Monday, January 23, 2017

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Letter to the Editor: Indian media should focus on synergy rather than confrontation with China

By Gaurav Tyagi 

 Indian media is behaving in a highly provocative manner regarding China. The successful test-firing of India’s long range ballistic missile, purchase of Rafale fighter jets fromFrance and selling of weapons to Vietnam should have been reported objectively. There is no need for the media in India to be so subjective by coining phrases like they “cover entireChina’’ & "to counter the Chinese threat.’’ India has very serious issues at home. It’s highly regretful that in spite of 70 years of independence from the British colonial rule, India has the largest number of malnourished kids in the world, biggest number of people, who don’t have access to toilets. Go on any train journey in India, open the window early in the morning and watch this spectacle of people defecating openly in ‘Incredible India’. India is very proud of the country’s so called ‘demographic dividend’. High numbers of youth in India are wrongly regarded as an asset. This constitutes a big liability in the absence of proper education and job access. Unemployment is highly prevalent in India. Majority of youngsters all over the country vieto get a government job through hook or crook. Their underlying motivation is that Indian government departments are highly overstaffed, have zero accountability plus offer plentyof ‘under the table’ money making opportunities.
All over the country, whenever even job vacancies for sweepers/cleaners are advertised in government departments. Millions of job applications come from the so called ‘bright youth of India’ with graduate, post-graduate, engineering and MBA degrees. Is this India shining, where a highly educated youngster is happy to work as a cleaner?
India is highly divided across caste and community lines. People don’t come out to protest about the absolute failure of govt on all fronts. Caste/communities unite and block roads, railway tracks for days on end, indulge in arson, violence, killings and rapes in the name of demanding govt job reservations.
This phenomenon is common across the whole country. Political parties vie with each other to offer reservations in govt educational institutions/jobs to these hooligans, in order develop caste vote banks. These illogical govt decisions are then put on hold by the courts. This continues for years with no end in sight. If every community in India is so backward, why don’t rename the country as ‘Backwardistaan’? (the land of the backwards) at least it would provide a lot of Western aid to India. This can be utilized for the forward march of India and its billions of communities. Vast number of which claim themselves as royal/martial race etc. in private conversations but have no shame/guilt in demanding reservations as backward communities.
India is nowhere close to China inspite of both countries being neighbors. The majority of girls in India cannot marry a life-partner of their choice. They dare not venture out by themselves in many parts of the country. Women can’t enjoy an evening with friends over a few drinks without being falsely labeled as whores and facing molestation/rape threats. Indian media should focus its attention towards waging a war against the aforesaid grave issues facing the nation. Media should create mass awareness in Indian society about how the hypocrite, backward, corrupt attitude of the establishment is harming the country. Print/electronic media in India should educate the masses about the much needed social/political reforms in the country. It is futile for Indian media to behave in an arrogant manner by threatening China, which is far more advanced/developed than India in every sphere. Indian media should focus on the successful transformation of China from a primarily rural economy in the 50’s to an established global power in the present times.
War-mongering and a hawkish attitude towards China would not bring anything to India except a sense of false/misplaced pride. Good relations with China can positively transform India and its vast population in a very short span of time. Indian media should concentrate on mending fences and improving ties between China and India thereby creating a positive synergy between these two ancient civilizations.

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Pakistan preparing for ‘tough talk’ with Afghanistan

The Pakistani authorities are preparing for a ‘tough talk’ with the Afghan government officials as the country’s Chief of Army Staff General Qamar Javed Bajwa is mulling to visit Afghanistan, it has been reported.
Sources privy of the development have said Gen. Bajwa will visit the country in an appropriate time with the main motive behind his visit would be to amend the fractured ties between the two nations.
A senior security official speaking on the condition of anonymity told a local newspaper that Gen. Bajwa will likely visit the country after the Trump administration announces its Afghanistan policy.
The source further added that Gen. Bajwa will also deliver a clear message to the Afghan leadership to ‘stop blaming Pakistan for your own failings’.
This comes as the Afghan officials have long been criticizing Pakistan for allowing the Afghan militant groups, specifically the Taliban and Haqqani terrorist network leaderships use its soil for planning and coordinating attacks in Afghanistan.
The US Department of State earlier said problem regarding the safe havens of the terrorist groups in Pakistan still persists.
State Department spokesperson Mark Toner made the remarks in response to a question regarding Afghan officials concerns about the attacks being carried out in Afghanistan using the Pakistani soil.
Endorsing Afghanistan’s view that terrorists are able to strike at whenever they want to because of the existence of safe havens, terrorist safe havens inside Pakistan, Toner said “Well, it continues – so the short answer to your first question is yes, and I think we’ve been very frank and very open about publicly saying to – to Pakistan that it needs to not provide any safe haven to groups that will or are intent on carrying out attacks on Afghanistan.”

