Archive | November, 2013

Rana Bokhari: A real positive alternative to the current status quo?

Posted on 28 November 2013 by admin

By Samuel Getachew

Toronto

In Canada, the South Asian’s are one of the most political active communities. Despite all of the successes, British Columbia’s Ujal Dusanji remains to be the one, and still the first and only (former or current) Premier of a Canadian province of South Asian heritage. Rana Bokhari intends to become the second.

Bokhari is running for the leadership of the Manitoba Liberals and ultimately Premier of her province. In doing that, she just may be the one person who can rebuild the once neglected party and make the Manitoba Liberals relevant and an alternative to the Manitoba NDP government. Bokhari reflects with me her biography as well as looks ahead to the future. In the meantime, I cannot help but admire her eloquence, brilliance and passion.

You were once described as “Law student by day; superwoman by night and whenever there’s trouble in the world, people call Rana Bokhari”. That is a great compliment. Share with me your journey so far.

Born and raised in rural Manitoba on a family farm, I learned the importance of a good work ethic and seizing opportunities when they arise. After enrolling at the University of Manitoba, I realized how fortunate I was to have the opportunity to learn a profession. It was during this time that I started to do charitable fundraising work for those who are less fortunate as well as international causes like the floods in Haiti and Pakistan. Giving back has become a passion of mine and I have been honoured to be acknowledged by many non-profits as a reliable fundraiser for their causes.

I am a proud Manitoban and because this province has given so much to me, I would like to give back to my province as leader of the Manitoba Liberals. Politics in this province has become polarized and divisive, but I know the Manitoba Liberals, with my leadership, can offer Manitobans a real positive alternative to the current status quo. Manitobans deserve better.

You are now running for the leadership of the Manitoba Liberals. How long were you involved with the party and what are some of the initiatives you are bringing to the race?

I have been involved with the Manitoba Liberal Party for over six years and I am keenly aware of the internal problems that we face. My initiatives are focused on building a stronger and more inclusive Party, first and foremost. This means reaching out to Manitobans who have felt ignored by the political process and showing them that they can have a home in the Liberal Party.

It also means doing a lot of fundraising work so that we can run a professional and successful election in 2015, which I feel uniquely qualified to accomplish. And lastly, we will build a policy platform that reflects the concerns of our members and the public at large. Everything from healthcare to education to the environment needs to be addressed with a scientific and factual rationale, instead of the ideological responses we get from our current government.

Why the Liberal party?

My values are in sync with Liberal Party values. I know that the Manitoba Liberal Party can do a better job of connecting with voters, but it will take hard work. Not unlike the kind of outreach that Justin Trudeau has been busy doing for the federal Liberal Party. Having already signed up over 500 new members to the Manitoba Liberal Party, I am looking to expand our Party’s appeal by working tirelessly to gain the trust of more Manitobans and show them that there is a real alternative to the status quo. Only the Manitoba Liberal Party can offer Manitobans a better third option.

In Canada – despite the vast participation of South Asians in Canadian electoral politics, Ujal Dusanji remains the long Premier of East Asian heritage. Why do you think that is?

I recognize this fact, but I don’t dwell on the past. In our own province we have never had a visible minority or a woman as Premier, so there is potential for a lot of firsts with my candidacy. My campaign is focused on the future and being the change we want to see. It is important that our political sphere is a good representation of our province’s population. That means having more women in politics and it means having a Party that can better represent the different demographics of our province.

As for your question, all I can say is that more people need to step up and take the initiative. It’s easy to look at statistics and ask why, but it takes confidence and conviction to take that next step to challenge the status quo.

Who are some of your public heroes you would like to emulate and why?

Calgary’s Mayor Nenshi is the first to come to mind. I am struck by how dignified he is and how genuinely concerned he is with the needs of his constituents. It is that genuine motivation that I relate to, because I feel that I have the same motives. I have been honest with people that I am not a seasoned politician and I am also not an ideologue. I am running because I think Manitobans deserve someone who is focused on their needs, rather than a political agenda. Nenshi does not get into divisive politics and I admire that about him.

