged MPP Fonseca’s work as Minister of Labour stating Peter Fonseca “has helped to double the number of workplace inspectors, reduce the number of lost-time injuries in the workplace and increase the minimum wage.”

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2010: Accomplishments for Canadians

Posted on 23 December 2010 by admin

As is custom during this time of the year, we pause and reflect on the accomplishments we’ve made and make new resolutions to improve ourselves in the New Year.

The same can be done of our political parties and evaluating how effectively they’ve represented us in the House of Commons.

I admit my bias and if you read my tagline, it’s clear I work for the federal NDP. Irrespective of that fact, you can come to the same conclusion as me and many other Canadians across the country: Jack Layton and his New Democrat team continued to put practical results for struggling families ahead of political games in 2010.

New Democrats focused on getting things done for Canadians – like a successful motion to protect jobs from predatory foreign takeovers and an ongoing campaign to remove the federal tax off home heating bills. Without New Democrats pushing every day, this government would not have extended the stimulus deadline. They would not have stopped the sell-out of Potash Corp. And they sure would not be talking about enriching the Canada Pension Plan.

New Democrats are working to make life a little easier for people facing hard times – whether it was with the NDP’s home heating campaign, or moving forward with bills to improve Employment Insurance, launch a national housing strategy, and secure workplace pensions.

Many Canadians will remember 2010 as the year the Conservative government hiked payroll taxes—in the middle of a recession—and imposed the HST on BC and Ontario, with help from their Liberal friends. Conservatives are happy to declare “mission accomplished” – while life gets less affordable, household debt is skyrocketing and too many Canadians are still out of work.

Stephen Harper promised to be different, accountable, transparent. Instead he broke his promise and killed vital climate change legislation with his unelected Senate; undermined trusted government agencies like Stats Can; lowered a cone of silence over the Afghan detainee scandal; and threw open the doors of the PMO to tobacco, oil and bank lobbyists.

Each and every one of the NDP’s opposition day motions was passed in the House of Commons – a 100 per cent track record! New Democrats account for 60 per cent of all Private Members’ Bills, and outpaced other parties six to one.

This past year, the party launched a Canada-wide campaign to make home heating more affordable. The NDP plan would drop the 5 per cent federal sales tax on home heating; re-introduce the popular ecoEnergy retrofit program, and end government subsidies to the big polluters who are gouging Canadians on their heating bills. New Democrats have been pushing hard to set concrete targets to reduce Canada’s emissions (C-311) and introduced an Environmental Bill of Rights (C-469).

Jack Layton’s team forced the Conservatives to respond to the economic crisis. From pension protection to improving RRSP contributions rules to reforming employment insurance, New Democrats have led the pack in tabling legislation to assist Canadians.

As we say goodbye to 2010 and welcome 2011, I hope the New Year will bring you and your family all the best.

Author:Rupinder Kaur is press secretary for New Democratic Party of Canada.

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2010 a successful year for the provincial government

Posted on 23 December 2010 by admin

On December 9th, the Ontario Legislature wrapped up its fall session, which saw the government take action on several fronts.

Ontario is moving closer to economic recovery. Working together with Ontarians, our government has been cutting taxes and creating incentives to grow the job market to make things easier for Ontario families.

To do that, we announced a long-term energy plan that will make our air cleaner, keep the lights on, and create thousands of jobs.  We’re already seeing results with investments and jobs in most regions around Ontario.

We saw significant job gains as a result of our strategic investments in the auto industry. Those gains include 700 new jobs created at General Motors’ Oshawa Assembly Plant, in addition to the recall of 1,300 workers last spring.

This is all good news. However, we understand the economic situation has created some uncertainty, so another of our key priorities was to help Ontarians with household expenses. With that in mind, we created the Children’s Activity Tax Credit, which gives parents a tax credit to enrol their kids in activities like hockey, music lessons, or ballet.

Our government also introduced the Ontario Clean Energy Benefit, which will take 10 per cent off monthly electricity bills for families, farms and small businesses.

And we created the Ontario Energy and Property Tax Credit, providing eligible families up to $900 a year to help with the sales tax on energy and for property taxes. Seniors are eligible for up to $1,025.

We’ve also been working to strengthen vital services, like education and health care.

To help our youngest students get the best start possible, we introduced full-day kindergarten in nearly 600 schools across Ontario. We plan to expand the program across the province over the next few years.

We’ve continued improving access to health care so that one million more Ontarians now have access to a family doctor than did in 2003.

All of these initiatives are part of our plan – the Open Ontario Plan – which is designed to create new jobs, to boost economic growth, and to protect the progress that we’ve made in schools and hospitals.

Ontario is recovering. But for that growth to continue, we need to continue to create jobs, to invest in health care and education, and to make things a little easier for Ontario families.

