Daily Times Opinions | July 5, 2020

USA: valiant struggle for liberation & justice

By Dr. Ikram Ul Haq

July 4, 1776 has special significance in American history. The great liberation movement against the colonial rule was pioneered in this land and founding-fathers of this historic struggle showed the subjugated nations a novel path of hope. They started a new beginning of self-rule. It took many hundred years for American society to struggle on all fronts and make its mark as one of the leading nations of the world. For many countries, the United States of America (USA) became a role model in political evolution achieving great cohesion and solidarity amongst federating units within the constitutional framework. Great movements for human rights and against bigotry, intolerance, discrimination, exploitation, inequality and racism made the place a noteworthy example for others to follow. The democratic set-up, quite different from conventional British system backed by monarchy, stemming from indigenous roots established and developed its own principles is a unique and noteworthy achievement.

What happened on May 25, 2020 in Minneapolis in the aftermath of death of George Floyd, a handcuffed black man, while in police custody, once again reminded the Americans that struggle for a just society free of racial biases and hate, maltreating the black and other non-white races, is a continuous process. It never ended, and will not go away as long as there are hate mongers, war maniacs, bigots, people with vested interest and those who use race, caste and creed and all other aberrated forms of superiority for their political gains. In this context, the Time magazine wrote in 2018 that Trump “rode race, the third rail of American politics, straight to the White House. He challenged Obama’s citizenship, called Mexicans rapists and criminals, proposed to ban all Muslims from entering the country, insisted on the need for “law and order,” argued that immigration was changing the “character” of the United States and openly courted white supremacists”. It proved beyond doubt since his taking of oath on January 20, 2017 that how callously and criminally he handled matters pertaining to blacks and other minorities and showed his true ugly face during the recent demonstration in various parts of USA after George Floyd’s death.

David Smith of The Guardian aptly summed up: The uprising over Floyd’s killing, and over four centuries of slavery, segregation and injustice, demanded a space and time to heal, not a time to fight. But Trump’s entire political identity is constructed around conflict. At the height of the demonstrations, he staged a bizarre photo op outside a church after law enforcement used tear gas to clear peaceful protesters outside the White House. In an unprecedented announcement….General Mark Milley, the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, apologised for taking part”.

Nell Irvin Painter, author of Exodusters: Black Migration to Kansas After Reconstruction and The History of White People in an article, Trump revives the idea of a ‘white man’s country’, America’s original sin, published in The Guardian on July 20, 2019 noted that, “Just as Trump has carried his just-happen-to-be-white into proud-to-be-white followers and into white nationalism, anti-Trump Americans must carry the nation in a saner direction. And just as Trump’s racism calls up old themes in America’s history, anti-racists must now act on a history of their own, one sufficiently powerful to defeat Trumpism, as it defeated slavery, segregation and disfranchisement.

Today’s USA of Trump is different from what its founder fathers conceived as was that of George W. Bush Jr. He made USA a hegemonic state committed to waging wars for oil, drugs and weapons. Now Trump, in addition to all those, further defaced it by converting it into ‘Land of Conflicts”.

The day Bush was installed as president of USA in 2000 by a 5-4 vote of the US Supreme Court, Zalmay Khalilzad headed the Bush-Cheney transition team for the Defence Department and advised incoming Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, USA became a different state-captive in the hands of hawkish war mongers-such was never dreamt of by its founder fathers, nor the people. At that point, only a few commentaries in the American media unveiled the military campaign of Bush-Cheney, including the San Francisco Chronicle on September 26, 2001 as its staff writer Frank Viviano, observed: “The hidden stakes in the war against terrorism can be summed up in a single word: oil. The map of terrorist sanctuaries and targets in the Middle East and Central Asia is also, to an extraordinary degree, a map of the world’s principal energy sources in the 21st century…It is inevitable that the war against terrorism will be seen by many as a war on behalf of America’s Chevron, Exxon, and Arco; France’s TotalFinaElf; British Petroleum; Royal Dutch Shell and other multinational giants, which have hundreds of billions of dollars of investment in the region.”