I also admire Senator Maria Chaput, whom I have had the honour to speak with during my leadership campaign. Senator Chaput is a local champion for fighting poverty and speaking up for the francophone community and I was honoured to receive her endorsement. She is one of those women who have led the way for me and I have learned a lot from her through this process

When you look at Manitoba politics — the NDP (now) and the Conservatives (in the past) seem to dominate provincial politics. Why do you think that is and how do you intend to make the Manitoba Liberal party an alternative to the two more traditional parties?

While the NDP has their base and the Conservatives have their own base, the rest of Manitobans have largely been left out. Come election time, most of them feel the need to vote for the lesser of two evils. For this reason, both the NDP and Conservatives take many Manitobans for granted.

I want to engage those Manitobans as well as former supporters of any other party. We are in a unique position where many NDP voters are now feeling slighted by the government and many progressive conservatives see a PC Party that has become much less progressive. With a strong female leader, I know the Manitoba Liberal Party can bring something different to the province.

Politically, we are the truly balanced option — coming up with solutions to both the fiscal and social problems plaguing our province. Demographically, I am different, but also politically I want to work with Manitobans to promote real fact-based solutions to the many social and fiscal issues we face.

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Get Winter Ready!

Posted on 28 November 2013 by admin

Wintertime. Ice, snow, and, perhaps worse, lots of “snow days” with the kids in the house. Are you and your family “winterized”?

Preparing for unexpected campouts in your living room is not exactly akin to preparing for a terrorist attack, but some of the same precautions apply. Ice can put weight on electrical lines and cut off power, so have the following on hand:

  • Flashlights and batteries; candles are not a wise choice, because in bad weather you can have a fire and no one can reach you.
  • Plenty of blankets.
  • A safety kit for your car, consisting of shovel, sand or cat litter for traction, tire chains, booster cables, a cell phone, extra warm clothing or boots, an ice scraper, small tools, winter sleeping bag or blankets, snack food, water, flashlight with good batteries, matches and newspapers, games and toys, zip-top bags (for elimination if stranded), and a 12-volt adapter coil heater that can plug into the lighter to heat water.
  • Salt or sand for treacherous sidewalks.
  • Safe, radiant space heater (no open coils).
  • Fan for fireplace that blows heat into the room and does not suck it up the chimney.
  • Supplies of medication to last a few days at least.
  • The phone numbers of older or disabled neighbors, just in case.

 The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends dressing infants and children in several thin layers, such as long johns, turtlenecks, one or two shirts, a sweater, warm socks, boots, gloves or mittens, and a coat. Dress children in one more layer than you would wear.

Children who play outside may not notice they are getting too cold or even experiencing hypothermia, the AAP says in its bulletin, “Winter Safety Tips.” Similarly adults have to be cautious too.

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Job Programs For Vulnerable Ontarians At Risk

Posted on 28 November 2013 by admin

In tough economic times, our Employment Ontario offices and the support and training programs they provide are more important than ever. This is especially true for job seekers who might need a lot of guidance and support to get back into the workforce.

As well as help with a job search, the Ontario government offers a range of programs, including Literacy and Basic Skills Training, Second Career, Bridge Training, Pre-Apprenticeship Training – all designed to meet the needs of those who are trying to get back to work. These programs are funded jointly by the provincial government and the federal government.

But they are at risk, and the stakes are high.

In its 2013 budget, the federal government announced it would implement a new Canada Job Grant. This grant would take $232 million away from existing programs designed to help vulnerable workers get back to work in Ontario. These are people such as immigrants, social assistance recipients, persons with disabilities, Aboriginal persons and youth – those who are not eligible for Employment Insurance and most in need of support.

These are programs that work: 73 percent of Second Career graduates find work within six months. In the past year, the Employment Ontario network helped approximately 1 million people in our province, including 90,000 employers. In that time, more than 200,000 Ontarians obtained employment through our programs.

