Intimidation by the `unidentified` – 06 Jul 2022

THE identity of the `unidentified` assailants who assaulted journalist Ayaz Amir in Lahore last week was not unknown. One of Pakistan`s most respected newspaper columnists and a television commentator, he was dragged out of his vehicle and manhandled on a busy street in full view of the crowd that had gathered there. His cellphone was taken away.

It all happened a day after his speech at a seminar in Islamabad that went viral on social media. It was scathing and full of sarcasm. It irked the powers that be who seem to be on edge these days.

Tolerance levels seem to have gone down in the current political storm.

Ayaz Amir may have been scathing but there was nothing in his remarks that is not being talked about. He didn`t reveal any state secrets. It was the truth, perhaps, put too forthrightly for the liking of some elements belonging to a `sensitive` institution -hence the response in the shape of the crude use of power that we have witnessed so often being applied against those who dare to speak out.

Ayaz may be the latest and a more high-profile victim of this high-handedness, but there have been a number of other such cases in recent times.

Distressingly, there are a growing number of reports of journalists and rights activists being harassed, beaten and intimidated. These attacks are invariably traced to the not-so-invisible state within a state.

His Islamabad speech may have been the proverbial last straw but Ayaz had been warned earlier of dire consequences if he did not restrain himself in his comments on television. According to Ayaz, the person who came to see him with the message sometime back didn`t even bother to hide his identity and the name of the organisation he worked for.

Reportedly, the name and the messages of that official were erased when he got back his cellphone. That just shows the increasing brazenness with which these so-called unidentified elements operate. As per routine, the prime minister ordered an inquiry into the incident and the police have reportedly filed a case against the `unidentified` persons. But this is just a formality. For who will dare touch these elements, even if their identity isapparent as in the latest case? It has happened in other instances too. Some journalists complain of constant harassment by callers using unknown numbers and of being threatened by them. It`s not that it has not happened before but such cases seem to have increased significantly over the past months. Even those who once toed the line are now complaining.

Some of the TV anchors while speaking at a PTI seminar at Islamabad vented their anger at the security establishment accusing its leadership of `betrayal` by changing political tack. They lamented about being used. The so-called patriotic brigade is now training its guns on its erstwhile patrons.

The entire episode highlights not only the consequences of the deep involvement of the security agencies in political engineering but also their role in manipulating sections of the media. This was much more pronounced during Imran Khan`s hybrid rule. Propped up by the security establishment, the Khan government shut its eyes to reports of intimidation of journalists.

In fact, some of the senior politicians even tried to justify those illegal actions. But with the fall of the government, the PTI leadership too is on the warpath with their erstwhile benefactors. They are extremely upset with the decision of the military leadership to step back and stay `neutral` in the ongoing political power struggle.

The former prime minister describes the move as `perfidy` and is now spearheading a relentless campaign against the leadership whom he had once declared as a `champion of democracy`. He demands that the security establishment restore hybrid rule. It is a highly dangerous game, and one that has laid bare his undemocratic credentials.

The deep involvement in political engineering and manipulation by sections of the establishment has made the current army leadership and security agencies controversial. Observers have pointed out that the leadership has not faced such an aspersive campaign as the current one on social media.

Curiously, much of it seems to be run by the PTPs own followers who were hitherto hard-core sup-porters of the establishment. The whole battle is to push the military deeper into politics. Imran Khan wants the army to overthrow what he describes as an `imported regime` and `illegitimate rulers` Indeed, the army leadership`s decision to step back from its partisan role is commendable. But it should not just be about staying `neutral` in the ongoing political fray: the military`s shadow over politics should diminish and civilian rule and institutions must be allowed to work unhindered. Of course, the security establishment must support any democratically elected government.

But there should be no return to the hybrid rule.

Political engineering has weakened the democratic process and badly damaged civilian institutions. While, the political process should be allowed to work without any interference, it is also imperative for parties to work within a democratic political framework, however flawed it may be. Involving the security establishment in political matters has prevented institutional democracy from taking root.

