December 29, 2013



In an article published on 2 January 2013 titled, ‘Resolutions every Pakistani must make’ it was emphasised that willing people can brave the most trying circumstances through emotions, aspirations, dedication and surges of national character and morale to propel a nations to pinnacles of greatness. 2013 being an election year was deemed to be the year of the people provided they made or were allowed to exercise the right choices.

Pakistan is a country lost in wilderness since creation. It suffers from a range of cancers that evade piecemeal treatment. There is no single cause that addressed would put the country on the path to prosperity. The entire politic body is infected with immune maladies that warrant to be attacked on a broad front. These afflictions are distorted history, ideological contradictions, socio-economic disparities, law and order, and a manipulative democracy. As the year ends, Pakistan remains a derelict ship lost in the high seas with a diversity of lethal cargo. In a way, it is this nuisance that helps sustain elites that have benefited most. In the past, democracy claimed its sweet revenge from the state in that it promoted personal gratification of elites and not the people it claims to serve. Most, it ate into the state. In my view, 2013 could have been the year of change but turned out to be the opposite.

In fact, numerous events, compromises, lingering doubts and unresolved questions not addressed before August 1947 haunt Pakistan even today. As in the past when some of the most effective leaders of the independence movement were disgraced, Pakistan’s politic body rejects progressive and nationalist leaders. This proves that the consequences of making Pakistan had not been deliberated and analysed threadbare. Hence as time passed, many leaders and people kept falling away till Pakistan was divided in 1971. Those who remain are political stragglers who have no value for the present ruling classes. Pakistan still faces crises of frontiers and ethnic vulnerability.

The first victims of this regurgitation were the Bengali leaders who actually floated the idea of a separate homeland for Muslims. Prominent amongst them were Sher e Bengal Abdul Kasem Fazlul Huq who after a ‘love-hate’ relationship with the League, drafted and presented the Lahore Resolution and Jogendra Nath Mandal, the first law minister of Pakistan. Others included Choudhury Khaliquzzaman of UP, GM Syed of Sindh, Joshua Fazal Din of Punjab and the entire progressive group that helped ignite the Kashmir Movement but were labelled as traitors in Rawalpindi Conspiracy. The disgraceful treatment of Sher e Bengal, GM Syed and Faiz Group meant that there was no place in Pakistan for those who dared to dissent with the narrative being framed by the establishment.

There is no doubt that Pakistan lost its spirit and direction after the death of Qaid E Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah. The West Pakistani politicians in connivance with the military, religious right and bureaucracy swiftly alienated the actual vanguard of the Pakistan Movement to sedition and anti-state activities. The political compulsions of states that acceded to Pakistan due to geographical proximity were ignored and the instruments of accession flouted to suit the new narrative. The purpose was to promote an ideology that could work as a bulwark for containment strategy to serve the masters and not the people. As time passed, the interests of these groups grew within their anchors situated abroad.

1949 onwards, these elites marginalised the freedom leaders and proceeded towards inventive nationalism. This disconnect over time has grown in enormity and does not conform to the aspirations of the people. The intention was the creation of a class with unabated nuisance value to evolve a new narrative based on national security, ideology and a vague idea of Pan Islamism. Consequently, a new genre of ultra-patriots has been created who believe in this falsification and can go to any length in defending it.

The first resolution therefore in the above cited article was that every Pakistan must read the true and unadulterated history of Pakistan movement. Though events leading to the execution of Abdul Qadir Molla in Bangladesh, did lead to some debates in Pakistan, the intent was patchy and nefarious. Opinion makers of Pakistan failed in any effort to correct history. As far as the establishment and its propaganda are concerned, the rant of Trojans and traitors continues.  Metaphorically, Pakistan has failed to move beyond Allama Muhammad Iqbal’s Pan Islamism to Faiz Ahmad Faiz’ Nationalism. The ultra-religious right in diverse forms and manifestations will continue to be the major custodians of this narrative that displaced stalwarts of Pakistan Movement.

