Archive | July, 2014

If I am good actor, don’t need bikini: Humaima Malick

Posted on 30 July 2014 by admin

Pakistani model-actress Humaima Malick was comfortable shooting a “kissing scene” for her debut Hindi movie, but she shuns bikini. Humaima is making her Bollywood debut with “Raja Natwarlal” and the film releasing Aug 29 is said to be a crime comedy.

“I don’t think I will be able to wear a bikini, I really don’t think so,” Humaima told IANS while sharing her views on donning that piece of costume.

Produced by UTV Motion Pictures and directed by Kunal Deshmukh, “Raja Natwarlal” will see Humaima teaming up with Bollywood’s serial kisser Emraan Hashmi.

“If I am a good actor, then there is no need to wear a bikini. In my film, there is no sex put in forcefully. Every romantic part makes sense. It’s been shot sensibly, which will not look vulgar,” she added. She also says that people should not judge her on the basis of the kissing scene.

Humaima said: “Everybody is loving it in Pakistan, they are proud of me and I don’t think you should judge a person on the basis of a kissing scene.” “I know the culture is different here. However, I was nervous because I never thought of doing it in my career but I could never have a best co-star. Doing it with him (Emraan) is far better than doing it with someone else. People love him for this and it doesn’t look vulgar.”

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Key to great romance is having deep respect for each other: Kareena Kapoor

Posted on 30 July 2014 by admin

KAREENA  Kapoor Khan in a freewheeling chat on her career mistakes, her next film ‘Singham Returns’ and tricks to keep the romance alive in a marriage You’re back with your film, ‘Singham Returns’…

(laughing) Yes. Rohit (Shetty) is known for action and comedy. In this film, Ajay (Devgn) is doing action and I am doing comedy. I love comedy. Rohit taps that comic aspect in me and takes it a notch higher. I was laughing even when I was dubbing. It is so difficult to do comedy; you need to have that energy all along. Some scenes, like in the one where I am driving a rickshaw, I could see everyone around me – the entire crew – laughing.

Even as she gears up for the release of her upcoming movie, Kareena says that she has no qualms about starring in commercial films.

So now you know how to drive a rickshaw?

Yes, I have an alternate profession in case this one doesn’t work out.

With your talent, it is disappointing to see you mostly in masala/action films…

I think commercial films are really important. I am proud to have worked with the Khans, Ajay etc because they all have given me respect as an actress. For instance, my role in ‘Singham Returns’. After watching the film, people will say that only Bebo could do this. Every actor brings to the table his/ her individual energy and this one needed mine.

You’d do great in women-oriented roles, but you’ve turned down some films which went on to fetch awards for the actresses who replaced you.

I don’t regret turning down those films and I am saying this from the bottom of my heart. I am truly happy for the actresses who won awards for those films. I am at a stage in my life where my priorities have changed. I expect people to respect that decision of mine. I have been here for 15 years. I don’t need to prove anything to anyone.

You also prefer working in familiar set ups.

Yes, but that has changed now. In my next film, I am working with Kabir (Khan) who I had not even met earlier. So I am hoping that this would be something new and fresh. Salman is producing the film and it belongs to the commercial category. I love masala films; I am a true blue Kapoor girl. Even now when I think of being part of something like ‘Singham Returns’, it gives me goosebumps.

Look at Gwyneth Paltrow. Even though ‘Iron Man’ is all about the titular character, Gwyneth is always an integral part of the film. (Smiling) It’s the same with me and Singham. You know it is not about hankering after woman-oriented films. I like films like ‘Revolutionary Road’, ‘Arth’, ‘Abhimaan’, ‘Aradhana’…now those are great roles. I hope such scripts come my way.

You seem to put more emphasis on relationships than being ambitious…Yes, people who know me understand that and I can’t change. For me, success and failure is the same thing. Jab We Met is as much my film as ‘Gori Tere Pyar Mein’. The other films might have become super successes, but the fact is that my life will go on amazingly well either way. But I must say that I understand the need to go through better scripts, so right now I am reading two new scripts to look for good content. Unlike people’s perceptions, I am not competitive or ambitious.

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Ash vouches for stemcell banking

Posted on 30 July 2014 by admin

Bollywood actor Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, who was adjudged the world’s fourth most beautiful lady, today reiterated the importance of stem cell banking by mothers and the situation that led to her decision to go in for stem cell banking for her daughter.

“The decision to bank umbilical cord cell had to be taken at a time when taking baby steps to parenthood. And on our part, we did some research, spoke to friends and our families, of course. We were informed about it,” said Bachchan, a young mother herself.