Is the Ordeal of Pakistani Christian Asylum Seekers A Government Conspiracy?

The ordeal that Pakistani Christian faces in countries like Sri Lanka, Thailand and Malaysia is not unknown. It has been seen that the problems are never ending and they keep on increasing.
According to sources of Pakistan Christian Post, there are more than 10,000 Pakistani Christian asylum seekers in Thailand, about 4,000 in Malaysia, more than 2,000 in Sri Lanka and in figure of hundreds in Singapore and Hong Kong, who are duly registered with offices of United Nations Refugee Commission UNHCR in respective countries.
It has been reported that in 2014, the Pakistani government pressured the government of Sri Lanka to impose visa restrictions for Pakistani visitors. Entry on arrival was also denied.
Pakistani government had supported the Sri Lanka government in curbing the Tamil Tigers issue and had also provided logistic support therefore the Sri Lanka government agreed and made visa system complex for Christians who fled Pakistan in search of safety.
Harsh visa conditions successfully reduced the flow of asylum seekers and this resulted in a great number of blasphemy cases that were registered in Pakistan during this time. What started after the reduction in number of people arriving in Thailand and Sri Lanka was mass arrests and deportation.
This was the only way minorities of Pakistan took refuge in other countries as European countries had already stopped giving visas to immigrants from Pakistan. Christians face dire straits, detention centers and even deportation.

Even at airports, Christians are hindered from traveling fearing they might seek asylum. This drives the point home that the problems asylum seekers face are administered by the efforts of the present government.

Pakista - سانحہ پاراچنار اور چند سوالات –


Children of rights activist Samar Abbas have told reporters at Karachi Press Club that they miss their father and long for his return to pick them from schools as per his past practice.
They expressed these views in the presence of their mother and grandfather who spoke at a press conference to demand the relevant State officials through media that Samar Abbas must be allowed his legal right to defend himself in the court of law if there was any allegation against him.

Syed Alamdar, father of Samar Abbas, said the state officials made entire family restless. He said that one could overcome the pain on death of any relative but the anxiety, depression and concern for a missing son is more painful.
His wife told media that she had told her children that their father had gone out of city and would return soon. But, now they came to know the fact. On this, his minor son suddenly interrupted and innocently said mom told us a lie.
He also condemned all those who blamed Samar Abbas of blasphemy saying that he and entire of his family is very much religious and incorrect blasphemy charge is intolerable for them.
Samar Abbas is a Shia Muslim and a rights activist. He has founded Civil Progressive Alliance and had been struggling to defend the legitimate rights of oppressed people of Pakistan irrespective of their affiliations.

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German newspaper reaffirms allegations against Maryam Nawaz

With doubts looming over Prime Minister (PM) Nawaz Sharif’s daughter Maryam Nawaz’s involvement in Panama Papers scandal, a German newspaper has reiterated its earlier revelation.

“For those Pakistanis in doubt regarding the role of the PM’s daughter Maryam Safdar in Panama Papers – some of the documents – judge yourself,” Süddeutsche Zeitung, the Germany daily, tweeted on Monday.
The newspaper posted some documents which, proved Maryam’s ownership of offshore companies named in Panama Papers.
Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) already submitted these documents in the Supreme Court, where a five-judge larger bench is hearing petitions against the Sharif family over allegations of corruption.
The family of Nawaz Sharif was named in the Panama Papers, one of the biggest leaks in history. The leak, comprising 11.5 million documents from Panama-based law firm Mossack Fonseca, shows how some of the world’s most powerful people have secreted away their money in offshore jurisdictions.
Among those named are three of Sharif’s four children — Maryam, who has been tipped to be his political successor; Hasan and Hussain, with the records showing they owned London real estate through offshore companies administrated by the firm.
Reacting to the reaffirmation, Imran Khan said, “ICIJ released evidence proving Maryam Nawaz owner of London flats.”
The PTI leader Imran Khan on Monday said that the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists has once again released evidence proving Maryam Nawaz is the beneficiary of luxury flats in a posh London neighbourhood.
“Now that more evidence has been released, the Qatari letter and trust deed of London flats hold no value,” the PTI chief said while addressing the media in Islamabad, “Rather than trying to prove my allegations as false, PML-N should question ICIJ and BBC over their recent revelations.”