Later events testify his point. The invasion of Iraq by US and its allies using the myth of weapons of mass destruction [which was just a hoax] and appointment of Khalilzad as US Ambassador proved beyond any doubt that the reality of ‘war against terrorism’ was nothing but quest for OIL. Donald L. Barlett and James B. Steele [TIME, May 19, 2003] remarkably exposed the dark side of American oil policy from classified government documents and oil industry memos, involving a pair of Iraq’s neighbours, Iran and Afghanistan.

The USA first changed from enviable democracy to a fanatic state under Bush-Cheney and then to ‘Land of Hatred and Racism’ by Trump. On both occasions, the state made subservient to billionaires, running all kinds of businesses, especially oil, arms and drugs, who know how to move money from one part of the world to another, buy government functionaries, control politicians, law enforcement officials and get the profits they want-all at the expense of innumerable poor and helpless people around the world.

But movement started for justice after the brutal killing of George Floyd at the hands of police has rekindled the hope that the masses of USA will regain justice for all-the substance of democracy. The recent protests in USA and their worldwide support have shown that a true rule of people means their participation in attaining justice and equality-the main pillars of democracy. The enlightened Americans undoubtedly deserve salutation. The country has produced in the modern era scholars like Edward W. Said and Noam Chomsky, who showed the world how one can struggle and expose those who exploit others for their petty interests. The great historic tradition of resistance against injustice by majority of Americans, a vibrant nation, and their current movement against racism at its heart is to end economic exploitation, war hysteria and achieve equality for all human beings beyond class and race. It will lead to a new America becoming again inspiration for all those, who are fighting against all forms of oppression and exploitation in any part of the world.

 

Remembering the dark night of the 5th July

By M. Alam Brohi

The 5th July is firmly etched in our memory. That black night, the praetorian forces overturned the applecart of democracy; held the Constitution of 1973 in abeyance; arrested the political leadership en mass; clamped Martial Law in the country; usurped senior political positions; restrained the superior courts; gagged the press; garrisoned the cities and towns; established military courts at all levels. In all, the political tumult which preceded the night was quickly turned into a deadening silence accompanied by a thick pall of gloom, an unknown fear, a despairing uncertainty, a strong feeling of disappointment and a deepening disillusionment.

We had lost the bigger part of the country just six years ago. We had sustained defeat, humiliation and dismemberment of the Jinnah’s Pakistan. Our military and civilian leadership knew that the main cause of the disgruntlement of the Bengalis was the absence of a participatory democratic rule. The political jerry mandering of the early years and the abrogation of the first Constitution of the country (1956) in Martial Law, followed by a long autocratic rule by a General had sowed the seeds of separatism in the former East Pakistan. After a decade’s effective rule, he handed over power to his Commander in Chief, General Agha Yahya Khan in violation of his own Constitution of 1962. The separation of former East Pakistan was a devastating blow to this hapless nation. The People were shell shocked and gripped by a fear of the collapse of this part of Pakistan; the young army officers were seething with anger and up in arms against their senior leadership. The situation had spiraled out of the control of the ruling junta. Some sound minds in the GHQ took control of the fast aggravating situation and contacted Zulfikar Ali Bhutto to take over.

Thus, the broken and half-sunk country was handed over to him to rebuild it. This was the greatest political challenge to Bhutto. The political acumen of a leader comes to play into a crisis of this magnitude. He passed this litmus test with remarkable achievements. He virtually picked up the pieces of the broken ship to rebuild it; he raised the sinking morale of a despairing people and restored the confidence of a disillusioned nation. He addressed the post-war issues with India and recalibrated the country’s relations with the neighbours, superpowers and the Muslim world. He rebuilt the army as a fighting force, restored the economy of the country and achieved a marked political consensus for the new Constitution and the political dispensation. He accomplished this gigantic task within a span of three years.

Bhutto was the product of the chequered political history of the country. He had his political grooming under Iskander Mirza and General Ayub Khan, though he had always displayed an independent bent of political thinking. His evaluation of the global power politics remained at odds with that of his mentors. His aversion to strategic alliances or placing the country’s eggs in one basket was evident. He believed in exploring avenues of independent bilateral relationships. He considered Pakistan a vital part of the Muslim world and the Afro-Asian bloc of nations. This fully crystallized in his foreign policy when he was at the helm.