Donning a red saree and black blouse with a string of fragrant jasmines decorating her hair bun – the traditional attire of women from the South, Bachchan looked elegant and aptly dressed for the day today – Parents’ Day. On being informed it was Parents’ Day, the mother of two-and-a-half year old Aaradhya said, “Every day is Parents’ Day.

We are meant to have such a beautiful experience in our lives and let us celebrate that emotion every week and day in our lives.” Describing the situation that led to her decision to go in for stem cell banking for her daughter, she said “Knowledge can be very useful and once were aware of the potential of stem cell banking, the decision was natural and we recognized how stem cells are such a precious gift that can be given to our children.”

“I think that every expecting parent in our country should become aware of stem cell banking. Stem cells from the umbilical cord is a nature given resource. That needs to be preserved,” she said. Bachchan was here to celebrate the milestone achievement of LifeCell’s preserving of 1,00,000 umbilical cord stem cell units.

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Rana Sarkar: Generation change is not about age, it’s about outlook

Posted on 23 July 2014 by admin

Liberal Party of Canada is engaging more and more diverse communities by opening up its nominations to all. In this regard, contests are being held in every riding. Liberal Party leader Justin Trudeau has promised that anyone can compete for the chance to be a candidate during the 2015 elections.

Seizing the opportunity in the newly-created riding of Don Valley North is Rana Sarkar. Mr. Sarkar is the former President & CEO of the Canada-India Business Council and current National Director of High Growth Markets, KPMG Canada and Board Co-Chair and Senior Fellow at the Munk School of Global Affairs, the University of Toronto is running to be the Federal Liberal Candidate.

Mr. Sarkar had been a Liberal candidate from Scarborough-Rouge River in the last elections but lost the election to NDP’s Rathika Sitsabaiesan.

Generation Next got an opportunity to ask this aspiring politician why he is running for Liberal nomination and what he thinks are key issues of Don Valley North:

Why do you want to be a politician?

I’m in it to make change. If you think of the last 10 years or even the last five, from wherever you are standing things are changing fast and its impacting all aspects of our lives including the very basic things of work, home, education and how we relate to the world (your smartphone?). To give you an example, my eldest son Seth, he’s eight and he’s older than Twitter. We have big snowballing revolutions unfolding in technology, the economy, climate, energy and demographics. Government is not set up to deal with this change but we need it to be a partner. We have all sorts of systems from Employment Insurance to Job Training and Immigration that respond to the old system and the way we used to work and live and not the new way. Politics is how we steer that. I can’t think of a time it’s been more important to be in politics. In the next 10 years we will be forced to grapple with some challenging decisions and set rules and establish new systems that will have lasting impact on our new world and we need a new generation that gets all at the table. Generation change is also not about age, it’s about outlook. Over the last two years I’ve been working closely with Justin’s team on shaping what change looks like in practice (I’m on his International Affairs advisor and my wife Reva is helping develop the platform for 2015 – its important with 3 kids to have your family aligned to the mission and we’re both very much engaged).

 We also need to change politics itself. It’s been far too negative for too long (check out voter turn out) and we can change that. Far too much is at stake to let the old pros, cynics to win by making politics so unpalatable that it drives people away. Justin has been a great embodiment of positive politics and we have much to do to make Canadian politics more open, evidence based and discussed (as Naheed says) in full sentences.

 That’s why I’m running to join Justin’s Parliamentary team. So we’re all in.

 Growing up in Don Valley North, what were some of the challenges you or your family talked about. How have those issues evolved since then?

My family moved to Don Valley North in 1980 from Halifax. It was a move up for us and like a lot of newer Canadians, the overhanging issue for us was getting into the Middle Class and trying to stay there. My dad lost his job in the recession of 1982 which was a huge blow to our family. And like a lot of kids, from an early age, my sister and I had jobs and paid our own way, my mother started working as a child minder and a healthcare aide. My grandmother lived with us and she helped out. We relied on a good public education system and the strength of community to get by, but there weren’t many vacations and we were never far from the feeling of precariousness. So when I see the struggles at the door from new immigrants or to parents worried about their children not finding a place on the economic ladder, or seniors worried about how they’re going to make ends meet, I understand where they are coming from and have a connection to what we need to do to ensure we secure the middle class. Its the backbone of the Canadian experiment.

 What are the key issues of the riding of Don Valley North?

 It’s about the economy, and how people can get onto ladders to predictable employment you can build a middle class life around, particularly for younger people and new immigrants. Transportation, immigration, education and smarter services are enablers to that goal of building a better life for yourself and opportunity for your kids in a fast changing world. People, regardless of where they come from or how long they’ve been in the country, young and old, get this at a very basic level.