I have also posted all the bills that were passed this session on my website. Please check out some more of our progress here:

http://www.kathleenwynne.onmpp.ca/pressreleases.aspx?id=47

Author: MPP Kathleen Don Valley West, Toronto

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City Of Brampton Web Portal Recognized At National Conference

Posted on 23 December 2010 by admin

The City of Brampton is the proud recipient of a 2010 Gold Medal Distinction Award for its Citizens Service Portal Solution. The award was recently presented at the GTEC 2010 national technology conference in Ottawa.

GTEC 2010 is a national forum on the use of technology to improve government services and

operations. The Distinction Awards recognize innovation, excellence, and leadership in service

delivery in Canada’s public sector. The initiative was awarded in the Municipal Category for

Service Delivery to Citizens and Businesses.

“I am so proud of our online efforts. The goal of this project has been to ensure that our web

portal offers our residents, businesses and corporate partners a positive and valuable customer focused online experience,” says Mayor Susan Fennell.

The City of Brampton developed its new service-oriented portal solution, www.brampton.ca on

the Microsoft and Cisco platforms, which was launched in December 2009. Some popular online

services now available include parking permissions and ticket payment processing, downloadable permit forms, recreation program registration, access to Brampton business

opportunities, interactive mapping tools and other information, news and media. The City plans

to provide more online services and continues to explore new and innovative ways to reconnect

with citizens and businesses using www.brampton.ca.

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The Afghanistan Surge is Working; Now We Need Pakistan’s Full Effort

Posted on 23 December 2010 by admin

The long-awaited White House Review on Afghanistan demonstrates that General Petraeus’ counterinsurgency strategy is beginning to pay dividends. The additional U.S. troops deployed to Afghanistan have helped the U.S. and coalition forces begin to uproot the Taliban from some of their traditional strongholds in southern Afghanistan.  The most important task now is to gain greater Pakistani cooperation.

There has been less progress on standing up civilian government in the areas cleared of insurgents, however. While the U.S. and coalition forces have shown they are capable of clearing Taliban from their strongholds, they have yet to demonstrate that Afghan civilian leaders can hold these areas once military operations subside. This will be a key benchmark to watch over the next six months.

The strategy review also reveals significant gains against al-Qaeda’s core leadership in Pakistan’s tribal areas, thanks to an intensified drone campaign that has eliminated key leaders and disrupted the terrorists’ ability to operate and train for attacks against the West. Although the U.S. must also focus on al-Qaeda affiliates in places like Yemen and Somalia, it is clear that the most significant al-Qaeda threat continues to reside in the borderlands of Pakistan.

Continuing to make gains against al-Qaeda and consolidating the security gains inside Afghanistan will require more cooperation from Pakistan. Pakistan has confronted militants in its border areas, and has lost many soldiers in these operations. The country also continues to suffer terrorist attacks throughout the country that claim hundreds of lives each month. Yet Pakistan continues to hedge on its support to the Taliban and is reluctant to take on Taliban-allied militants like the Jalaluddin Haqqani network in North Waziristan, which it believes can protect Pakistan’s strategic interests in Afghanistan.

Indeed some in Pakistan’s security establishment are pushing for a role for Taliban and Haqqani network members in a future Kabul government. Senior Taliban and Haqqani militants retain close ties to al-Qaeda and their return to positions of power in Kabul would provide al-Qaeda a safe haven in that country. This issue continues to be a major source of division between Washington and Islamabad.

The policies of the Obama administration are aimed at bringing Pakistan into closer alignment with U.S. goals in Afghanistan. However, a recent National Intelligence Estimate on Pakistan assessed that the Pakistan military would not give up its support for the Taliban and its allies.

The Administration must develop a strategy that will successfully bring the U.S. and Pakistani visions for the future of Afghanistan into closer alignment.  The U.S. has offered Pakistan many carrots to this end.  It must now be much more demanding of Pakistani cooperation.  Without it, the war cannot be won.

The Administration has backed away slightly from the 2011 withdrawal date by highlighting the date of 2014 as the end of combat operations in Afghanistan. While the shift is welcome, the Administration must drop all talk of deadlines. Reiterating timelines for withdrawal tells our enemies and friends alike that we are only half-heartedly committed to the fight.

It will be important for President Obama to identify Holbrooke’s replacement as quickly as possible in order to continue momentum on the civilian/political aspects of the Afghanistan-Pakistan strategy. Obama must identify someone with a measure of regional expertise and that carries political heft so as to be able to serve effectively as Gen. Petraeus’ civilian counterpart.

Some argue that the position of the Senior Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan (SRAP) should be disbanded or down-graded, but this would be a mistake. The terrorism threat involves both Afghanistan and Pakistan, thus it is necessary to have a high-level Washington-based official that can deal effectively in both countries. The position was not specifically created for Holbrooke as some have reported in the media. The idea of establishing a senior-level coordinator for Afghanistan and Pakistan pre-dates the Obama administration.  It was included in the Afghanistan Freedom Support Act legislation dating back to 2006 and advocated by several South Asia experts during the 2007 – 2008 time period.