Instead of pulling the establishment into the political realm, the PTI should learn to work within the system. It would be better for the party to return to parliament rather than trying to blackmail the security establishment. By paralysing the system, Imran Khan has strengthened extra-constitutional forces. He should learn from history that he cannot bring about any change through agitational politics. He is mistaken that it is the security establishment that can bring him back to power. His hope of returning to power lies only through the democratic process.

It is imperative for the military leadership to pull itself out completely from the political power game, and also important for security agencies to refrain from indulging in illegal actions. The Ayaz Amir incident raises questions about the claim that security agencies will not be used for intimidation and unlawful actions. • The writer is an author and journalist. Twitter: @hidhussain

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The worldwide labour crisis – 06 Jul 2022

PEOPLE are flocking to Disneyland in Orlando, Florida, just as they do every summer. The relaxation of pandemic rules means tourists feel much more comfortable interacting with others in crowded places. Surprises await those who venture to Orlando. The US labour shortage means that America has millions of more jobs than it has workers. At Disneyland, this has meant closed rides and limited restaurant availability simply because there aren`t enough people to work there.

According to Disneyland, the worst shortages are being felt in live entertainment and hospitality, sectors that have been left flailing in the post-pandemic hiring market.

It is not just a Disneyland problem. All over the United States, Americans are witness to a phenomenon they have never experienced before. Fastfood restaurants are closing drive-through lanes because there are no people to work them. At enormous supermarket chains like Walmart and Target, checkout lanes have been reduced to one or two cashiers as hundreds of customers wait in line for their turn. And the problem is worse for small business owners, some of whom have closed up shop altogether because they have not been able to maintain staff.

The US Chamber of Commerce, described as the `world`s largest business organisation`, says: `During the pandemic reshuffling, jobs that require in-person attendance and traditionally have lower wages, have had a more difficult time retaining workers. For example, the leisure and hospitality and retail industries have had the highest quit rates since November 2020, consistently above 4.5 per cent.

Things are not very much better in the United Kingdom. Over the past few weeks, disturbing photos of Heathrow strewn with massive piles of abandoned luggage have circulated all over the internet. Some of the poor passengers who have had to travel through the airport have reported not being able to retrieve their luggage for five or six days. In fact, those are the lucky people who have been able to make the flight at all. At Charles de Gaulle in France, people have to line up for more than three hours prior to their flight to be able to successfully clear security. There simply aren`t enough securityguards to keep the lines moving at a reasonable pace.

There isn`t one reason for or solution to this labour crisis. Both the US and the UK have low population growth rates. Add to this the reshuffle caused by Covid-19 and the phenomenon called `The Great Resignation` (that saw millions of Americans quit their corporate jobs), and you have the disaster that is the current job market. It is also true that the jobs that people are leaving are the ones that do not have a good long-term prognosis.

The hospitality industry has seen huge cuts during and after Covid-19 as business travel, their biggest driver of revenue, lags behind pre-pandemic rates.

As for working checkout lanes and stocking shelves well, everyone in the fast-automating retail sec-tor knows that these jobs are soon going to be replaced by robots and other forms of automation.

Adjustments for all of this, however, would still leave millions of jobs open. Last week, the Baker Institute at Rice University released a report arguing that foreign-born workers must be part of the solution. The report points out that although only 1.8pc of American immigrants work in farming, fishing or forestry, they account for nearly 35.3pc of all the workers in the occupation. Similarly, high percentages of immigrants make up the workers in construction, hospitality, cleaning and building maintenance.

The Baker Institute`s report sees no way out of this conundrum except for the United States to create work-based immigration programmes that allow foreign-born labour to fill the gap in the American economy. `The government should also expand some of the current temporary visa programmes and design different programmes foradditional temporary workers,` it says.

While this report primarily looks at low-skilled workers, companies are struggling in their attempt to hire high-skilled workers as well. Tech companies report being desperate to hire cybersecurity workers; according to Cybersecurity Ventures, over 700,000 cybersecurity jobs are lying open and unfilled in the US.

As a labour-exporting country, Pakistan should be paying close attention to the emerging demand for workers abroad. The current anti-immigrant sentiments in the US and the generally broken US immigration system mean that any job that can be automated or shifted to remote work will go that way. While jobs that require physical labour will be filled by migrant workers from Mexico and the southern border, most of the others will be automated and sent abroad. Automation may mean that jobs like operating the checkout counter at a supermarket traditionally a job that required a worker to be physically present may now be done by a worker living in another country thousands of miles away.