Pakistan - One public toilet for every one million Lahoris

Faizan Ali Warraich

According to rough estimates Lahore is home to nearly 10 million people. Toilets especially at public places are must and provided in almost every city of the world. It is ironic that as the city braces for mega development projects there is little stress on providing basic facilities to people. The city has only 10 operational public toilets.
According to sources at the City District Government Lahore there are only 10 operational public toilets in the city. The one at Moon Market, Allama Iqbal Town is being reconstructed and would be auctioned on its completion. Other nine public toilets are located at Dispensary Lorri Adda, Fruit Market Ravi Road, Truck Adda No I, Truck Adda No II, Madina Market, Shah Alam, Liberty Market, Services Hospital and Ichra Market.
Public Facilities department of CDGL was tight lipped on the issue. Sources in CDGL told The Nation that for last four years summaries have been moved to the finance department of Punjab government to build 10 more public toilets but no response has been received so far. “This year 30th June is the last date for expiry of the auctioning of the washrooms/bathrooms and after that new auction will be announced. If we get appropriate reply and funds allocated for the establishment of more public toilets the situation would improve overall,” the sources said.
Two decades ago there were 40 public toilets in the city and with each passing year the number has been on the decline. “Policy to build new public toilets has been envisaged but the funds allocation is the biggest hindrance to implement this policy,” sources said.
The condition of these public toilets is deplorable. There are no commode toilets that can be used by senior citizens or by those who have been advised to use them. All public toilets have been built on the old WC toilet style. But both are not kept in clean hygienic conditions.
On the other hands, Parks and Horticulture Authority (PHA) also have public toilets in the parks and most of them are functional except for a few which are not in good condition. “If water is available to parks’ washrooms then electricity is not available,” Shamir Ahmed, who is regular visitor of Gillani Park (Previously Race Course Park), said. There are some commode toilets there in this park but interestingly none of them have seats where one can sit. Therefore, their usage is out of question.
The department concerned has been waiting for funds since 2010 when survey was conducted to construct new public toilets in Johar Town, Faisal Town and Thokar Niaz Biag areas.
According to Unicef data, 41 million people in Pakistan lack access to adequate toilets that force them to defecate in public areas making it third largest country behind India and Indonesia where people don’t have access to public toilets.
The situation is worse for women who are regular visitor of markets and upon attending call of nature it becomes difficult to find a toilet in city’s markets. According to United Nations study published in 2013 that finding a phone is easier than finding a toilet. Official charges for using the public toilet if from Rs 5 to Rs 10 per person but the reality is that they charge Rs 10 to Rs 30. Due to unsatisfactory condition of the public toilets women rarely used public toilets.
Maryam Hussain, teacher by profession and working as human rights activist said that “PML-N led Punjab Government has been spending billion dollars on the mega projects like Orange Line Metro Train but at the same time citizens of Lahore are deprived of basic facilities like availability of clean water and access to public toilets.”
“There must be a transparency in spending money and proper funds should be allocated for the public toilets in the city of 10 million people. It is tax payers right to have access to basic facilities,” she said.
According to Unicef progress report 2013- 2015 results for children in Pakistan which stated that 10 million fewer people practicing open defecation by 2017 which detrimentally affects children’s lives, making them more susceptible to stunting and exposing them to the risk of diarrhea, polio and other diseases. Unicef is supporting Pakistan Approach to Total Sanitation (PATS).
A survey conducted by The Nation showed that most of the open defecation is being practice in sub-urban areas, markets and in villages on the outskirts of city. The Unicef report showed only 64 percent of Pakistan’s population uses improved sanitation, with wide disparity between urban 83 percent and rural areas 51 percent. The rural versus urban statistics showed that only 21 percent population in Pakistan openly defecated and only 1 percent urban population practices open defecation.