The second resolution was to put the country before the self and work with dedication in whatever sphere we belong. The idea was that instead of being critical of others, if each Pakistani puts his house in order, the effect would be rippling and conflagrate to the whole country. Professional honesty, tax remittances, individual character, austerity and increase in outputs would lead to a broad spectrum conservation and create more space for national growth. Unfortunately, hyperinflation, heavy governmental borrowing from the private sector, reactive energy policy and failure to control mega cartels like Pakistan State Oil represents a Trojan ready to engulf any individual efforts.

The third resolution was to build more bridges than walls. Yet opinion makers in politicians, media and organisations ensured that more walls were built to ensure that their adversary dries up from inside. Militancy, violence and crimes were the major beneficiary of this apathy. A stage reached where some political parties openly empathised with the militants, declared them martyrs and succeeded in putting firewalls before counter terrorism efforts that in any case lack national direction. The cruellest cut was the singular design by some media houses to disgrace and malign the armed forces of Pakistan for acting as a state within a state and killing millions of Bengalis in former East Pakistan. For a change, it was the Indian media that sounded more favourable towards the armed forces of Pakistan. The Civil-Military debate in the media and research organisations was unnecessarily negative and prolonged. It goes without doubt that the present media debate against the military is part of a well thought plan that opaqueness of General Retired Kayani inadvertently helped sustain. This approach of stamping a mouse when there is a tiger at the door will be destructive.

In contrast, no solid efforts were made to address the economic issues that squarely fall on the shoulders of the civilian establishment. Devaluation, dwindling reserves and rising debts ensured that Pakistan’s economy remains on weak tenterhooks. While the dollar spending rich became rich each day, the poverty index has taken a deeper plunge.  Energy crises went from bad to worse, exports plummeted at the cost of imports, rupee became worthless, unemployment grew and civic amenities vanished.  The issues of law, order and terrorism still reckon imaginative counter measures.

The fourth and fifth resolutions pertained to turning out in high numbers and casting votes for a change. Though the people did turn up, their mandate was seriously corrupted by a compliant lower judiciary, gerrymandering and massive rigging. Barring a few ornamental cases, most election petitions were shoved into the black hole of election tribunals. The use of alternatives for magnetic inks, duplicate ballot papers, bogus voting and rejected thumb impressions belie the presence of secret hands. As a result, the people of Pakistan were denied a change through ballot. NADRA has become a ping pong between the ECP and Ministry of Interior.  Does this mean that the establishment with bad policies ensures that the road map to Pakistan’s instability is pursued relentlessly?

In the short term Pakistan’s two major issues are economic and terrorism. Both are not being addressed. Do we need Iqbal’s howling tempest to set our emotions alive and storm the symbols of power? 2014 could be the year of People’s Revolution.

Brigadier (Retired) Samson Simon Sharaf is a political economist and a television anchorperson.

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Revisiting a violent history with objectivity and neutrality is a painful process. USA took over one century to come to terms with the horrifying experience of ‘How the West was won’ and the ‘Civil War’. The massacre of ethnic communities during colonisation of Americas blessed by the Catholic and Anglican Churches can never condone the stark realities of cleansing indigenous communities for imperialism. Cambodia and Vietnam will take a long time to get out of the traumas they endured during successive bouts of violence. Truth and Reconciliation in South Africa is the only example where leadership of Nelson Mandela and Bishop Desmond Tutu was successful in synergising a diversity locked in a history of apartheid, violence, inequality and oppression. Forgiveness and contrition were the main components of this reconciliation.

The sub-continent comprising India, Bangladesh and Pakistan have a long history of mutually perpetuated violence that prevents the region from transgressing beyond the gallows of historical predispositions. India and Pakistan, ‘Existing on the extremes of ideological divide’ have yet to move beyond the endemic acrimony to build mutual comfort spaces that would begin the process of healing the painful scars of history. Unfortunately, mutual suspicion and use of proxies have only served to deepen the suspicions.

The division and humiliation of Pakistan in 1971 backed by India and its proxies continues to add insult to injury. Recent events like hanging of pro Pakistan Abdul Qadir Molla in Bangladesh, research done by Dr. Sarmila Bose and revelations by Indian media, on the use of Tibetan Liberation Army disguised as Mukti Bahini committing gross human violations have given a new twist to the predominantly Indian narrative. India manipulated a narrative to cut Pakistan to size and continues to do so. Hasina Wajid thriving on her politics of hate runs the danger of being consumed by it.