The Canada Job Grant proposed by the federal government would not help many unemployed workers. It would only help people who can find an employer to contribute money to their training. That really means people who already have jobs.

Brad Duguid, Ontario’s Minister of Training, Colleges and Universities met with his provincial and territorial counterparts on November 8 and reinforced to Jason Kenney, Canada’s Minister of Employment and Social Development, that the Ontario government isn’t interested in taking money away from our most vulnerable citizens. This stance was reaffirmed when the country’s premiers gathered at the Council of the Federation meeting on November 15. All of Canada’s provinces and territories agree – an untested and unproven program that takes money away from programs that are working is not a good idea.

In September, a resolution was passed by the Canadian Chamber of Commerce at their national conference “that the federal government, instead of implementing its own Canada Job Grant program, negotiate with the provincial/territorial governments to renew labour market agreements that are set to expire in 2014, in accordance with on-the-job training priorities”.

Ontario’s partnership with Canada over the past eight years has been working well, especially in supporting vulnerable workers. And the Ontario government agrees that creating better connections with employers to help improve training opportunities and our economy is a good idea – but it has to happen in a way that makes sense for everyone, and not at the expense of vulnerable workers.

The two governments need to move forward together to improve delivery of employment and training programs. When we help all people get the skills they need to find work and achieve their goals, everybody wins.

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Government Introduces Legislation to Crack Down on Cyberbullying

Posted on 28 November 2013 by admin

The Honourable Peter MacKay, P.C., Q.C., M.P. for Central Nova, Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, introduced legislation to address criminal behaviour associated with cyberbullying. This legislation demonstrates the Government’s firm commitment to ensuring that Canadians are better protected against online exploitation. Minister MacKay was joined by the Honourable Steven Blaney, Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness.

“Our Government is committed to ensuring that our children are safe from online predators and from online exploitation. We have an obligation to help put an end to harmful online harassment and exploitation. Cyberbullying goes far beyond schoolyard bullying and, in some cases, can cross the line into criminal activity,” said Minister Mackay. “With the click of a computer mouse, a person can be victimized before the entire world. As we have seen far too often, such conduct can destroy lives. It clearly demands a stronger criminal justice response, and we intend to provide one.”

The legislation being introduced would:

•Prohibit the non-consensual distribution of intimate images; •Empower a court to order the removal of intimate images from the Internet; •Permit the court to order forfeiture of the computer, cell phone or other device used in the offence; •Provide for reimbursement to victims for costs incurred in removing the intimate image from the Internet or elsewhere; and •Empower the court to make an order to prevent someone from distributing intimate images.

The proposed investigative powers to identify and remedy this and other cybercrimes would be subject to appropriate judicial oversight.

The Government worked closely with the provinces and territories in developing the report and recommendations on which this legislation is closely based.

“With this legislation, we are confirming that this type of behaviour is absolutely unacceptable and has serious consequences,” added Minister Blaney. “As part of Bullying Awareness Week, we are committed to reminding victims that they are not alone, and encouraging them to reach out to a teacher, a trusted adult, a parent or a friend. Bullying – whether online or off – is a problem that affects us all, and we all have a role to play in stopping it.”

Working with partners in the public and private sectors, the Government of Canada is taking action to address all forms of bullying through education, awareness and prevention activities.

For example, the Government is also supporting the development of a number of school-based projects to prevent bullying, as part of $10 million in funding that was committed in 2012 towards new crime prevention projects.

Other important projects that the Government supports to address cyberbullying include the Cybertip.ca and NeedHelpNow.ca websites operated by the Canadian Centre for Child Protection. Canadians can use these websites to report online sexual exploitation of children and to seek help for exploitation resulting from the sharing of sexual images.

In addition, through the Government’s GetCyberSafe campaign, Canadians can get the information they need to protect themselves and their families against online threats, including cyberbullying.

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“Osteoporosis” in South Asian community

Posted on 28 November 2013 by admin

Uttam Makaju

An adult male member of my community, who used to enjoy dancing enthusiastically , refused to take part in floor dance in a family gathering. He seemed a little bit sluggish. I asked him why he was so torpid today. My friend told me that because of the ongoing backache, he does not feel well in dancing.