According to a recently aired segment on the US news show 60 Minutes, before the pandemic, one in 67 US jobs was remote and could be done by a worker situated anywhere in the world. In postpandemic America, one in every seven jobs is said to be remote. Currently, most of these job positions are filled by US workers, since most like the flexibility of remote work. However, remote work may also turn out to be the employment opportunity of the century for skilled workers in other parts of the world. While it is likely that US lawmakers will eventually pass laws preventing the `export` of remote jobs, currently these do not exist. Highly skilled workers in Pakistan should spruce up their resumés on LinkedIn and be proactive in applying for positions that were previously unavailable to them because of visa issues. While the US may have fewer workers than ever before, there are millions of them eager and available to work from Pakistan. m The writer is an attorney teaching constitutional law and political philosophy rafia.zakaria@gmailcom

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Transgender job quota – 06 Jul 2022

IN a society where transgender persons often face violence and abuse, the Sindh Assembly`s decision to reserve a 0.5pc quota for members of the community in the province`s public-sector institutions is a welcome, progressive move. The Sindh legislature passed the relevant law in a unanimous decision during Monday`s session, with the parliamentary affairs minister saying that the quota would also be implemented in the private sector. Earlier, several departments in Punjab had also announced quotas for the transgender community. Giving its members the ability to make a dignified living is essential to ensuring their basic rights, as the usual modes of employment available to this group is begging, or the flesh trade.

The announcement of the job quotas, as well as other moves at the state level, have marked a welcome official approach. For example, transgender people can now apply for CNICs; without the basic identity document, members of the community found it impossible to operate bank accounts, apply for decent jobs, etc. Moreover, the Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Act, 2018 is a landmark law that signalled that the state was ready to recognise and protect the community. The latter has indeed begun to emerge from the margins, with community members entering the police force, becoming doctors, lawyers and mediapersons. However, where considerable progress has been made in securing transgender rights, members of the community continue to be vulnerable targets. For example, numerous cases of murder have been reported, particularly of transgender persons in KP. Very often the killers get away with their crime as families who usually disown trans members, especially in the more conservative parts of the country are not interested in pursuing the case. This impunity must end and the murderers must be brought to justice. All other rights will only be of value when transgender people`s right to life is protected by the state. Therefore, police forces need to be sensitised in order to protect the community, and take action against those who harm or murder its members.

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Need for child protection reforms – 06 Jul 2022

Currently, the police, professionals and citizens of Pakistan have no obligation to report an incident of child abuse

The kidnap, marriage and sexual abuse of an underage girl Dua Zehra is a crime that leaves deep scars on the conscience of every thinking Pakistani. Sadly it happened with the active connivance of state institutions. Thousands of under-age girls are married off in broad daylight with the help of fake documents, unethical nikah-khwans and courts that do not believe in CNICs. Likewise millions of children are unabashedly and publicly abused every day in Pakistan. They can be routinely spotted begging on streets, enslaved as domestic servants, toiling as industrial labour or being abused in schools and madrassas. No one reports these events. If at all, state institutions reluctantly act only when an extreme event of abuse comes into public knowledge. Despite a plethora of child protection commissions, authorities, bureaus, child protection officers, committees and Helplines, we have not succeeded in bringing even the slightest improvement in our child protection system.

Pakistan ought to begin by introducing a law on ‘duty to report’. Currently, the police, professionals and citizens of Pakistan have no obligation to report an incident of child abuse. Pakistan could have a sea-change impact on child protection by declaring that the police, professionals and citizens have a mandatory ‘duty to report’ any instance of child abuse and neglect. This would indeed require a change in existing child protection laws. Anyone who observes, knows or suspects occurrence of child abuse or neglect at any location ought to be obligated to immediately report the same to police or the local Child Protection Agency.