It was the economic and political domains where he erred phenomenally. He went the whole hog for nationalization. The nationalization of banks, insurance companies, and big industries to prevent the exploitation of the labour was understandable but the takeover of small industries like foundries, rice husking, cotton ginning and Ice factories, private schools and colleges was unfathomable. This inflicted a heavy blow to the private investment in the country. Though riding on a high crest of popularity, he fell back on the traditional strong arm tactics in the politics showing intolerance for the opposition and the media. He jailed many opponents on frivolous grounds. He also dealt sternly with the vocal left wingers in his party. In the last years of his rule, he drifted from his original constituency – the poor masses – wooing traditional political dynasties. He paid heavily for this political waywardness.

The political turmoil ignited by the controversial general elections of 1977 lingered too long and revived the praetorian ambitions of the Generals lurking in the background and playing on both sides of the wicket to sabotage the dialogue between Z.A. Bhutto and the opposition. Bhutto failed to gauge the ambitions of his General. Overconfident about the loyalty of his handpicked Army Chief, Bhutto also displayed complacency. An agreement covering all the main demands of the opposition had already been ironed out. Bhutto wanted to sign it after his suddenly-arranged visit to a couple of Muslim countries. On his return, the 5th July was appointed for the signing of the agreement. A senior civil servant in the bureaucracy sounded the General to strike or be ready for crucifixion. In the early morning of the 5th July when the clock struck 2.0, the military surrounded the vital buildings in Islamabad including the Prime Minister’s House near the GHQ. The Prime Minister and the main PPP and opposition leaders were rounded up and whisked away.

Behold the coincidences that the rules were relaxed and the same ominous hour of 2.0 was chosen for the execution of Z.A. Bhutto on 4th April and the same aircraft of C-130 which had fetched him from Rome to rebuild the country was used to carry his mortal remains to Larkana. Bhutto was physically eliminated and the PNA leaders did not even get a crumb of power. They had to bite the bullet to work as adjuncts to the PPP for the restoration of democracy in 1984. In the meantime, the country had been set on the path of religious bigotry and militancy and sectarian polarization and plunged into the Afghan war with all its concomitant consequences. We have not yet been able to rid the country of this extremism. Even then, neither our politicians nor our military leadership have learnt any lesson from the retrogressive cycles of our short history.

 

Rise of the moronic regime

By Munir Ahmed

We have seen many insane and short-sighted politicians in Pakistan parliament in different governments, whether so-called democratic or purely dictatorial regimes. We are extremely blessed with the present one – the first ever regime in the last two decades that has most of the morons of all seasons and moments. However, except a couple of cabinet members that sometimes speak rationally just to give a different taste, others frequently act insanely beyond limits. Just watch them speaking in the Senate or the National Assembly, in a press conference or a TV talk show.

Surprisingly, it is not about the government players alone, the opposition is also generously blessed with the same moronic species. So, we see every day the worst of the worst on the TV channels and read their ridiculous and exemplary stupid statements in newspapers. They damage national interest and integrity, solidarity and repute of the national institutions. No check on them. They are free to say anything, anywhere, believing themselves the disciples of Aristotle. Unfortunately, they don’t bother to watch and monitor the international media how it reacts to the moronic statements of Pakistani politicians especially those sitting in the cabinet.

Luckily, we, the national and international media persons, have the chance to frankly comment on a variety of topics and the persons involved or engaged in the content of discussion. There comes the actual feedback on the morons and maniacs of today’s politics especially in the present regime.

This is terrible that international journalists consider the PTI regime, from top to bottom, a laughing stock. They crack unbearable jokes on their insane political statements.

Today, I had a call from a seasoned international journalist quoting the federal minister for information and broadcasting Shibli Faraz, “where a word Pakistan is attached to any organization, it is in the worst condition”.

His satirical question was, “what about Pakistan itself and Pakistan Army?” Extremely embarrassing was the question I went through because of the word ‘Pakistan’.

I can bear with any satirical or cynical even abusive words for any person in media, politics, civil or military bureaucracy, but not for my country or my army or any state institution. This is unfortunate that the ruling party, more specifically the cabinet of insane morons, have pushed the country and the state institutions to the verge of disgust and disrespect.

Mockingly, I replied to the journalist: Yes, you are right Pakistan itself is in the worst situation because of the so-called ruling ‘politicians’ such as Shibli Faraz and Ghulam Sarwar, the lame minister for Civil Aviation. The latter one has thrown a hand-grenade on the entire civil aviation industry in Pakistan.