 How can you as a member of Parliament direct dollars to your riding?

First of all I believe leadership isn’t just about more cash, it’s about doing things smarter, and there are plenty of examples from around the world on how creative solutions on transportation, housing and training for example be implemented without new money.

That said, we also need critical investments into the infrastructure of a 21st c economy – that means investing more in people, particularly the newly arrived, young people and seniors to better link them into the new economy and give them the supports to better plan and get on the ladder.

 Physical infrastructure is also a priority. We’re in a low interest rate environment where public re-investment into basic infrastructure in relatively unsexy sectors from sewers, water, transport and roads are also needed. There is a role of the Federal government in this, from ensuring the GTA gets its fair share to working with other levels of government and other sectors to catalyze plans that are in place but not implemented because no one is leading.

 Don Valley North has some distinct issues like allowing kids to say Friday prayers at school etc, allocating time for women to learn swimming at YMCA etc. How do you see these issues. Do you think allowances should be made for specific communities?

 One of the great advantages we have in Canada is we live under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and everyone broadly recognizes the competitive and moral advantage of diversity. I’m always struck by how the so called ‘reasonable accommodation’ debate, if approached with good will amongst neighbours, can be worked out in practice. But it starts with dialogue.

 What kind of a relationship do you think should be fostered between Modi government and the Canadian government? How can it be improved from current Harper government’s policies?

 The new government in India has thus far demonstrated a positive commitment for change. We should embrace that. The challenge with the Harper government approach on India is its been shaped overwhelmingly by domestic politics rather than genuine strategy (a constant theme for them).

 All announcements and photo-ops and low on delivery.

 As the former CEO of the Canada India Business Council I saw this up close and its frustrating to both our partners in India and Canadians trying to do business or build relationships in India.

 India will be increasingly important for Canadians in the decades ahead and we have an opportunity to be useful there in meeting their crisis needs in particular, from food, energy, water and infrastructure.

 We’ll also learn a lot there.

We badly need a fresh approach that goes from the episodic to the strategic.

 What do you think about Bill C 24 and its constitutionality?

C-24 is one of the most appalling of a long list of bad legislation we’ve seen from this government which has at its essence an electoral agenda rather than any real principles or evidence based policy.

We can draw two lessons of bill C-24, firstly it shows Conservative Party’s real view on Citizenship in that it allows for 1st and 2nd class Canadians. Citizenship if it’s meaningful can only be one.

 Second, it fits a pattern of legislation that is deliberately designed to be struck down by the Charter, which is a political strategy intended to appeal to parts of the Conservative base.

Some might see you as hailing from corporate world and distant from people – someone privileged – who may not understand people’s issues. Your reaction?

That’s funny. All that tells me is that I got to share my story more!

As I said, I grew up trying to get into the middle class and have never been far from that struggle.

Hey, I spent my first decade growing up in tough rental building in one of the poorest parts of one of Canada’s least advantaged regions. But that experience was also wonderful. It taught me that great people are everywhere and if given the chance, can be extraordinary.

 I’m inspired to this day by some of those kids and seeing challenge up close is what made me a Liberal and got me interested in creating a fairer, more prosperous Canada.

 I’m lucky in I got a good public education and managed to grow a varied career (these things only make sense in retrospect) but the corporate world has only been part of the story. I’ve never been far from start-ups, social enterprise and civic engagement which, though complicated, is really a common template for the creative economy and new world of work that people are moving towards.

Reva and I have three boys under eight, aging parents, career flux and busy lives like a lot of our generational peers – we get the challenges people are facing because we’re there too.

How are you different from some of your other fellow Liberals running for candidacy?

I respect anyone who puts their name on a ballot. But I’m running to represent all of the constituents of Don Valley North and am not drawing my support from anyone particular community. The heart of 21st century politics is to reach across communities and having representatives with voice in the main play and not the margins. That’s what I’m trying to do.

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Canadians are shaving thousands off the cost of their mortgage

Posted on 23 July 2014 by admin

A new survey says Canadians, on average, expect to be mortgage-free by age 58, one year later than in a similar poll a year ago.

But the survey, conducted for CIBC by Angus Reid, found some big discrepancies across the country.

For example, homeowners in British Columbia thought they wouldn’t be able to pay off their mortgages until they hit 66, while those in Alberta expected to be mortgage-free more than a decade earlier at 55.

The survey also found that just over half of those polled were taking advantage of the current low interest rate environment to pay down their mortgages faster.

Fifty-five percent said they were putting in extra effort into repaying their mortgages, although that was down from 68% last year.