The suspected abductions of five social media personalities have fuelled fears the country’s formidable national security apparatus is expanding its reach, opening a ‘dark new chapter’ for civil society.
The disappearances this month of five Pakistani social media activists have fuelled a rare public examination of the pervasive powers wielded by the country’s national security apparatus and the elected government’s inability to rein them in.
The five men were detained in Islamabad, the capital, and in and around the populous eastern city of Lahore between January 4 and 7, all by plain-clothed men riding pickup trucks.
No shots were fired during the detentions, nor any claims of responsibility made. The only communications were sent to family members from personal devices by abductors posing as abductees. The wife of respected leftist poet and blogger Salman Haider was instructed to collect his car from a highway junction on the outskirts of Islamabad.
A supporter of Awami Worker Party holds a portrait of missing university professor Salman Haider during a demonstration to condemn the missing human rights activists, in Karachi, Pakistan. Photo: AP
Human rights groups were quick to draw a parallel between the disappearances of the activists and those of scores of people who regularly go missing from areas of Pakistan affected by two-decades-old insurgencies by the Taliban in northwest tribal areas bordering Afghanistan and by separatists waging a low-intensity rebellion in the western province of Baluchistan.
Baluchistan is home to the port of Gwadar, the focal point of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), a US$51.5 billion investment programme that is part of President Xi Jinping’s (習近平) One Belt, One Road trade initiative to improve China’s connectivity with its neighbours.
By the end of 2014, the number of people missing and feared dead in the country rose to 5,149, according to Defence of Human Rights, a Pakistani non-governmental organisation.
The Twitter hashtag #RecoverSalmanHaider, started by his younger brother to spread the news of his disappearance, quickly trended as emotional activists blamed the national security apparatus for the disappearances of the five men.

Pakistani right-wingers cry ‘blasphemy’ to muzzle liberals

“This is the sensitive state. It is a sign of weakness that if anybody criticises their policies, all their Facebook pages have been shut down and deleted, and these people have been abducted,” said Jibran Nasir, a prominent human rights activist, in a television appearance.
Pakistanis active on social media were drawn to a poem written by Haider and published last July in Tanqeed (criticism), an e-zine he co-edits:
Right now the friends of my friends are being ‘disappeared’
Soon it will be my friends’ turn
And then mine …
When I become the file
That my father will bring to court hearings
Or the picture that my son will kiss when asked by a journalist
Supporters of Awami Worker Party hold a demonstration to condemn the missing human rights activists, in Karachi, Pakistan. Photo: AFP
However, some are perplexed that the five social media activists have been singled out for abduction. “All are known for airing their views, sometimes critical of authority, extremism and intolerance, on social media,” noted the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan. But none of them are considered controversial or renowned outside civil society. Haider’s poem on missing people had attracted only 158 likes on Tanqeed ’s Facebook page.
Fearing that the disappearances might herald a wave of detentions under a new cybercrime law enacted last August, activists recanted their unsubstantiated accusations against the military or deleted them from social media accounts. Others deactivated or deleted their social media pages altogether.
Nonetheless, public concern over the suspected role of the security agencies continued to grow as Pakistanis backed activists’ calls, under the Twitter hashtag #RecoverAllActivists, for due legal process to be accorded to the missing activists if, in fact, they had been detained for violating the cybercrime law.
Pressure has built on Nawaz Sharif, the prime minister, to fulfil promises to bring a halt to illegal detentions. Interior Minister Nisar Ali Khan has told members of the Senate, the upper house of Pakistan’s parliament, that “this government is not in the business of abducting people and we will not tolerate such disappearances while we are in power”.
However, the government’s inability to provide any information on the missing activists has fed perceptions that it does not want to antagonise the powerful military.