Known for corrupt practices and said to be having a fake degree, Ghulam Sarwar might be having a specific agenda or vested interest for blowing up a small administrative disorder to a huge scam. It could not be merely a mistake that would be left unnoticed while the European Union has banned PIA flights and many airlines have grounded the Pakistani pilots employed with them.

PIA was one of 68 state-owned entities set for privatization in 2013 as part of a deal in which the International Monetary Fund (IMF) would provide some $6.7 billion to help Islamabad avoid a default. The privatization of PIA stalled in 2016 after staff protests, and the government then moved to block the sale.

Keeping in view the aforementioned context and having the government bow down to the IMF unconditional terms and having employed the IMF staff on the key positions, the statement of Ghulam Sarwar seems to be a planned one and comprehendible. Perhaps that is why [Prime Minister] Imran Khan has taken no serious notice of the disastrous statement. Perhaps, Khan is happy inside about the situation Ghulam Sarwar has created. It would create room to sell off PIA at no price, and earn huge kickbacks on the new licenses. Rumours are in the air that it is being done to benefit the Askarai Air.

Pakistan Steel Mills had almost 9 billion in its kitty when PTI took over the government, and they had all tall claims to run it more efficiently. But it has collapsed and on auction now for peanuts. Some other government properties that are in the pipeline for sale would soon be collapsed like PSM and PIA.

Pakistan Tourism Development Corporation (PTDC) has been wrapped-up and over 400 employees have been terminated without compensation of any fringe benefits. Chairman of the enfolded PTDC Zulfiqar Abbas Bukhari alias Zulfi Bukhari has said that the government would establish another tourism authority with a new vision. Bravo…. Great vision.

Why is the Pakistan government in a hurry to sell out the Roosevelt Hotel of Midtown in Manhattan (New York)? In 2015, the average price of the Roosevelt with 1,015 rooms was estimated at $636 million. But the US estate experts were of the view that If it sells for the prices of hotels sold in Midtown Manhattan, which are its true comparable, it would sell for between $1 billion and $1.4 billion in enterprise value.

The honest and pious government is planning to sell it out very cheap – another scandalous disaster is in the offing. It would be graciously added to a long list of evidently proved mega and small corruption scams by the close aides of the PTI prime minister, a party sloganeering to root out corruption from the society and government institutions, and to promote, ensure and mainstream social, economic and legal justice – that is still a far cry for a common citizen rather the ruling morons have added more miseries to the fate of common people. People are cursing the rulers, and to those as well who selected them all. Selectors may be aware of their fast deteriorating repute. Sooner or later, they would have to go for their damage control. Why not sooner than later?

 

Bood abad dayam Shahr e Lahore

By Syed I. Husain

The Hindu realm of Loh-awar annihilated with the departure of last Rajput king, who was defeated by the powerful Ghaznavi forces. Lahore was plundered by Genghis khan’s army. Khilji and Tughlaq dynasties didn’t give any attention to Lahore. Then came the Moghuls, Babur’s invasion brought the end of Lodhi’s kingdom.

Lahore reached the peak of its architectural glory during the rule of the Mughals. During this time, the massive Lahore Fort was built. A few buildings within the fort were added by Akbar’s son, Jahangir. Jahangir’s son, Shahjahan was born in Lahore, who extended the Lahore Fort and built many other structures in the city, including the Shalimar Gardens. The last of the great Mughals, Aurangzeb, who ruled from 1658 to 1707, built the city’s most famous monuments, the Badshahi Mosque and the Alamgiri Gate next to the Lahore Fort.

Jalal ud din Muhammad Akbar was the third Mughal emperor, who moved his Capital from Fatehpur Sikri to Lahore and elevated the city from a provincial centre to a capital city of the Moghul Empire. The first residence prepared for Akbar was on an island in the River Ravi. At Lahore the Mughal Empire under Akbar and Shah Jahan was to reach its zenith.

The Lahore Fort is a citadel in the city of Lahore, Punjab, Pakistan. It contains 21 notable monuments, some of which date to the era of Emperor Akbar. Lahore fort Built, damaged, demolished, rebuilt and restored several times before being given its current form by Emperor Akbar in 1566. The Lahore Fort was almost entirely rebuilt in the 17th century when the Mughal Empire was at the height of its splendour and affluence.