CIBC says even small efforts can lead to big savings for homeowners in the long run.

For example, someone paying 4.99% interest on a $250,000 mortgage with 25-year amortization can expect to save nearly $35,000 of interest if they add $147 to their $1,453 monthly payments.

The same homeowner can save as much as $30,000 on interest if they make $726 payments every two weeks, instead of waiting until the end of the month to make a payment.

The bank pointed out that even making a lump sum payment every year — for instance, putting the average $1,600 tax refund towards the mortgage — would shave off $33,103 of interest.

“Employing one or more of these strategies does take some planning and discipline,” said Barry Gollom, vice-president of secured lending and product policy at CIBC.

“If becoming mortgage-free sooner is something you want to achieve, it’s important to look at your mortgage as part of your overall financial picture and to balance your mortgage payment plan against your other goals.”

Of those paying off their mortgages quicker than necessary, 32% said they were making payments more often, 28% were increasing the amount they pay while 18% said they had made either an additional prepayment or a lump sump payment.

Beyond Alberta and British Columbia, the survey found the average age respondents expected to be mortgage-free ranged from 56 years in Quebec to 57 years in Atlantic Canada and Ontario and 58 years in Manitoba and Saskatchewan.

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Posted on 23 July 2014 by admin

The Hon. Ralph Goodale


 This week the Bank of Canada reiterated our country’s weak economic standing by downgrading expectations for growth both this year and next. “Right now, we don’t have a sustainable growth picture in Canada,” Governor Stephen Poloz said. The Bank is now forecasting that Canada’s economy won’t recover from the doldrums for several years.

 This performance is a “serial disappointment” he said.

 None of this is news to anyone but the Harper government, which seems to be nothing more than a hapless spectator as the economy falters from one bad indicator to the next.

 For months on end, they dismiss weak employment numbers — like the ones recently reported by Statistics Canada for the month of June — as just “monthly volatility”. But it keeps recurring, month after month. One might ask, at what point does that so-called “volatility” become an undeniable trend in the wrong direction. Or to put it another way, when will Mr. Harper pull his head out of the sand.

 He tries to justify his grindingly mediocre record on economic growth and jobs by claiming to be doing better than any other G7 country. But that’s neither true nor relevant.

 The US and the EU were at the epicentre of the 2008 recession. Their economies fell to rock-bottom. To claim that Canada, nearly six years later, is doing a bit better than that bad lot is not saying very much. In fact, some 140 countries in the world are projected to grow faster this year than will Canada. Should we be content with that?

 Among G7 countries, over the past 18 months nearly all have made progress in reducing their unemployment rates (the US, the UK, Germany, France and Japan), while the other two (Canada and Italy) have not. Is that good enough?

 To camouflage his slow growth/no growth record, Mr. Harper claims to have generated “more than a million” new jobs since the lowest point in the recession. But examine his numbers. They are at least two years out of date.

 More recently, the pace of job creation has markedly slowed. Fewer than 100,000 Canadian jobs came into existence in all of 2013, and the numbers in 2014 are on track to fall short of even that sorry figure.

 The Bank is particularly concerned about the substantial decline in the “participation rate” in our labour force since just before the recession in 2008. It reports that 100,000 people aged 25-54 have given up looking for work altogether and that things are even more dire among our youth, with 200,000 dropping out of the labour force. Hardly a vote of confidence in Mr. Harper’s performance!

 And despite this lower labour market “participation”, job creation is still not keeping pace with the numbers of people still looking for work. Indeed, in the month of June, there were 230,000 more jobless Canadians than just before the recession.

 And what do we get from the Harper government?

 Decision-making based on Kijiji postings. A year of tax-paid government advertising about a “Jobs Grant” that didn’t exist. A temporary foreign workers system that is roundly condemned by both employees and employers alike. Complete denial about youth unemployment. And job-killing Employment Insurance payroll taxes frozen at artificially inflated levels to rake in more cash — just so Mr. Harper can concoct a surplus on the eve of an election.

 That’s pretty thin gruel for close to 1.4-million jobless Canadians.

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Tory proposes ‘One Toronto’ for inclusiveness and economic growth

Posted on 23 July 2014 by admin

The municipal elections of City of Toronto had caught attention of media and Torontonians earlier than usual this time around. Thanks to Toronto Mayor Rob Ford for that.

However, aside from Mayor Ford, there are some other very good candidates who are running for City’s top job. One of those candidates is John Tory.

Mr. Tory has an impressive and interesting history of bringing together diverse communities. As a Mayor he intends to keep it that way.