The Review brought some encouraging news from the battlefront in Afghanistan. Now the administration must focus on consolidating these security gains and taking a leadership role on political reconciliation that will necessarily involve regional players.

Author:Lisa Curtis is Senior Research Fellow for South Asia at the Asian Studies Center at The Heritage Foundation.

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On a sticky wicket

Posted on 23 December 2010 by admin

WHEN the efficacy of the parliamentary system is doubted in a democratic polity, the finger may well be pointed at governance. The rulers make a mess of things and blame the system.

This is what has been happening in India. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh`s remark that he is “worried over the future of the parliamentary system” in the country is misplaced and speaks more of his government`s failure than that of the system.

The winter session of parliament has been a washout and both the houses were stalled for 21 days, a record of sorts in India`s parliamentary history. Yet the problem is not the failure of the system. Both the ruling Congress and the opposition could not agree upon a mechanism to probe into the 2G spectrum concerning mobile telephones. (The scam runs into an abnormal figure of $12bn.)

"I am worried about the future of the Parliamentary system. I hope reason will prevail," Prime Minister Manmohan Singh told mediapersons in Berlin.

There has naturally been a countrywide debate on corruption. Congress president Sonia Gandhi`s attack on the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) does not absolve the Congress because both parties are corrupt in the public estimation.

The Congress has stuck to its stand that the Public Accounts Committee (PAC), headed by an opposition leader, is the best authority to hold an inquiry. The opposition, which includes the left, has demanded a Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) probe. The BJP was first alone but then the government`s obduracy led other parties, including the left, to join a common front.

Probably, it would have been better if the PAC had come to be accepted because JPCs in the past have not done an effective job. But is the inquiry by a JPC such an impossible proposition that the prime minister should go to the extent of questioning the parliamentary system? The United Progress Alliance, headed by the Congress, has a majority in the JPC. But it is a divided house now. The more the Congress opposes the JPC, the firmer becomes the conviction that the party wants to hide something because the JPC is an open-ended inquiry.

The prime minister did not say anything for 21 days when the two houses did not transact any business. That he should now doubt the future of the parliamentary system is disconcerting. The standoff in parliament is nothing new.

In fact, Manmohan Singh`s `worry` amounts to a threat to the political parties that the parliamentary system could undergo change if the Congress stance is not accepted. The situation may worsen because opposition leader Sushma Swaraj from the BJP has said that the confrontation may spill over to the budget session. This should be a warning for the ruling party that it has to either break the opposition unity or think of reaching a consensus.

Otherwise, the Congress must consider going back to the people to ask for a verdict on its stand. A mid-term poll, when the present Lok Sabha has still another three years to go, is a hard choice to make. Yet there is no option when both sides do not want to step back.

The prime minister should be more concerned about what WikiLeaks revealed in the assessment US ambassador David C. Mulford conveyed to the State Department on the 26/11 terrorist attack in Mumbai. He said that a section of the Congress leadership was seen playing religious politics after one of its leaders, A.R. Antulay, implied that Hindutva forces may have been involved in the attack.

The Congress`s explanation is that it cannot react until Mulford`s cable is authenticated. This is neither here nor there. Unfortunately, the State Department is not willing to either confirm or deny Mulford`s communication.

The suspicion gets strengthened when Congress secretary-general Digvijay Singh, former Madhya Pradesh chief minister, says a few hours before Mulford`s cable became public that police officer Hemant Karkare, who was killed during the 26/11 attack, rang him up (Singh) hours before the attack began to say that he (Karkare) had received death threats. The people threatening him, Karkare said, were those opposed to his probe in which Hindu groups were allegedly involved. The mystery deepens when the Mumbai police allege that no call was made to Digvijay Singh according to its records. He, however, sticks to his statement.

Karkare`s wife has justifiably criticised Digvijay Singh for politicising the terrorists` attack. He has stuck to the line that Karkare was “harassed by BJP leaders.” It is true that the Congress has distanced itself from Digvijay Singh`s disclosure. But that is not enough. The Manmohan Singh government must look into his charge which is very serious and has wider implications.

Two years ago, Congress minister Antulay had said: “They (terrorists) had no reason to kill Karkare. Whether he was a victim of terrorism or terrorism plus something, I do not know. Karkare found that there are non-Muslims involved in the act of terrorism in some cases. There is more than what meets the eye.”

Antulay was a member of Manmohan Singh`s cabinet in the first term. He did not question him, nor was any action taken on his allegation. Antulay was defeated at the polls and hence it cannot be said that he was not included in the new ministry because of his allegation. Still, the charge remains hanging.