I met another lady from the Nepali community in her forties met at a grocery store. When she was approaching towards me I saw her walking with a bit difficulty. I asked her whether she fell or slipped. She replied that nothing happened to her.

 These are the two instances that indicate lifestyle of people affected by osteoporosis, a disease characterized by low bone mass and deterioration of bone tissue.

In Canada, we receive less sunlight specially in winter as compared to the South Asian region. Additionally, we have sedentary life style in Canada. The lesser frequency of mobility also affects our body system and leads towards health problems.

The severity of bad physical health may compel many to leave the job, leading towards financial insecurity. To break this vicious circle of mental health-physical health-financial insecurity, one must take precautionary measures like updating with health information to cope with changed environment.

Realizing this very fact, Canadian Newa Guthi- Toronto Chapter, a not for profit organization, in collaboration with Osteoporosis Canada, conducted an info session at Downtown Toronto for the Nepalese community.

Delivering a talk and power point presentation on osteoporosis, Ms. Jennifer Weldon, the Regional Integration Lead of Osteoporosis Canada explained the need of information on osteoporosis to help prevent the disease.

Elucidating the vital trend of bone loss, she informed the participants that an individual of 35-40 years age group loses .5%- 1.00% bone. However at the menopause, the rate accelerates to 2.00% -5.00%S per year. She also urged the community members to have Bone Mineral Density(BMD) test after touching risk age group.

General secretary of Canadian Newa Guthi (CNG) Mr. Bimal Man Shrestha threw light on various activities conducted by CNG including preservation of culture and tradition, health awareness program, free tax file clinic and so on. He also opined that this kind of health awareness program will certainly help build healthy communities.

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CPBC hosts Muneer Kamal Chairman National Bank of Pakistan

Posted on 28 November 2013 by admin

Building the momentum further on promoting bilateral trade between Canada and Pakistan, CPBC hosted a high level luncheon meeting today to honor Mr. Muneer Kamal who is visiting Canada for a few days.

Notables included MPP Dr. Shafiq Qaadri, Parliamentary Assistant to the Minister of Government Services, Honorable Consul General of Pakistan Mr. Nafees Zakaria, Deputy Consul General Mr. Asghar Golo, CEO Brampton Boart of Trade Mr. Steve Sheils and Director Economic Development, City of Brampton Mr. Sohail Saeed and Mr. Imtiaz Seyid, Vice President, South Asian Markets at RBC. Other guests included CPBC Directors, Sponsors, members and representatives from TD, Scotia, Habib Canadian and National Bank.

Special guest Muneer Kamal said that the Karachi Stock Exchange was amongst the top performers this year with an increase of 40 %. He also appreciated the positive and pro-business mind-set of the Sharif government and their sincere efforts to improve relationships with India and other countries in the region. The key areas for improvements are GDP growth rate, Foreign Exchange reserves and Power generation capability. Solar energy is one major area of interest for Pakistan and Canadian companies must look into investing in Pakistan.

 Last but not the least; Honorable Consul General Mr. Muhammad Nafees Zakaria appreciated CPBCs efforts in organising the trade delegation and organising this very useful meeting with Muneer Kamal.

He also elaborated on the upcoming seminar that he is planning with the active support of CPBC.

The unique feature of this seminar will be to provide participants with firsthand information by Canadian companies who are actively and successfully doing business in Pakistan. There was a general understanding that this was a good time to explore and establish business ventures in Pakistan.

Mr. Zakaria emphasised that these efforts should continue in full force and the Consulate will offer its support at all times. He said Seminar is one of other steps that would prepare ground for high level exchanges and strengthening of bilateral relations. CG also responded to the questions that followed. The meeting concluded on a closing note by VP Jayne Pilot.