 As a candidate for mayoralty, Mr. Tory recognizes that a concerted effort has to be made to bring diverse and multicultural voices to the table whether they are at city’s boards or agencies or in private sector.

He has proposed ‘One Toronto’ in his platform.

‘One Toronto’ bears more than one meanings.

One is to have Toronto that is not fighting geographically.

Second is to bring together diverse communities of Toronto to the table so that all voices are heard.

” My entire history as a business leader was aimed at trying to find ways to ensure minority communities and represented,” he said in an interview with Generation Next.

From his experience, Mr. Tory knows that ‘if you ask them [people of diverse backgrounds], they will come.’

Does this mean that Tory City hall will make a determined effort to hire people of diverse backgrounds?

” A partial yes,” he responds “in the sense that people who are hired have to have necessary qualifications to do the job .. otherwise you are setting them up for failure .. you have to set up .. role models.”

Mr. Tory says that we know from studies and surveys that there is underrepresentation of multicultural communities.

” That’s the fact on the table .. now you have to do everything you can to bring forth people with merit .. so they have a chance to compete in the first place,” he elaborates.

Does this also mean that people who are permanent residents should get to vote at least municipally?

“No” is Mr. Tory’s straight forward response. Voting is a privilege associated with citizenship he says.

How can you build “One Toronto” when there are pockets of certain communities residing in certain neighbourhoods: large Somali population in Etobicoke, large Muslim population in Don Valley, large Tamil population in Scarborough for instance?

Mr. Tory believes that some issues such as public transit are common to all communities and all neighbourhoods. He argues that in many cases not having accessible public transit translates into isolation from jobs. As a Mayor Mr. Tory plans “to focus on issues of interest to everyone .. to give .. Toronto .. a unity of purpose.”

City of Toronto gets a large number of skilled immigrants each year. Many of these highly qualified immigrants are unemployed or underemployed. How will Mayor Tory work with other levels of the government to ensure that talent of these skilled immigrants does not go to waste?

It is ” morally unjust” for us to invite people to Canada after determining their skills and then turn around and suggest “you are on your own.”

” We need to press the governments and professions to do better.”

He says engineering bodies have done a better job than some other professional bodies in recognizing engineering credentials of skills immigrants so that they get jobs.

As a Mayor, Mr. Tory will not abolish the designation of priority neighbourhoods. He is of the view that these neighbourhoods have “higher unemployment, substandard housing .. and require attention .. in connecting .. to jobs.”

In his platform, Mr. Tory has proposed to streamline functions of the government so that things are done in timely manner. Doesn’t streamlining in government functions take months and sometimes years?

He says he is a big believer of “putting time frames and deadlines.”

Mr. Tory says that government’s projects are mostly over budget and almost never on time as “government stands in the way of people trying to create economic activity.”

The government, he says doesn’t set deadlines, making projects very expensive “because of immense paperwork and studies and so on .. rather than to deliver services .. using technology and efficiency.”

Have the Wynne Liberals and Harper Tories delivered for the City of Toronto?

“I have seen some very promising signs from provincial Liberals’ in investing in public transit .. that coincidentally ties in with my ‘SmartTrack’ plan in terms of financial resources and overall objectives like overall electrification etc .. the federal government has been less consistent .. they have written some checques here and there .. but I will persuade Mr. Harper .. to be consistent .. in his participation .. in building Canada’s economic engine.”

To bring jobs to one of Canada’s largest city, Mr., Tory intends to tread through foreign lands. He is somewhat disappointed that in recent years Toronto’s share of Foreign Direct Investment FDI has dropped from some other cities like Montreal, Miami and London.

Mr. Tory believes that Mayor is best suited to attract investments as he can advocate on behalf of labour, businesses, young people and the entire city.

Mr. Tory sees investments and partnerships in sectors such as financial services, telecom, biotechnology, food processing (halal food processing, he has been told, is a billion dollar industry), academic resources, animation, film and music production.

Through his visits to India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and China, Mr. Tory has observed that people are ” interested in establishing partnerships with Canada .. they are hesitant to go to the United States .. they [investors] see quite a lot of their community here and they will be close to the US for business opportunity.”

Attracting investments and jobs to Toronto, he believes, is the best investment of tax payers’ dollars.

As a Mayor he intends to tie property tax hike to rate of inflation or less.

As a seasoned politician, Mr. Tory dismisses polls and pundits that suggest that there can be a Conservative vote split between himself and Mr. Ford.

” I am running my own campaign .. I am putting forward a plan that I believe is to be a very viable and sensible plan for livable, loveable and affordable city. I will work with the city council and other levels of the government to deliver .. that is really resonating and will put me in the mayor’s office,” he says.