The Pakistani girls used as payments for never-ending debts

“With the disappearance of Salman Haider and … [four] other activists, a dark new chapter in the state’s murky, illegal war against civil society appears to have been opened,” the country’s top English newspaper, Dawn, said in an editorial written in response to the interior minister’s comments. Haider blogs for the newspaper.
“Where once-missing persons belonged to the remote areas of the country … and mostly involved those accused of waging war against the Pakistani state, the tactic has now clearly been broadened to encompass anyone who is deemed an irritant to state policy – or the policies of a state within the state.”
Throughout the controversy, the military’s propaganda arm, the Inter Services Public Relations directorate, has offered no comment. Instead, popular pro-military social media pages have launched a campaign alleging that the missing activists were the administrators of a secular activist Facebook page named Bhensa (buffalo), notorious for mocking the national security apparatus and religious extremists.
On that pretext, Cyber Force for Pakistan, a Facebook page liked by more 400,000 people, has accused the missing activists of being funded by India’s intelligence services. Similarly, Defence Pakistan, a pro-military page with more than 7 million followers, has equated content purportedly written for Bhensa by the missing activists as blasphemous.
In turn, that has prompted a wave of social media posts demanding that they be prosecuted for insulting the Prophet Mohammed, an offence punishable under law by the death sentence. In turn, rights activists have demanded the government prosecute the administrators of Defence Pakistan on charges of incitement to violence. “Attempts are being made to set our country on fire and to divide it,” said Nasir on social media. “For God’s sake, think
about what you are doing, repent, think about the future of this country.” 