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Corporate deals seen as dangerous for Canadian universities

Posted on 28 November 2013 by admin

Report says Canadian post-secondary institutions are striking troubling agreements for cash. Cash-strapped Canadian universities are signing an alarming number of deals with donors that threaten academic freedom, warn a report by the Canadian Association of University Teachers (CAUT) to be released Wednesday.

The report, called Open For Business, took a deep look at 12 campus-corporate collaborations in research and teaching, and found only half protect universities’ control over academic matters such as curriculum and hiring, only two prohibit professors from having a financial interest in the donor organization, only five guarantee the university unlimited right to publish its research findings and only two of the agreements are public. (CAUT obtained the rest using access to information legislation.)

These are lines universities must not cross when sharing power, or they risk losing the credibility that is their stock in trade, said Association Executive Director Jim Turk.

“The stakes here are high; universities need to protect the integrity of the work they do without being restricted by a private partner — without prostituting themselves for money — or why would the public support them?” said Turk.

One deal that raised concerns is the University of Ontario Institute of Technology’s (UOIT) partnership with Durham College and the crown corporation Ontario Power Generation (OPG) to support nuclear engineering programs.

The agreement says all three parties will work together to produce more employees for Canada’s nuclear industry and in particular, “meet the needs of OPG for a new generation of energy specialists.” It also suggests OPG can review and “enhance” curriculum — all of which CAUT found troubling.

“You can get advice from whomever you like, but nobody from OPG should have any decision-making say over UOIT,” said Turk. “It’s one thing to train nuclear scientists, but a university shouldn’t be the training arm for OPG.”

However the fledgling Oshawa university has a different mandate than others, noted founding nuclear engineering dean George Bereznai — “to produce graduates who are more job-ready than traditional universities have done; we are market-oriented and we work much more closely with industry.”

Still, the curriculum was written before OPG signed on, he said, and “all academic decisions are done through regular academic channels. We just listen more to industry than traditional universities, rather than just gaze at our own navels.”

The report also raised concerns about a Western University partnership with law firm Cassels, Brock and Blackwell to create a program in mining law, which it says gives the law firm too much say in hiring and programs. Western spokesperson Keith Marnoch said the university would not comment until it has seen the report.

CAUT praised the integrity of a deal between the University of Toronto, mining magnate Pierre Lassonde and Goldcorp Inc. to support the mining engineering program, and the U of T’s deal with mining mogul Peter Munk and the Ontario government to create the Munk School of Global Affairs, both of which largely protect academic freedom.

It also praised the University of Waterloo and Wilfrid Laurier University’s joint program with BlackBerry founder Jim Balsillie’s think tank, the Centre for International Governance Innovation (CIGI), for protecting the academic integrity of the Balsillie School of International Affairs.

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5 tips for healthy skin

Posted on 28 November 2013 by admin

Good skin care — including sun protection and gentle cleansing — can keep your skin healthy and glowing for years to come.

Don’t have time for intensive skin care? Pamper yourself with the basics. Good skin care and healthy lifestyle choices can help delay the natural aging process and prevent various skin problems. Get started with these five no-nonsense tips.

1. Protect yourself from the sun

One of the most important ways to take care of your skin is to protect it from the sun. A lifetime of sun exposure can cause wrinkles, age spots and other skin problems — as well as increase the risk of skin cancer.

For the most complete sun protection:

  • Use sunscreen. Use a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of at least 15. When you’re outdoors, reapply sunscreen every two hours — or more often if you’re swimming or perspiring.
  • Seek shade. Avoid the sun between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., when the sun’s rays are strongest.
  • Wear protective clothing. Cover your skin with tightly woven long-sleeved shirts, long pants and wide-brimmed hats. Also consider laundry additives, which give clothing an additional layer of ultraviolet protection for a certain number of washings, or special sun-protective clothing — which is specifically designed to block ultraviolet rays.