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Will Pakistani army be caught in political crossfire?

Posted on 23 July 2014 by admin

The Military will not be a party to the political conflict between Nawaz Sharif and the opposition

Dr Hasan Askari


 Two recent developments have increased the importance of the military in Pakistan’s current political contest.

These are the initiation of the security operation in North Waziristan by the military on June 15, and the efforts of the Nawaz Sharif government to cultivate the military after Imran Khan announced his Long March to Islamabad on August 14 for show of street power and, if possible, paralyze the Sharif government at the federal level.

  The decision to launch the military operation in North Waziristan was made by the military top command. It was obvious after the terrorist attack on the Karachi Airport that that Army could no longer delay the action simply because the civilian government was unable to make up its mind. Nawaz Sharif and his close associates were still making desperate efforts to initiate a dialogue with the Taliban but there was no credible response for that purpose from the Taliban.

 Once the Army decided for military action in North Waziristan, the federal government had no choice but to go along with it. Nawaz Sharif endorsed the decision and later other senior government officials also began to talk favorably for the military operation.

 The successful ejection of the Taliban and foreign militants from parts of North Waziristan has won widespread appreciation for the military from various political circles with the exception of some religious parties. A reluctant support also came from Imran Khan who was opposed to any military operation. The expected successful completion of the military operation would boost the image of the military.

 The major responsibility of managing the displaced people from North Waziristan is being undertaken by the Army. The federal government is extending a helping hand. Some support is coming from the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa government.

After the confusion of the first week, especially since the completion of registration of the incoming refugees, the management of the displaced people has improved. The societal response has improved by now as financial and material support is gradually becoming available from the societal groups, individuals and official circles.

 The PMLN governments at the federal level and in the Punjab are under pressure from the threat of street agitation by Imran Khan and Tahir-ul-Qadri. Imran Khan has already announced his Long March on Islamabad on August 14.

This has perturbed the two governments because they will have to handle the situation when the activists of Pakistan Tehrik-i-Insaf embark on their march towards Islamabad.

The bulk of the people would be coming from Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and Punjab.

The provincial government of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa is expected to use its official machinery to encourage people to march on to Islamabad.

 If Tahir-ul-Qadri announces a similar Long March to Islamabad or a major agitation in Lahore later in August, the PMLN governments in Lahore and Islamabad will face a major administrative challenge.

  Since the announcement of the Long March by Imran Khan, the PMLN leadership has started cultivating the Army. Its cabinet ministers have now become more vocal in their support for the military operation. The Prime Minister is now more active in supporting the security establishment on this issue.

 On July 16, the Army Chief called on the Prime Minister to brief him about the military operation in North Waziristan. It was unusual that the next day the Prime Minster along with three cabinet members and one special assistant went to the Army headquarters for getting briefings on the military operation. He also laid a floral wreath and offered fateha at the “Yadgar-i-Shuda” in the Army Headquarters.

 Nawaz Sharif wants to demonstrate that his government has smooth relations with the Army top commanders and that they support Nawaz Sharif while he faces a strong political challenge from the opposition.

  The Prime Minister has decided to hold a joint civil-military program, including military parade, on August 14 in the “D-Chowk” where Imran Khan wants to hold his protest rally on the same day.

 For last many years no public program or military parade has been held on August 14.

Since 2008, the Army holds the Independence Day Parade at midnight on August 13-14 at the Kakul Military Academy. The Army Chief takes the salute and addresses the parade. The civilian government used to hold a dinner program on the same night at the President House.

 Now the decision of the Prime Minister to hold a public show on August 14 at the venue already earmarked by the PTI for its protest appears to be politically motivated. He wants the military and Islamabad based diplomats to join the program which is a risky strategy because the government will have to make sure that no PTI protester enters Islamabad on that day.

 It would be ironic if the Punjab government uses the administrative machinery to make sure that PTI people do not reach Islamabad. However, the KP provincial government will be supportive of the PTI decision. A difficult political situation on that day will also be an embarrassment for the military which will be caught in the political crossfire between the Sharif government and the PTI and its allies.

 Will the Army with its increased respect in the society play a role in defusing the situation?

In 2008, the Army top command helped the PPP government to secure the resignation of President Pervez Musharraf in return for his safe exit.

 In 2009, it facilitated the restoration of the Chief Justice and the judges of Supreme Court from the PPP government which made it possible for the PMLN to stop its march to Islamabad led by Nawaz Sharif.

In the 2014 context, the military can suggest changes in the venue and the timing of the official program to avoid the PTI rally.