A 2013 UNFPA report suggests that one in three girls in Pakistan is married before 18. The current child marriage restraint laws are inadequate, full of loopholes and differ from province to province. The Child Marriage Act and the Rules ought to be made foolproof, simplified and uniform across Pakistan. It must be mandatory for the bride and the groom to be above 18 and in possession of a valid CNIC. The two of them should be required to visit the nearest Union Council/Cantonment Board to register the marriage by undergoing biometric tests to confirm they are adults and the CNICs belong to the same individuals. (If people are happy to undergo a biometric test for buying a telephone SIM, certainly they should have no objection to doing the same for marriage.) A NADRA Certificate of Marriage downloadable from its website should be the only acceptable evidence of marriage in Pakistan. We could have prevented the fraudulent marriages of thousands of ’Duas’ and ‘Arzoos’ had we followed this procedure.

The missing link in the child protection chain is the absence of defined roles and linkages between various functionaries. Child Protection Agencies ought be explicitly responsible for receiving and investigating reports of possible child abuse, gaining physical access of an abused or neglected child, providing immediate physical, medical or emotional support, helping families who need assistance and arranging for children to live with kin or in state shelters, when not safe at home.

It ought to be mandatory for police to respond to any observed, suspected or reported case of child abuse by reaching the place of incident, informing the child protection officer, providing protection to child till the arrival of child protection officer, investigating for possible drugs, handlers, offenders or anyone who may have committed a crime, formally recording an FIR and supporting the Child Protection Agency where required.

The current, largely ceremonial child protection organisations need to be well-staffed at each district level with 4 to 6 trained child protection officers having well-established linkages with hospitals, councilors, shelters, police and magistrates. None of the above initiatives call for help or funding from any foreign agency. Only our own initiatives and thoughts can create processes that are supportive and safe for our children.

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Worthless children of God – 06 Jul 2022

Dua has scientifically been proven to be a minor. A 15-year-old girl, who is ‘married’ to an alleged 18-year-old

In my previous opinion titled ‘Playing with dolls’ published here on 15th June 2022, I expounded upon Dua Zehra’s entire fiasco where she had been allowed by the court to live with whoever she wanted.

However now, Dua has scientifically been proven to be a minor. A 15-year-old girl, who is ‘married’ (sounds right about indecent and atrocious at this stage) to an alleged 18-year-old. But now that the truth is out there, what happens next? Does Dua get to go back to her family or does she wait until she attains the age of maturity and then rejoins her ‘husband’?

Amongst the entire chaos, one thing has proven itself again and again. That state institutions and judicial officers desperately require training in order to better manage such cases.

I, being a practising lawyer, was amazed (but not surprised) to see the judgement of the Sindh High Court saying that Dua was free to go wherever she wanted to and reside with whomever she wanted with. I mean I’ve seen worse, but this really was the icing on the cake. The reason why her argument was bought was because she stated ‘on oath’. If we’re buying arguments on oath then let’s attach no significance to evidence. At least that way, cases won’t take forever to be decided.

I am no intellectual or genius but many times, we need to keep the books, the laws and the precedents aside and use a little of our God gifted grey matter to evaluate the situation at hand. Dua’s father Mehdi Ali Kazmi has been married for 17 years, how can her daughter be 17?! Doesn’t take a scientist to figure that out? And what about her birth certificate and her NADRA documents? What about the Nikkah-khwan, Ghulam Ahmed, who confessed that he did not solemnise Dua’s nikah?

So, in my opinion, I was quite disappointed (yet again, not surprised) at the SHC’s judgement. You cannot, by any stretch of imagination, let such matters slide. Yes, we do have the Sindh Child Marriages Restrain Act of 2013 but if the Court’s don’t implement it, who will?

I agree that judicial officers are also human beings and humans make mistakes, but missing something so obvious?

Well, we’re all happy that the truth is finally out there and Dua’s real age has been brought to the fore. This will all be over quite soon, I hope. Dua might still marry her husband years down the line and get away from all this but this entire fiasco leaves behind a dangerous precedent. It has paved the path for predators, pedophiles, rapists, kidnappers and leaders of child mafias. They now know exactly how the system works. It is easier for them to kidnap an underaged girl, record her forced confession, solemnise her nikah and get away with it. No questions asked. Let your passion grow and feast upon your darkest whims.