Shahi Mohallah which is located deep in the heart of the vibrant city, in the very pious location of Lahore surrounded by Badshahi mosque, Data Sahab Darbar and Imam Bargah Gam e Shah. Not far from the Taxali Gate, this was built when Akbar expanded the original Walled City while rebuilding Lahore Fort. Shahi Mohallah did not exist before 1575; it was the centre of the city’s courtesan’s culture for the Lahore’s Mughal era elite during the 16th century. By the time emperor Shah Jehan ascended the throne a lot of people connected to royal activities, because of its adjacency to the court settled here, and children of the court were being educated and cultured in the fine arts by people living here.

Akbar’s son, Jahangir, built the first Shalamar garden in the Kashmiri landscape and his son Shah Jahan who was born in Lahore witnessed the construction of Shalamar Garden in Lahore. Shalamar Gardens were built primarily to entertain guests. The origins of Shalamar Garden are directly attributable to another garden of the same name built by Jahangir in Kashmir. The waterworks in Lahore required extensive engineering to create artificial cascades and terraces. Ali Mardan Khan was given the task whose name is closely associated with the construction of several buildings. His most distinctive work is a canal which brought water from the Ravi River to the suburbs of old Lahore, contributing to the construction of the Shalamar Garden.

The Wazir Khan Mosque was also commissioned during the reign of the Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan as part of an ensemble of buildings that also included the nearby Shahi Hammam baths. Wazir Khan Mosque is renowned for its elaborate embellishment in a style which draws from the decorative traditions from several regions.

Moti Masjid, despite being a small mosque and having limited usage, is no less striking than any other Mughal Era mosque. The building has its own valour and splendour, and constitutes all the elements of a mosque in a limited space. Moti Masjid is situated in Lahore Fort behind the Clerk’s House. It is one of the two mosques built in marble by Shah Jahan. The second such mosque was built at Agra Fort.

Lahore was the beloved city of Dara Shukoh, where he was serving as governor before he engaged in a civil war with Aurangzeb to claim the throne. Under Dara Shukoh, one can argue that the Mughal throne was heading towards embracing not only religious tolerance but also religious pluralism. Towards the end of his stint as the Lahore governor, Dara Shukoh summoned red bricks from Jaipur. He sought to build a pathway from the Lahore Fort, which would lead halfway across the city to the shrine of the Sufi saint Mian Mir who had died in 1635. Before Dara Shukoh could complete his pathway from Lahore to the shrine of Mian Mir, he was captured and killed by Aurangzeb’s men. Aurangzeb ordered that a mosque be constructed out of the pile of red stones that Dara Shukoh had summoned for the task. This is how the iconic Badshahi mosque of Lahore came into existence. Aurangzeb, unlike the previous emperors, was not a major patron of art and architecture and instead focused, during much of his reign, on various military conquests which added over 3 million square kilometres to the Mughal Empire. As a symbol of the mosque’s importance, it was built directly across from the Lahore Fort and its Alamgiri Gate, which was concurrently built by Aurangzeb during construction of the mosque.

Shahdara Bagh is the site of several Mughal eras monumentally, including the Tomb of Jahangir, the Akbari Sarai, Tomb of Asif Khan, Bara Dari of Kamran Mirza, and the Tomb of Nur Jahan. Jahangir who died in the foothills of Kashmir who is buried in the Dilkusha Garden. His body was brought in a funeral procession from Kashmir to Lahore. Nur Jahan is buried at her tomb in Shahdara Bagh too, which she had built herself. Upon her grave is inscribed the epitaph:

Upon my grave when I die,

No lamp shall burn nor jasmine be,

No candle with unsteady flame,

No bulbul chanting overhead,

Shall tell the world that I am dead.

The decline of Mughal Empire began after Aurangzeb’s death. Lahore was again ravaged by invaders. The last attack on Lahore was made by Shah Zaman Durrani who besieged the city…..

To conclude the glorious Mughal era, I couldn’t find anything better than the prayer of Dara Shukoh for my beloved city Lahore:

Khuda Punjab ra mehmur darad

Ba Khak e Auliya manzur darad

Bood abad dayam Shahr e Lahore

Waba wa Kahat Z bakha dur darad

__Dara Shukoh

May God keep the Punjab prospering!