2. Don’t smoke

Smoking makes your skin look older and contributes to wrinkles. Smoking narrows the tiny blood vessels in the outermost layers of skin, which decreases blood flow. This depletes the skin of oxygen and nutrients that are important to skin health. Smoking also damages collagen and elastin — the fibers that give your skin its strength and elasticity. In addition, the repetitive facial expressions you make when smoking — such as pursing your lips when inhaling and squinting your eyes to keep out smoke — can contribute to wrinkles.

If you smoke, the best way to protect your skin is to quit. Ask your doctor for tips or treatments to help you stop smoking.

3. Treat your skin gently

Daily cleansing and shaving can take a toll on your skin. To keep it gentle:

  • Limit bath time. Hot water and long showers or baths remove oils from your skin. Limit your bath or shower time, and use warm — rather than hot — water.
  • Avoid strong soaps. Strong soaps and detergents can strip oil from your skin. Instead, choose mild cleansers.
  • Shave carefully. To protect and lubricate your skin, apply shaving cream, lotion or gel before shaving. For the closest shave, use a clean, sharp razor. Shave in the direction the hair grows, not against it.
  • Pat dry. After washing or bathing, gently pat or blot your skin dry with a towel so that some moisture remains on your skin.
  • Moisturize dry skin. If your skin is dry, use a moisturizer that fits your skin type. For daily use, consider a moisturizer that contains SPF.

4. Eat a healthy diet

A healthy diet can help you look and feel your best. Eat plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains and lean proteins. The association between diet and acne isn’t clear — but some research suggests that a diet rich in vitamin C and low in unhealthy fats and processed or refined carbohydrates might promote younger looking skin.

5. Manage stress

Uncontrolled stress can make your skin more sensitive and trigger acne breakouts and other skin problems. To encourage healthy skin — and a healthy state of mind — take steps to manage your stress. Set reasonable limits, scale back your to-do list and make time to do the things you enjoy. The results might be more dramatic than you expect.

By Mayo Clinic staff

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Vision 2025 Irrelevant and Distracting

Posted on 28 November 2013 by admin

Dr. Hasan Askari

Lahore

  Pakistan’s federal government announced on November 22, 2013 that it was launching a plan for socio-economic development and for improving the quality of life for ordinary people under the title of VISION 2025. Its details are to be finalized by the end of December. This project has been initiated by Ahsan Iqbal, federal minister for Planning and Development which aims at giving a development agenda up to year 2025.

 Ahsan Iqbal had launched a similar program “Vision 2010” during the earlier PMLN government, 1997-1999. The PMLN government came to an end in October 1999 and the Vision 2010 became irrelevant. Now, Ahsan Iqbal has returned to the same strategy of selling dreams of a better future.

 The real issue is not the making of a plan but its implementation. What is the guarantee that the present government will survive until 2025 to implant the plan. This project is being launched at a time when Pakistan faces acute internal problems and external pressures. The situation is so uncertain that we cannot confidently talk of what would be the internal situation of Pakistan by the middle 2014, when American and NATO troops would be partly withdrawn. Will Pakistan’s government overcome its policy of inaction and a failure to match performance with promises?

 Currently, the PMLN federal government has a comfortable majority in the National Assembly. The same can be said about its provincial government in the Punjab where it has clear majority in the provincial assembly. Therefore, it does not face any obvious threat to its rule. The opposition is also not in a mood of confronting the PMLN. This gives enough space to Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to pursue his political agenda and address the problems that Pakistan faces today.

 Despite the federal government’s political strength it avoids taking firm positions on a number of important issues that causes uncertainty in the political system. The appointment of the new Army Chief and Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff was delayed unnecessarily. Normally such key appointments are announced several weeks before the deadline. This delay has amounted to humiliating the top brass of the army who were kept guessing for a long time.

 The federal government needs to set its priorities right. The most difficult problem is Pakistan’s troubled economy, especially the declining foreign exchange reserves, increased current account deficit and a heavy reliance on bank loans to cover official expenditure. The steep price hike of food items and other household goods is hurting every family. These problems are linked with two other problems: energy crisis and internal violence and terrorism.