Pakistan - Bilawal Bhutto's mass contact

By Akram Shaheedi

PPP’s rally from Lahore to Faisalabad led by Chairman Bilawal Bhutto last week was characteristically a Jialas’s impressive march where traditional energy and enthusiasm was beaming out with full glory giving plausible cause of concern to the political opponents. The Takht-i-Lahore was crumbling with the shock waves of slogans of the fully charged participants. Indeed, the entire route of the rally was presenting the true glimpses of the rallies led by Shaheed Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto and Shaheed Benazir Bhutto during their times. The PPP workers and leaders were looking amazingly upbeat because their confidence was holding out promising political future. Their resolve to regain its bastion was very reassuring. The party leadership in general and the chairman in particular were visibly delighted to see the response of the people that would surely prove as a harbinger of staging comeback in the province of Punjab sooner than later.
Makdoom Ahmed Mahmood, Raja Pervez Ashraf, Qamar Zaman Kaira, Nadeem Afzal Chan, Senator Aitzaz Ehsan, Mian Manzoor Ahmed Wattoo, Asef Khan, Mushtaq Awan, Abdul Qadir Shaheen, Naveed Chaudhry, Raja Amir were prominent among those who accompanied the chairman in the rally. Former Prime Minister Syed Yusuf Raza Gilani’s absence was conspicuous as he was pre-occupied in Multan to bring the important political personalities of the city to the party.
The PPP workers were continuously chanting slogans in the rally at the top of their voice ‘go Nawaz go’ and ‘down with the Takhat-i-Lahore’-- implying enough was enough and the nation could not tolerate them anymore.
The abject failures of this government in all walks of national life were unforgiving explicitly giving the message that people had run out of their patience and wanted to get rid of them as early as possible because good governance was too serious business that could not be carried out by the traders. Their temptation to thrive on the miseries of the poorest of the poor was pitiably irresistible. They had disappointed the people earlier, and they were bound to inflict the same cycle of miseries on the people this time as well because their appetite to amass wealth had no limits. Panama Papers was just the tip of the iceberg.
The successful march by the PPP also suggested that the new leadership in Punjab, Qamar Zaman Kaira, Nadeem Afzal Chen and Mustafa Khokhar and others had proved their mettle of leadership by infusing the enthusiasm among the workers in such a short span of time who were earlier disoriented and frustrated and largely felt alienated.
They were looking up to the high command for appointing comparatively amenable and well-meaning leadership in the province with the tinge of rebuilding and rebranding from roots to branches. The faces of the incumbent hierarchy of the party at Punjab level quite clearly pointed to the acknowledgment of the paradigm. The new leadership was certainly well poised to revive the party in the province, once a heartland of the party. The party would stage a comeback in the province although it was daunting task in the wake of well-entrenched PML (N) and the new factor of PTI. But, under the leadership of Chairman Bilawal Bhutto, the liberal and democratic forces in the province including the PPP workers would readily come around to push back successfully the retrogressive and status-quo forces.
The typical political pundits, though, had been projecting the dismal prospects of the revival of the PPP because, according to them, a lot of water had flown under the bridge and it was very difficult for the chairman to make inroads in the stronghold of PML-N that had been in the saddle in the province for the last more than two decades. It may be recalled that the political pundits used to make similar forecasts on the political fate of the election campaigns of two Great Bhuttos who amazingly routed the political stalwarts because they communicated directly to the people and convinced them of their genuine leadership engrossed for their empowerment. Similarly, Chairman Bilawal Bhutto’s political strategy to embark on the mass contact movement was the modus operandi to strive for the same results. He was a charismatic young leader who had fallen heir to the legacies of Great Bhuttos. He was determined to uphold the cherished legacies.
One important dimension of the current political struggle of the PPP for the consumption of all and sundry was its total commitment in electoral politics. It had given much needed solace to the people who were not at all inclined to accept any other model than the democratic dispensation. Therefore, PPP’s current mass contact campaign did not arouse the acute anxiety among the people regarding the derailment of democracy mainly because of the impeccable credentials of the PPP for the restoration and strengthening of it. This stark difference between the sit-in, lockdown politics and the PPP people’s politics was going to be a powerful factor that might attract the people in large number in favor of the party. PPP had never come to power without the power of vote whereas the history of other political parties was smeared of entering the corridors of power, at times, through the political crutches of the unauthorized and unqualified quarters. PPP being an anti-establishment party had faced its wrath many times in the past in the form of denying it electoral victory. Supreme Court judgment in Asghar Khan’s case unfolded the conspiracies hatched and executed against PPP.
Salute to the unwavering commitment of the PPP to democracy. It had and would not put the political system in danger in its political struggle for party politics. Former Prime Minister Syed Yusuf Raza Gilani’s assertion in the past comprehensively defined the level of commitment when he said, ‘PPP will not compromise on democracy regardless of the fact as who is the beneficiary’. It would continue its political campaign within the ambit of the democratic ethos while ensuring the longevity of the political system at the same time. For PPP, democracy was non-negotiable that could not be sacrificed at the altar of any other consideration no matter how compelling that might be.
There was no doubt that the dawn of democracy and its continuity in the country today largely owed to the PPP struggle in the face of successive ferocious dictatorships like of general Ziaul Haq and general Musharraf. Even after those tempestuous eras the political system was subject to subtle dangers unleashed through the planted saviors.
Had the PPP joined the forces of ‘sit-in politics or lock down’ during 2013-14 and after, democracy would have been the relic of the past. PPP could not afford of seeing the ugly sight of derailment of democracy because that would have amounted to betrayal to the legacies of its founding father. PPP stemmed the tide of anti-democratic forces with courage and also helped in big way the pro-democratic forces to hold their ground.
At present, the PPP was relatively out of the apprehension of the rocking of the ship of democracy as anti-democratic forces had been cut to size by the sharp rise of pro-democracy environment all around. Therefore, PPP felt no hesitation in deciding to take on the government as a formidable opposition party to expose its anti-people policies. There was no secret the government had been following the policies to benefit the rich at the expense of the poor making rich the richer and the poor destitute. The curse of unemployment had permeated to an appalling proportion among the youth who constituted major chunk of country’s population. They were running from pole to post in search of even menial jobs but to no avail because the job market had shrunk to the limits due to the pro-elite policies of this government.
The country’s exports were on the decline widening the gap of balance of payments. Farmers’ community was up in arms against the government because agriculture of the country was presenting the dismal picture on which the livelihood of two thirds majority of the people depended. The agony of load shedding of gas and electricity was persisting contrary to their tall electoral promises to control it within six months. The government had completed more than three and half years but the mitigating of the miseries of the people remained a forlorn hope.
The government’s macroeconomic policies had also pushed the economy of the country into debt trap and the touting of the finance minister of making turn around in the economy sounds hoax. The mountain of debts was in total contravention of the fiscal responsibility and Debt Limitation Act. He was on the path of mortgaging the future of the future generations. They must be stopped by resisting their policies in all their forms and manifestations because inaction and inattention now would bring unmitigated disaster for the people and the economy. The chairman had decided to expose the government and its policies to the bones. PPP would not allow the government to inflict the devastation. It would rather illuminate the path to be followed by the nation leading to the destination reflective of their aspirations.