 Nawaz Sharif’s problems will not ease simply by showing that the military is participating in the August 14program.

The military will maintain its autonomy and avoid embroiling itself in the political conflict.

Nawaz Sharif will have to make tangible political offer to the PTI to defuse the situation.

It can be done through direct talks with the PTI or the proposal for accommodation can be sent through the military. These would be better options than the military imposing a solution.

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Terror Group Back on the Offensive in Afghanistan

Posted on 23 July 2014 by admin

With two high-profile attacks in the past three days — first on Tuesday, when a huge truck bomb killed at least 72 at a market in this remote eastern district, then on Thursday, when suicide attackers fired volleys of grenades on the Kabul airport — the feared Haqqani militant network has gone back on the offensive, Afghan intelligence and security officials said Thursday.

The officials said that after a relative lull in recent months during the Afghan presidential election, both attacks carried all the signatures of the Haqqanis, close allies of the main Afghan Taliban branch. The resource-rich terrorist group is largely based in Pakistan, but has focused on staging dramatic attacks on Afghan cities and against Afghan and international security forces.

Haqqani fighters may be enjoying more freedom to move within Afghanistan than ever. Local and tribal officials interviewed here on Wednesday, a day after the devastating truck bombing, said that more and more militants began moving in over the past year as American units began leaving border outposts.

Now, they said, the Taliban and its allies have taken over at least two former United States bases in the border area of Paktika Province, near Urgun.

“I told the chief of staff and minister of defense to post army units there or the Taliban would take over, and that is what happened,” said Juma Din, a member of Parliament from Paktika, whose own district of Giyan is entirely under Taliban control. “And we told the Americans, ‘If you are going to leave, you are going to open a gate for the Taliban,’ ” he said.

“They made a free zone for the Taliban,” said an Afghan tribal elder from the region. “Pakistani and Afghan Taliban are coming over to this side.” He spoke on the condition of anonymity out of fear of retribution from the Taliban.

For the Taliban, Paktika, which shares a long border with Pakistan’s tribal areas, is a particular prize. With its remote, largely unpoliced areas, the province provides the insurgents with staging areas and access to central Afghanistan with roads running into several adjoining provinces, and also links to a corridor that runs to Kabul.

Thursday’s attack in Kabul was the sort of thing the Haqqani network has been staging for several years, sending in small groups of suicide bombers to blast their way into government buildings or compounds and fight to the death, creating as much damage and publicity as possible.

Five fighters exploded a truck at the entrance to a construction site of residential apartment buildings opposite the military part of Kabul airport, according to witnesses and the police. They killed a guard and raced to the top of a building near the military side of the international airport, where they fired rocket-propelled grenades down into the compound, disrupting flights for hours. After a four-hour fight with Afghan special forces, the last attacker was killed.

In Urgun, the huge bomb blast that rendered a busy bazaar into a pile of rubble and bodies was the second to strike here in two weeks.

In the first, a suicide bomb attack wounded the local Afghan special forces commander, Azzizullah Karwan, and killed several police officers, including the district’s deputy commander.

Then came the truck bomb. It exploded near a religious school, but locals believe the bomber may have been heading for the district governor’s office nearby, or to the compound for the National Directorate of Security, the main Afghan intelligence agency.

“This is the result of the free zone,” the tribal elder said. “In a few days, they will try to take power in Urgun.”

Urgun has been one of the best-guarded spots in Paktika: It is home to a large Afghan Army base, and to C.I.A.-trained counterterrorism units now run by the directorate.

The leader of those units here, whose name was withheld by government request, is from the Waziri tribe that lives on both sides of the Afghan-Pakistan border, and wears his hair long in a style favored by the Taliban. He shrugged off concerns that the Taliban would take over Urgun, but acknowledged that things had become much more difficult since the units’ American mentors pulled out a year ago.

“Lwara has a Taliban flag,” he said, naming one important former American base on the border. Another base, in the village of Marga, is now “like Miram Shah,” he said, referring to the Taliban’s longtime center of operations in North Waziristan. Foreign fighters, including Uzbeks and Pakistani Taliban, were now using the Marga base, he said.

Officials say there has been an increased flow of militants into the Afghan side of the border regions in recent months. That is likely to continue as the Pakistani Army maintains its push into the militant stronghold of North Waziristan right on the other side.

Reports from Waziristan say that many armed militant fighters left the region well ahead of the offensive, and are escaping the brunt of it. Afghan civilians and security officials who were interviewed are convinced that the Pakistani military, which has long maintained ties to Afghan-focused militants, is purposefully trying to spare the Afghan Taliban and Haqqani fighters as it advances, despite its promises to disrupt all militant groups in Waziristan.