  In Pakistan, non-state armed groups that use Islam to justify their activities appear to have become so strong that the state avoids confronting them. Consequently, these groups have developed strong roots in Pakistani society and have cultivated support within the state institutions, including the security establishment. Therefore, there is a little attempt to implement the writ of the state in full against the threats by non-state militant Islamic groups that are present in the Punjab, in addition to the tribal areas.

 The notion of primacy of Pakistani state has weakened. Most political leaders and Islamic parties support Pakistan’s sovereignty when it comes to India or the United States. However, when Taliban and other militant Islamic groups challenge the Pakistan and reject its constitution and legal authority, it is not viewed as a violation of Pakistan’s sovereignty.

  The narrative of drones violating Pakistan’s sovereignty by the government and other political and Islamic groups is one sided. This is being used to build and cash on anti-U.S. sentiment to make political gains in the Punjab and Khayber-Pakhtunkhwa.

 If the issue is protection of Pakistan’s sovereignty, it needs to be protected against all encroachments. If the drone aircraft violate Pakistan’s sovereignty, so do Taliban and other militant groups. But, most political leaders only blame the U.S. for violating sovereignty.

 In fact there is a race among religious and political parties for cashing in anti-U.S. sentiments. As the PMLN, Tehrik-i-Insaf and Jamaat-i-Islami appeal to same type of people and voters in the Punjab. These are from the Political Right to Far-Right and Islamists, none of these parties reduce their anti-U.S. sentiments which are strong in these circles. In other words, foreign policy interests are being sacrificed for making domestic political gains.

 The PMLN government is pursuing two types of policies. Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, Interior Minister, has adopted anti-U.S line to compete with Imran Khan. The Prime Minister and Advisor on Foreign Policy are pursuing a moderate line. The most interesting situation developed on November 23 when Pakistan newspapers published two news items. One news item reported Chaudhry NIsar Ali’s criticism of the U.S. as a country that wants to destabilize Pakistan. Another news on the same day reported about the joint statement at the end of the meeting of Pakistan-United States Defense Consultative Group in Washington (November 21-22) where the two sides decided to continue with defense related cooperation even after 2014. This also included cooperation for countering terrorism.

 These conflicting signals are causing much confusion in Pakistan because it is not clear if the government has determination to fight terrorism or the Pakistan state will breakdown as a cohesive entity under pressure from terrorism and violent non-state actor.

 The absence of a unified approach by Pakistan government on its relations with the U.S. and other western countries is causing confusion. A large number of people inside and outside the government are afraid of criticizing Taliban and other militant groups because they do not know if the government treats these groups as a friend or foe. Further, there is a strong fear that an open and persistent criticism of Taliban and Punjab based militant groups exposes a person and his immediate family to life threats. The state is often unable or unwilling to protect the people threatened by these groups.

 The notion of “Vision 2025” is irrelevant. The government must deal with the immediate problems and meet with the challenge of armed non-state groups that also manifests in sectarian violence. Unless the current economic issues and religious groups are controlled, the government will be unable to deliver anything and thus lose credibility. If these trends continue, it is difficult to predict if the Pakistan government will be able to keep the state affairs under its firm control. 

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India would be better off engaging with Sri Lanka

Posted on 28 November 2013 by admin

Ramesh Thakur

Australia

Who would have thought a neophyte Australian foreign minister could get policy right on Sri Lanka while India’s prime minister scores yet another foreign policy own goal in his backyard?

Julie Bishop rejected calls for Australia to boycott the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Colombo on November 15, insisting that Sri Lanka’s human rights record is better advanced by engagement than isolation. Prime Minister Tony Abbott duly attended.

Manmohan Singh stayed away, joining Canada’s Stephen Harper. The diplomatic snub to Colombo is more likely to set back regional cooperation and damage India’s national security. Having won a decisive victory on the battlefield against the vicious Tamil Tigers, Mahinda Rajapaksa has done his very best to lose the ensuing peace with intimidation and incarceration of opponents, dissidents and journalists, serial harassment of ethnic and religious minorities, and extrajudicial killings and disappearances.