Our system is slowly decaying and it is allowing for people to gradually get away with their crimes. Nothing remains here anymore; we’re harbouring the image of demise and destruction. Skeletons of society continue to assert silence and reign in their supremacy. Suicide of morality had already been initiated when the system began favouring Zaheer (Dua’s alleged husband) and I wouldn’t be surprised if 2 years down the line, he gets what he wants. I seek solace under the assumption that the boy isn’t being coerced into this entire situation. I can only hope that sanity prevails in these circumstances because young minds carry with them whatever they learn.

But the one hero in this entire issue is Mehdi Ali Kazmi himself. The father of Dua Zehra. His celestial composure and display have been commendable. We cannot imagine what he must be going through, seeing his little child, whom he’s raised in his arms, not even wanting to talk to him anymore. We hope in our hearts he gets his little girl back, both physically and emotionally.

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Honey-trap gang busted, two arrested – 06 Jul 2022

BAHAWALNAGAR: The district police claim to have busted a gang involved in honey trapping men through its women members, making their videos and extorting money from them through blackmail.

DPO`s spokesperson Shehzad Ishfaq told Dawn that four people, including two women, had been booked by the Dahranwala Police Station and two of them had been arrested.

Scores of abusive videos were recovered from their mobile phones.

He said police investigation had revealed that the gang members, belonging to Chak 172, Murad, had blackmailed several people after using their women members and recording their videos.

The gang used to target naive people, especially those belonging to such a class as could not raise their voice to protect their honour.

On June 26, an electrician, Muhammad Dewan, a resident of Chak 32/3-R, was called by a female gang member of Chak 172, Murad, to an outhouse on the pretext of fixing some electrical fault. When the young man reached the outhouse, he was taken hostage by the male gang members who tortured him, stripped him naked and shot a video with female gang members.

The gang later threatened Dewan with uploading the video on social media in case he did not pay them Rs100,000.

On June 29, a farmer, identified as Muhammad Hanif of Chak 172 Murad, was honey trapped through a woman gang member and his video was made with her. He was blackmailed to pay Rs80,000 to the gang members.

After receiving the amount, the gangsters asked Hanif to continue paying them in the future if he wanted to protect his honour.

The gang also deprived a citizen, Sajid Ali, of the Khatan area of his motorcycle by honey trapping and blackmailing him.

The DPO`s spokesperson claimed that during the interrogation, the arrested gangsters confessed to blackmailing dozens of citizens for a long time. However, he added, the majority of the victims was not ready to record their statements against the gang members because of fear of scandals.

He said the arrested gang members were being questioned to trace its other members.

ROBBERIES: Residents of Chak 28 Fateh, Chishtian, raising slogans against the Saddar police said that gunmen broke into the house of Saleem late on Monday night and took away Rs450,000, jewellery and other valuables.

Protesters said robbery incidents had become a routine matter in Chishtian.

Haroonabad-based trader Syed Rasool said on Sunday two motorcyclists snatched Rs750,000 from him near Baldia Colony of Haroonabad, injured him on resistance and fled. The police could not trace the culprits.

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Muggers shoot two brothers, guard over resistance in city – 06 Jul 2022

KARACHI: Armed muggers shot at and wounded two brothers upon resistance in Federal B. Area on early Tuesday morning, police said.

Jauharabad SHO Imran Afridi said Shahnawaz, 24, and Anas, 20, the two brothers, were looking after their sacrificial cow inside a tent near Sangam Ground when armed robbers emerged there, held them at gunpoint and demanded their cell phones.

Young Anas tried to run, but the robber opened Ere on him. As a result, a bullet hit him in the leg and the same bullet hit his elder brother, Shahnawaz, and hurt him. The muggers rode away.

The wounded were shifted to the Abbasi Shaheed Hospital, where their condition was stated to be out of danger.

A security guard of a petrol pump, Asif, 45, was shot at and wounded by robbers when he resisted their robbery bid in a Korangi area on Tuesday morning.

Zaman Town SHO Zahid Lodhi said two armed men after getting their bike`s tank filled with fuel tried to snatch cash from the employee of the Parco filling station.