Pakistan’s politic body, oblivious of the ethnic sentiments of its people and having learnt no lessons from history is no better. It is usual for self-perpetuated bitter memories to fade away in an elastic conscience. The narrative that was in 1971 and the narrative that is now are both faulty, eclipsing facts and events that led to the 1971 debacle. The danger is that if Pakistan’s establishment continues to hide its head in sand like an ostrich or close its eyes like a pigeon, history will hit back.

In the regional context, none of the three have made sincere efforts towards correcting history and finding the truth. Rather, the entire debate is being deflected to the armed forces of Pakistan as the mother of all evils. The local neo liberal media whose points persons have invariably thrived on western scholarships and channels who get funding are spewing a venomous propaganda against Pakistan army. The propaganda is not without reason; considering the Memogate Affair followed by the Civil-Military debate in Pakistani think tanks. A recent suggestion by USA aptly rejected by India to include foreign office in the DGMO talks between India and Pakistan is worth a mention. A stage has now reached wherein Indian retired Generals and intellectuals with objectivity have assumed the task of partially absolving Pakistan Army of the atrocities while our very own spare no opportunity at accusations. This is the most peevish way to restore coordination amongst institutions.

I maintain my thesis that separation of East Pakistan was a foregone conclusion as far back as 1906 when All India Muslim League was formed before the Chair of Nawab Sir Salim Ullah of Bengal. Though Bengalis remained at the forefront of Pakistan movement, the core leadership of the League deprived them of equitable leadership. They were left with no other option.

The Bengalis helped morph the Mohammadan Education Conference convened by the Aligarh School of modernity for their own reasons. They allied with the alienation of Muslim minorities in Hindu majority areas (the major theme of the League) due to the partition of Bengal in 1905. This solidified their position on separation within a federation, to rule out social injustice and economic inequality. Perhaps the League’s main leadership neither grasped nor followed this basic logic. It was only in 1930 after Allama Iqbal’s assertion of a separate identity at Allahbad, that the demand got a Punjab centric twist. Though he is credited for the idea of separate Muslim states, the fact is that he grasped and reiterated the Bengali argument. Pakistani history books have conveniently highlighted Iqbal and omitted Bengalis who were the actual proponents of this idea.

Similarly, the Lahore Resolution of 1940 was moved in the general session of All India Muslim League at Lahore by Abdul Kasem Fazlul Huq (Sher e Bengal), the chief minister of undivided Bengal. Yet after partition, the Sher e Bengal was dismissed from public office by the Governor-General of Pakistan on charges of inciting secession, and later banned from politics by Ayub Khan. This incidentally coincided with the suppression of progressive activists of Pakistan Movement in West Pakistan. The Punjab centric politics with connivance of military and religious right were taking roots in Pakistan.

Another prominent Bengali leader of Pakistan movement was the low caste Hindu Jogendra Nath Mandal. He chaired the first meeting of the Constituent Assembly, was Pakistan’s first Law Minister but was made infective by West Pakistani politics and its Bengali allies. He blamed the Objective Resolution of 1949 as a departure from the independence framework and the main instigation of the massacre of Hindus in East Pakistan in 1950. Mandal resigned in October 1950 and went into exile to die in oblivion.

Political intrigues of the 1950s weighed heavily on the minds and thought process of East Pakistani politicians. Awami League grew out of the Muslim League workers who felt alienated and admired Fazal e Huq, Huseyn Shaheed Suhrawardy and Choudhury Khaliquzzaman. Many ardent torch bearers of Pakistan broke ranks with the establishment to take an inclusive course. East Pakistan thence shaped into two divisions of politicians; populist that supported the ideals of inclusive politics and establishment that saw Islam as the major bond between East and West. While imprisoned in West Pakistan, Sheikh Mujeeb ur Rehman had insisted that he did not support division of Pakistan. Exploiting the lack of communications between Pakistani politicians and exclusive politics of Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, the Indian narrative was inserted into the void. The military generals, incapable of reading the wind, moved into the trap.