May He protect the land of the Saints!

Oh, may Lahore be always full of bliss!

May disease and famine never visit it!

__ Pran Nevile

 

Political Science 7. Civics and Civic Morality

By Shoukat Qadir

Civics is defined as “a study of the duties and responsibilities of citizenship”. That doesn’t really seem like Political Science, does it? Civics is derived from the Latin origin, Civicus which means relating to a citizen and, more importantly, Political Science is the study of the relationship of the state with its citizens. Comprehending political science would, therefore, be impossible if it focused solely on the duties of the state.

In our last effort, we reviewed political ethics and morality and considered the possibility that ethics might be the underlying principle from which morals evolve. If that be so, what would be the ethical principle(s) for the evolution of civic morals? I can think of only one principle; “every citizen should think of his country as an extended home”. Why? First, because that is what it should be and; second, if applied in its spirit, the morals that flow from it will be rational.

Let us re-examine the basics of “home”. Foremost is that it is shared with other family members; which implies that each resident is a guardian of his/her own rights as well as that of other residents; food, water, facilities and funds are shared. There is an acknowledged [decision-making] authority and adjudicator.

The home is kept spick and span at all times so that the residents are not embarrassed if unscheduled visitor arrives. And, of course, the home needs an income to run things smoothly. For all these things to be attended to, while schooling and all other necessities were also attended to, responsibilities were distributed.

In my school days, Civics was a compulsory subject of study but we learnt more from necessity than schooling. “Waste not; want not”, is an old adage which life drove home. Our childhood and youth were spent in Army Officer’s Messes, all over the country.

The houses were small [it would be fortunate to have four residential rooms] but comfortable but, none had underground or overhead water tanks, nor running water. Running water came twice in a day, an hour each time, in the two taps connected to the water-line. We had improvised by installing a huge 40 gallon oil drum in each of the two toilets, but these had to be filled by lugging buckets full of water.

As the eldest, it was my responsibility, but my younger brother helped. And, when I wasn’t home, he took over. If friends/relatives were visiting us and the “water-time” came, they sat in the rear veranda while we attended to our duties, or chipped in, if they wanted to.

I still can’t see water wasted.

We were very, very, middle class and my mother ran her residential ship very strictly. There were trash cans in every room and no littering was permitted. We paid all our bills and so, no lights or fans [we had no ACs] could be left on, when not in use. My aunt and her children lived with us for some years. The house was cramped but, there were no complaints. In addition, other relatives would often drop on for a few days but, it all worked out. We shared; everything or took turns.

That’s where and how, I learnt my civics. I can still not waste electricity or anything else and my bills give me a headache every month. Now that my wife has gone, these too have become my responsibility. Imagine if we all paid our bills and taxes and didn’t waste, and shared what we had surplus to our requirement, what a happy and modestly wealthy country [extended home] we could have?

In the 1950s/’60s, if I bought a loaf of bread and dozen eggs, it cost 14 Annas [7/8 of a Rupee], I invariably, automatically got a receipt; which meant that the bakery’s income was recorded and taxed. Imagine today?

Ours is amongst the most expensively wasteful power provision system in the world. It is so, not merely because of theft but also because of line-wastage and corruption. While I cannot condone theft of anything, electricity theft I can understand. Not only is the system of getting a legitimate connection so bureaucratically torturous, it is also riddled with corruption and, if they get a connection, the bills are exorbitant.

The worst part is that those who can obtain connections and, can afford the actual bill, bribe whoever necessary and get away with paying much less; what is not billed, also goes down to line-losses.

In the 1970s, as a young major, I was invited for dinner to the house of a senior bureaucrat in Peshawar; whose wife was my wife’s class-fellow. My wife left early with the children in our car, assuming I would arrange to be dropped. Duly suited and booted, I set forth on my batman’s bicycle; which didn’t have a light.

Midway, I was stopped by a policeman for riding a bicycle without a light; and received a ticket. My clerk paid my fine the next morning. I sorely embarrassed my wife, when she learnt that I had come on a bicycle but, I was very proud that the lone policeman didn’t care that I was suited, nor inquired of me who I was, “he saw a violator and docked the perpetrator”—-a natural poet?

We were a civic people and, can still be, if we learn to live in our extended home as we should and could.


Published in Daily Times, July 5, 2020

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