The employee put up resistance and in the meantime, guard Asif also challenged the robbers, who fired shots and fled with snatched cash. Asif suffered injuries and was moved to the JPMC for treatment.

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Three missing seminary students remain untraced – 06 Jul 2022

TAXILA: Even after three weeks, police have failed to get a clue to three students who went missing from a seminary in Wah Model Town.

Bilal Khan, the seminary administrator, at an open forum held at Wah Saddar police station informed the SSP operations about the mysterious disappearance of the students. Subsequently, the SSP ordered the police to lodge the first investigation report (FIR).

The administrator identified the missing students as Mohammad Abdullah, Mohsin and Mohammad Nassar, aged between 12 and 14 years.

When contacted, an official at the Wah Saddar police station said teams were searching for the students.

He said pictures of the missing boys had been circulated to all police stations as well as seminaries. Correspondent

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Cop tortures wife over property row – 06 Jul 2022

VEHARI: A police inspector allegedly tortured his wife on Tuesday over a property dispute at Chak 98-EB in Sheikh Fazal police limits, some 45-km from here.

Reports said inspector Amjad Chishti would torture his wife as she could not get her share from her father`s property.

Amjad`s daughter Ammara Chishti told Dawn that a few days back after death of her grandfather Falak Sher Chishti, her father forced her mother for property share and again tortured her mother. She said four days back her mother Ashfa Fatima received injuries and was admitted to Burewala THQ hospital.

She said Sheikh Fazal police on July 3 registered a case against her father Amjad and Tahir, Hameed and Farooq Chisti who were also allegedly involved in the torture.

She said despite registration of first information report, police seem reluctant to arrest her father.

She said: `We have left our house after received threatening calls from my father and are staying at my aunt`s house at a nearby village.

Ammara Chishti said she filed an application to the Multan regional police officer and the chief minister but in vain. She said her father Amjad tortured her mother several times during the last three months.

When contacted Station House Officer Shahid Ishaq said police registered a case against Amjad Chisthi and three other accomplices under sections 354 and 34 of the Pakistan Penal Code. Further investigation is under way.

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Two govt officials found guilty of harassing lady health workers – 06 Jul 2022

Karachi: Sindh Ombudsman for Protection Against Harassment of Women at the Workplace has found two officials of the provincial health department guilty of sexually harassing lady health workers.

A lady health supervisor had filed a complaint against Dr Ali Asghar Shah, former Korangi district health officer, and Aziz Khan, accounts assistant at the district health office, for allegedly

sexually harassing and intimidating her and other workers.

Her lawyer Mumtaz Begum Noonari claimed that Shah had been teasing female employees of the department, including her client, since being posted as the health officer, while the other accused supported his illegal acts.

She said that Shah would force the employees to stay in his office until late evening and sometimes until late night, and he also used to make phone calls, due to which the women had started feeling unsafe.

Justice (retd) Shahnawaz Tariq announced that the complainant had proved her allegations against the accused. He, therefore, imposed a fine of Rs300,000 on Shah and Rs100,000 on his subordinate with the direction to pay the amount to the complainant as compensation within 30 days without fail.

He called for a copy of the order to be forwarded to the health secretary and the provincial accountant general for its compliance in letter and spirit. The ombudsman said that the amount be deducted from the service benefits of both the accused or through the sale of their movable or immovable properties.

He noted that the health worker had filed a complaint against the accused with her department on November 26, 2018, but due to official apathy, she approached the ombudsman within a week.

The health department had later formed an all-men committee to inquire into the harassment allegations.

“It was incumbent upon the department to constitute an inquiry committee as envisaged under Section 3 of the Act 2010, but the department has deliberately ignored the mandatory provisions of the Act,” he observed.

He said that no female officer was made part of the committee, which was the essential requirement of the law, and the confidentiality of the inquiry proceedings was also not maintained in utter disregard of the Act.

The ombudsman said the health department had failed to evolve a mechanism as regards dealing with complaints of sexual harassment and to ensure protection of its staff.

“Undeniably, no training to deal with harassment complaints has been provided to the officers and staff in accordance with the Act, nor the department has approached the ombudsman’s office for a training programme.”

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