In West Pakistan an alliance amongst politicians of opportunity built. They co-opted the religious right with clichés such as ‘Islam as a binding force between East and West’, ‘Defence of East lies in the West’ ‘Awami League, a party of traitors’ and ‘Thanks God Pakistan is saved’. In East Pakistan, this alliance was supported by Bengali opportunist who lacked public approval. Jamaat e Islami was a late entrant when the battle of hearts and mind had already been lost. Much of the pro India propaganda blurted through West Pakistan left no option for the progressive East Pakistanis but to fall into the lap of the Indian narrative. A rag tag of approximately 35,000 ground combaters with a ratio of 1:15 was expected to tame the anti-West Pakistan sentiment and hold the Indian advance. Indian victory or Pakistan’s defeat as summed up by Indian generals was incidental. West Pakistanis, Biharis and pro Pakistan Bengalis paid a very heavy price in lives and honour before the military operation and after the surrender. Molla’s execution and Bihari camps in Bangladesh indicate that they still do. Pakistan must move swiftly to halt any further executions.

Atrocities and human right violations were committed by all three sides to the conflict. It is time that India, Bangladesh and Pakistan begin to document the conflict on lines of truth and reconciliation. Alas! The sub-continent lacks the persuasion and humility of Nelson Mandela and forgiveness of Desmond Tutu.

Brigadier (Retired) Samson Simon Sharaf is a political economist and a television anchorperson.

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December 15, 2013


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“Seldom, if ever, has a rookie political party’s success in assembly become such a talking point and a cause for nationwide euphoria… But that’s exactly what activist Arvind Kejriwal’s Aam Aadmi Party’s stunning show felt across India’s impressive showing — winning 28 out of 70 seats in the Delhi polls — seems to have done.”

Times of India

A year ago the Aam Admi Party (AAP) of India was nowhere. Today, it is the second largest party in the Delhi Legislative Assembly after cutting sizably into the vote bank of Congress and BJP. The popularity of the party is spreading like wildfire to Mumbai, Bangalore, Haryana, Kolkata, Kerala and Karnataka. While there remain some (electable) who see it as a bubble and will adopt the ‘wait and see’ before they ride the band wagon, the AAP has captivated the hearts of the youth, overseas Indians  and young educated classes; swelling in ranks like a deluge that spares no boundaries. This is INDIA’S TSUNAMI with its epicentre in Delhi and social reform as its wave front.

Quoting from the Times of India, the intensity of feeling evoked by AAP is evident in the response of Lakshmi Pillai Ratnaparkhe, a 42-year-old Bangalore-based entrepreneur, “I wouldn’t just vote for them; I wish I become one of them.” Sandhya Krishnamurthy explains, “The major difference is the way they approached people for votes. Their agenda is to root out corruption whereas other parties are involved in corruption allegations. It’s a party of youngsters and they assure good governance.” Subhas Datta, a 64-year-old environmental activist from Kolkata feels that, “The Aam Aadmi Party is not a traditional political party. I don’t see why AAP can’t do well in West Bengal. At least, I will support them if they stick to their cause.” Sounds familiar, doesn’t it?

AAP grew out of contrasting approaches between associates, Arvind Kejriwal the founder of the party and Anna Hazare, the leader of the anti-corruption movement for Jan Lokpal Bill.  Unlike Hazare who preferred political neutrality, Kejriwal favoured direct involvement in politics to act as a pressure group within the system to implement anti-corruption laws social equality at its heart. With support from well-known comrades like Prashant Bhushan and Shanti Bhushan, Kejriwal announced in October 2012 that he would be forming a political party. The party adopted its constitution on 24 November and emerged on the Delhi elections scene in 2013. Hugging and endearing the lives and aspirations of commoners, the party adopted a unique, cost effective and imaginative canvassing strategy that bore fruits. It remains to be seen whether the party will continue to reflect the grassroots’ sentiments or will it in due course move into a glass house, endemic to South Asian politics. To its advantage, the party has a parallel to reflect and need not falter to learn.

A look at the AAP constitution indicates that the party with the bulwark of its support coming from overseas has learned much from the PTI experience. Some clauses of the constitutions bear remarkable similarity.

Pakistan’s case study of such an experience started in 1996 and culminated in the proverbial tsunami in October 2011. Built around similar sentiments, the party remained in wilderness for over 15 years reflecting the aloofness of people from national issues. The awakening created by the media against politically franchised corruption convinced people to flock to this party in 2011.