There is something to be said for adopting association standards and suspending or expelling those who violate collective norms. It makes less sense to boycott meetings held on the territory of members in good standing.

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India’s decision is not likely to exercise any positive impact on Sri Lanka’s human rights record. No one believes Singh’s primary motivation is the welfare of Sri Lankans; everyone knows it is a sop to India’s 60 million Tamils before next year’s election. His decision flowed not from personal conscience or political courage but cowardice. Harper’s decision is also mostly a cynical effort to court the ethnic Tamil vote.

There are many arguments against gesture politics. First, governments have control over their own laws, policies and actions but not over that of other countries. They can promote human rights laws and practices concretely by looking inwards instead of at others. The Harper government has been particularly bad in trashing parliamentary practices, conventions and institutions. Canadian NGOs that criticise the treatment of Palestinians under Israeli occupation risk loss of government funding no matter how credible the charges.

In June 2011 Canada single-handedly blocked asbestos from being added to the hazardous-chemicals list of the UN’s Rotterdam Convention. Canada was happy to mine, ship and profit from asbestos at the cost of large numbers of Third World lives. So spare me any Harperite sanctimony on the welfare of poor people in poor countries.

The scope for improving India’s own human rights record is infinite, starting with brutality in Kashmir and extending to the need to protect women from sexual violence, rescue children from slavery and trafficking, and protect ethnic, religious and tribal minorities from violent assaults and rapacious depredations. Singh could also assuage Sikh anger by launching criminal investigations against his own party leaders who incited killer riots against Sikhs after Indira Gandhi’s assassination in 1984.

Gandhi’s son Rajiv was felled by a Tamil terrorist. His widow controls today’s Congress Party and is party to a decision to diplomatically dishonour the government that liquidated the Tamil Tigers as a terrorist force. State political leaders in Tamil Nadu are closing ranks with fellow Tamils across the Palk Strait by closing their eyes to the reality of the terror unleashed on Sri Lankans for more than two decades. New Delhi also risks undermining its own numerous struggles against demands for autonomy and secession that could threaten national unity and territorial integrity.

West Bengal had already scuttled a carefully negotiated and potentially game-changing deal with Bangladesh. Is foreign policy now to be surrendered to the whim of every state government? Singh has fashioned a rod for beating the back of all future federal governments.

Chinese scholar Liu Zengyi comments that India’s relations with its neighbours will be harmed. The last time an Indian prime minister visited Sri Lanka was 26 years ago. Singh’s absence from Colombo will harden anti-Indian sentiment in all neighbouring countries. The primary beneficiary will be China, whose diplomatic, economic and military footprint in Sri Lanka and across south Asia will grow bigger. By attending, Singh could have led strongly worded public and private Commonwealth communications of concern on Sri Lanka’s deteriorating human rights record, political freedoms and civil liberties. All Commonwealth leaders could have addressed the top Sri Lankan leadership directly.

C.V. Vigneswaran, recently elected Tamil chief minister of Sri Lanka’s Northern Provincial Council, who attended the CHOGM inauguration, had urged Singh to visit the Tamil stronghold Jaffna. Singh would then have had a global platform to underline India’s stakes and promote justice for the Tamils, and thus could have ”messaged” his visit as an affirmation of solidarity with the Tamils. Instead India’s influence on Colombo regarding the Tamils’ place in Sri Lankan society will continue to erode.

An opportunity missed, a high price paid, and little achieved of lasting value. Only a handful more votes to cobble together a governing coalition next year which too will be too hobbled by coalition politicking actually to govern.

And that is likely to be history’s harsh judgment on 10 years of Singh’s tenure: he was in office but failed to exercise power to any visible social purpose. Or to mend and improve relations with neighbours. Or even to deepen human rights protections in India and south Asia.

Ramesh Thakur is professor in the Crawford School of Public Policy, Australian National University.

http://www.canberratimes.com.au/comment/india-would-be-better-off-engaging-with-sri-lanka-20131124-2y3uw.html#ixzz2ld8sOd2I

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