Pakistani officials insist that Taliban militants focused on attacking the Pakistani government and military have found a safe haven on the Afghan side.

The Afghan Army still maintains two outposts on the Afghan side in Paktika, and the counterterrorism units have two bases on the border. Yet, the commander said, the situation has become increasingly difficult. He said Pakistani militants were moving in quickly, occupying an outpost on Tuesday that used to be maintained by the Afghan Army. The commander’s unit had information that a suicide bomber, a boy of only 11 or 12, had crossed in from Pakistan, but the military failed to find him in time. Two more bombers were also on their way, he said.

A full day after the truck bombing, townspeople here rained curses on the district governor and police chief when the officials visited the bomb site with journalists, accusing them of failing to secure the town and its citizens. The bomb gouged a crater four yards across in the road, smashed rows of shops and splintered trees. Twisted wrecks of a dozen cars were flung aside.

“There were no cars, no ambulances, people were just lying wounded here on the ground and everyone was trying to help,” said Amin Gul, 30, who stood in the wreckage of his pharmacy. “Day by day, the security situation is getting really bad,” he added. “We do not believe in the governor, he is a thief.”

President Hamid Karzai was expected to visit Urgun this week. But in a sign of how dangerous the area is, the presidential protective service was ambushed on Thursday on its way here to coordinate security for the visit, officials said. Three soldiers who were escorting them were killed and four were wounded, said Gen. Zulmai Oryakhail, police chief of Paktia Province.

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Municipalities vie for postsecondary campuses

Posted on 23 July 2014 by admin

Some of Ontario’s fastest-growing municipalities, looking to host their own campuses, have partnered with universities in a bid for provincial funding to create postsecondary spaces in areas of projected enrolment growth.

The town of Milton, which had a 56.5-per-cent surge in population from 2006 to 2011, has teamed up with Wilfrid Laurier University on a campus proposal and “education village” that has been in the works since 2008.

Barrie, Markham and Brampton have also made partnerships, as universities and towns interested in opening new campuses have responded to a call from the province to meet growing demand for student spaces in regions that don’t have a local university.

John Corbett, Brampton’s chief administrative officer, said the city has a “two-goal strategy for university development” that includes a downtown undergraduate campus paired with a research-oriented university that would deliver graduate programs.

“We did our strategic plan last year, and we heard loud and clear from our residents that they wanted their children and grandchildren to have the ability to stay at home for cost-saving reasons, through all phases of education,” he said.

The population in Brampton grew by 20.8 per cent from 2006 to 2011, and city officials are working with Centennial College and senior administrators taking leave from the University of Guelph on a proposal to the province for a research-focused university.

Critics of the process, however, say the province’s plans are premature and the growth of some universities will come at the expense of others.

Laurentian University, with a student population of 9,700, has partnered with Barrie on a proposal for a standalone campus that would offer several programs not available at the main Sudbury campus. Dominic Giroux, the university’s president, said the new campus would feed demand from residents in Simcoe County for degree options close to home, while developing an urban centre in Barrie.

But plans for the new campus are being questioned by Orillia Mayor Angelo Orsi and Simcoe North MPP Garfield Dunlop, the new Conservative postsecondary critic, who said students are well-served by Georgian College’s university partnership centre in Barrie and Lakehead University’s Orillia campus, less than a half-hour drive away.

“I think the market is not there when there’s no shortage of capacity in Simcoe County here. So adding more capacity to an existing area, you’re causing more concern,” Mr. Orsi said.

In its call for proposals in March, the province outlined ambitious goals for “increased capacity at the undergraduate degree level” along with “greater affordability for students, institutions, and the province.” The ministry said the exact amount of funding for the initiative, which is “in addition” to the Liberal government’s 2011 pledge to create 60,000 spaces, is still being decided and the list of partnerships it has received will be released at the end of July.

According to the government, full-time enrolment in Ontario increased by 160,000 between 2002-03 and 2012-13. Over the next several years, enrolment pressure is expected to dip before rising steadily after 2020.

Many municipalities competed with one another to secure a partnership with a university. York University chose from six municipalities in the York Region before partnering with Markham in a proposal to launch a third campus, its first outside Toronto.

Universities interested in capacity expansions will need to demonstrate that their project would support enrolment growth of more than 1,000 full-time students in the short term, with potential to increase substantially over a longer period. For new campus proposals, the government is looking to put campuses in areas that don’t currently have a university and where enrolment could grow to 10,000 in 20 years.

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