Like AAP, PTI too is built around an idealist and communitarian agenda. Founding members ensured that the party constitution and manifesto cling to the aspirations of the down trodden and spirit of Pakistan. Many amongst them have since faded away. The party went berserk about social justice, egalitarianism, empowerment of commoners, inequality and inclusiveness. It attracted idealists and men who abhorred traditional politics. Like AAP, overseas Pakistanis formed the major ideological and financial backbone of the party. PTI overseas workers were yearning to put their vast contribution towards the West to telling effect in national development. Many abandoned lucrative appointments and business abroad to move into lesser positions in Pakistan. There were educationists, attorneys, health specialists, social reformists and soldiers who sacrificed their prospects in Pakistan to cling closer to the spirit of PTI and its dream. By 2011, PTI could boast the best quality of social capital under a single roof. The party was positioning itself into reckoning all over Pakistan.

In contrast, AAP chose Delhi and attracted votes through street hopping youth who showed empathy even towards detractors. They proudly chose and displayed a taboo election symbol of a BROOMSTICK used to clear filth. In the social media, its members held out olive branches. They were building bridges and not walls. It made a small, calculated, and bold but an effective beginning.

As the days of reckoning drew closer, PTI idealism gave way to realism resulting in expediency rather than pragmatism. To forge democratic unity, Imran Khan chose intra party elections as the best way to build synergy. Delays in elections and a contentious electoral system ensured that the fissures widened. Within the politics of electable, the party lost an unquantifiable spirit of its die hard cadres. Critics observe that the best of diehard members are fading like buds that never blossomed. In the many internal and external debates within PTI, Imran Khan had remarked, ‘Only PTI can defeat PTI’. With annihilation in Balochistan local body elections, this dramatic irony is real. PTI has defeated itself in a province where it held the biggest and most daring rallies.

The social reform agenda of PTI and AAP is similar. PTI failed to woo leftist progressives of a rich heritage. Its social reform is eclipsed by its singular stance on WOT. Had the party carefully nurtured and accommodated its socialist ideologues, it would have drawn support from the leftist who now tend to bracket more with the neo liberals for want of a choice. Strangely, PTI has support of social democrats world over but is deprived of the same on home turf. AAP in contrast has learned its lessons and is attracting the left in Bihar, East Bengal and Assam.

AAP is the party of the futures of India and much will depend how it translates its centrality into a political thrust.

Failure in local body elections in Balochistan reminds PTI to realign to its vision. It is time to get back to the drawing board and evaluate what went wrong.  If it does not, it stands to lose more.  PTI may claim to have wooed stalwarts; but this is not where it connects with its constituency. Its turf like the AAP is the common man on the street and not the glass house of Animal Farm. It is time PTI learns from AAP.

Brigadier (Retired) Samson Simon Sharaf is a political economist and a television anchorperson.

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December 14, 2013

Nelson Mandela


Who says that the world lives in a paradigm of realist politics to ensure survival of the fittest and in which the big eat the small fish? Nelson Mandela proved this wrong in many ways. As he said in his own defence in 1964 trial from the dock, he remained true to his words till he passed away yesterday :-

“I have fought against white domination, and I have fought against black domination.  I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities.  It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve.  But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.”

Nelson Mandela

Madiba known more as Nelson Mandela lived struggled and died a pacifist. Yet he changed the apartheid face of South Africa. He gave a new and unknown dimension to political, ethnic and societal theories in which diversity could still become a strong bond between divisive forces of religion, ethnicity, colour and social inequality. The inclusive South Africa that he envisioned became a reality when he embraced his tormentors with warmth, forgiving those who ridiculed him. He also showed similar disposition towards his wife Winnie. In a world of politicians with split personalities and many faces, Nelson had only one face that transcended from the black ghettos of South Africa to become an international icon of light, dignity, poise, tolerance, human rights and justice. He singularly dismantled the walls of exclusivism and built a bridge of tolerance for the world to follow.