The BJP is understandably angry. It has attacked Digvijay Singh for “helping Pakistan and Ajmal Kasab”. The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh too has made some harsh remarks against Digvijay Singh. Since he continues to stick to his charge the Congress-led government, for his credibility`s sake, has to entrust the matter to a Supreme Court judge.

The parliamentary system sustains confidence when people know, particularly the minorities, that those who indulge in killings and excesses will not go unpunished. The prime minister`s worry should be on this point, not on the deadlock in parliament which a democratic nation can take in its stride.

Author:Kuldip Nayar , is a senior journalist based in Delhi.

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Will The Ppp Government Survive?

Posted on 23 December 2010 by admin

The exit of the Jamiat-ul-Islam Fazlur Rahman Group (JUIF) from the federal government on December 14th has created new difficulties for the federal government. The JUIF leader, Maulana Fazlur Rahman finds himself in the lime light because most political leaders want to cultivate him and the PPP-led federal government is endeavoring to win him back.

The JUIF has 8 members in the National Assembly but enjoyed disproportionate share of the goodies of power. It had three cabinet positions until it decided to quit the cabinet. Its leader, Maulana Fazlur Rahman is the Chairman of the parliamentary committee on Kashmir and recently undertook a foreign trip ostensibly to propagate the cause of Kashmir. The JUIF is well represented in other parliamentary committees and continues to be part of the coalition government with the PPP in Balochistan. One of its senior members has recently been given the coveted post of the Chairman, Council of Islamic Ideology.

Maulana Fazlur Rahman’s decision to quit the coalition government was a retaliatory move against the removal of Azam Swati, a wealthy person known as one of the major financiers of the JUIF.  The Maulana hardly acknowledged that the PPP also sacrificed its minister in this case. How long the Prime Minister could afford two cabinet members trading charges and counter charges in public? It seems that the Hajj arrangements were mismanaged and it created strong complaints of corruption. This episode revived the desire of the JUIF to get the ministry of Religious Affairs which seems to have acquired salience as the competition for power and influence has intensified between the champions of the Deobandi and Bralevi Islamic traditions.

The exit of the JUIF does not pose any immediate threat to the PPP-led federal government. However, it has increased the importance of the MQM in the coalition.

The MQM’s politics revolves around sustaining its primacy in urban Sindh, especially in Karachi. It does not want the ANP or the PPP challenge its ability to control rewards and punishment in Karachi. The hard core of these three parties clash with one another from time to time.  Two weeks ago, Sindh’s interior minister Zulfikar Mirza lashed out at the MQM, holding them responsible for increased violence in Karachi. This statement annoyed the MQM.

The MQM decided to avail of the government’s difficulties by giving a deadline of 10 days to stop Sindh’s Interior Minister, Zulfikar Mirza, from accusing the MQM of involvement in killings in Karachi. The Prime Minister who met the MQM leaders on December 19th pacified them by promising to defuse tension between the PPP and the MQM in Sindh.

Though the PMLN would be happy if the federal government collapses it does not want to initiate the moves for the collapse of the federal government. It has therefore adopted the ‘wait and see’ policy, hoping that the PPP government would collapse because of its own policy blunders or due to the cracks in the coalition.

The PPP has several options available to cope with the present crisis. The PPP would like to win back the JUIF.  Maulana Fazlur Rahman may not soon return to the PPP fold at this stage. However, he is not expected to join any anti-PPP coalition in the near future.

The PPP has already mended its fences with the MQM  and it maintains cordial relations with independent members.

The PPP can cultivate the PMLQ, especially if the MQM decides to quit the coalition. The PMLQ will be willing to join the PPP if the latter supports the former’s bid to dislodge the PMLN government in the Punjab.  The PPP will go for this option if the MQM quits the partnership with the PPP and the PMLN embarks on dislodging the PPP government though a vote of no-confidence.

The PMLN has limited options against the PPP. It is not in a position to move a vote of no confidence against the federal government because the PPP can launch counter offensive by joining with the PMLQ to move a vote of no confidence against its Punjab government.

A total replacement of the PPP government is not possible without the tacit consent of the Army top brass. This reduces the prospects of the PMLN replacing the PPP led government because the Army has strong reservations about the PMLN’s policy on countering terrorism. The PMLN is viewed as a sympathizer of the militant Islamic group which makes it unacceptable to the Pakistan Army as well as the United States.

The PPP has another option. It can create a new constellation of political parties and groups.  It will involve major changes in the cabinet. It may also opt for a new Prime Minister for staying on in power.

The PPP-led federal government is not threatened by immediate collapse. However, it will continue to face the varying degrees of pressures from various parties in the coalition or in the opposition. This will weaken its resolve to undertake the projects of socio-economic development because it will spend more time for ensuring its survival.  Its governance will continue to be poor.

Author: Hassan Askari

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