Nelson Mandela’s journey from a college dropout necessitated by his political views to a student leader, a political activist, a prisoner and President of South Africa bears testimony to fortes of human character and temperate quality of will power. The fact that he did it with his soft tone, grace and sense of humour eclipsed the misery he underwent in prisons including a bout with tuberculosis and prostrate surgery. He lived a lonely life, his first wife abandoning him, a child dying in a car accident and Winnie betraying his ideals and mission. Despite all this, he accepted his foibles and said in humorous retort to those who wanted to make him a larger than life icon, “I am not a saint, unless you think of a saint as a sinner who keeps on trying.”

Perhaps Nelson Mandela was the last of the anti-colonial leaders of the 20th century who transcended into the next. Yet, unlike others of the Non-Aligned Movement, he had the singular honour of ultimately being admired by the communists, capitalists, socialist, saints and sinners. He took inspiration from Fidel Castro of Cuba and was considered a communist lackey by President Reagan and Prime Minister Thatcher. But years later, his moral stature was so high that the President Bill Clinton and Prime Minister Margate Thatcher stood beside him like pygmies. Through his soft speech and political firmness, Nelson Mandela proved that he was an undisputed international leader beyond the South African Reconciliation and Truth.

In 1994, President Nelson Mandela inherited South Africa with disproportionate wealth and services. Over 50% people lacked electricity and sanitation, over 40% population lacked clean drinking water,  33% of population was illiterate while 2 million children were out of school. One third population was unemployed while 50% lived below the poverty line. 20% of national revenues were used to service debt thereby dragging the National Reconstruction and Development Programme. Nelson dispelled the notion of being a communist or socialist by promoting foreign investment.

During Nelson Mandela’s presidency, welfare spending progressively increased into double digits and incrementally introduced parity in grants, bringing diverse groups into one.  In 1994, free healthcare was introduced for children under six and pregnant women. Telephone lines connected over 3 million people while 1.5 million children were brought into the education system. Provision of electricity, basic health care and replacement of shanty housings was exponential.

The Land Restitution Act of 1994 enabled people to reclaim lands. He legislated to safeguard the rights of labour tenants who live and grow crops or graze livestock on farms and mechanisms to finance and promote skills development. All rules relating to labour employment and unions were revised.

As the Secretary General of the Non Aligned Movement, Nelson Mandela showed his stature of rising beyond contemporary international politics. He used the NAM Conference at Durban to criticise the Israeli government while urging India and Pakistan to negotiate Kashmir conflict. He came under sharp criticism by Israel, India and his critics.

Nelson Mandela rose above political expediencies to continue befriending rough weather friends disliked by the international community. His friendship with President Suharto of Indonesia, President Fidel Castro of Cuba and Muammar Gaddafi was of a personal nature in which he privately cajoled them over East Timor and Pan Am flight 103.   He invited Fidel Castro to South Africa and conferred Qaddafi with Medal of Good Hope. The Lockerbie trial of two Libyans at Camp Zeist Netherlands was his brain child.

Nelson Mandela must have had regrets for not being able to prevent the implosion of African States into mayhem, anarchy and bloodshed. The neo imperialist and neo colonialist world with its racket of franchised wars, built a wall around his aura to keep the deprived poor and make the rich wealthier. But South Africa is the laboratory where his legacy of inclusiveness and pluralism will continue with telling effects; a legacy so strong and addictive, that the socio-political and economic reforms he initiated cannot be rolled back.

In Pakistan, the leader most inspired by his firm, dignified, principled and non-violent style is Imran Khan. Nelson Mandela barged into Imran Khan’s psyche when the former was an international icon and latter a political starter. Imran Khan has repeatedly mentioned Mandela Politics as the way forward in Pakistan. National Truth and Reconciliation, negotiating with Taliban and reconciliation with people of tribal areas are invariably stamped by Nelson Mandela’s vision.

Addressing a PTI youth Convention in 2012 at Karachi, Imran Khan singled out Jinnah and Nelson Mandela amongst contemporary leaders, ‘Then there was Jinnah who kept his illness a secret so that he could create a separate homeland…and Nelson Mandela, despite spending 27 years in jail, did not change his stance about equal rights.’

Rest in Eternal Peace our Madibi.

Brigadier (Retired) Samson Simon Sharaf is a political economist and a television anchorperson.

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