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Old Friday, November 11, 2005
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Default United Nations

Introduction

United Nations (UN), international organization of countries created to promote world peace and cooperation. The UN was founded after World War II ended in 1945. Its mission is to maintain world peace, develop good relations between countries, promote cooperation in solving the world’s problems, and encourage respect for human rights.
The UN is an alliance of countries that agree to cooperate with one another. It brings together countries that are rich and poor, large and small, and have different social and political systems. Member nations pledge to settle their disputes peacefully, to refrain from using force or the threat of force against other countries, and to refuse help to any country that opposes UN actions.
UN membership is open to any country willing to further the UN mission and abide by its rules. Each country, no matter how large or small, has an equal voice and vote. Each country is also expected to pay dues to support the UN. As of 2003 the UN had 191 members, including nearly every country in the world.
The UN’s influence in world affairs has fluctuated over the years, but the organization gained new prominence beginning in the 1990s. It was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2001. Still, the UN faces constant challenges. It must continually secure the cooperation of its member nations because the organization has little independent power or authority. But getting that support is not always easy. Many nations are reluctant to defer their own authority and follow the dictates of the UN.

PURPOSES OF THE UNITED NATIONS

The UN today has the same basic purpose and structure as it did when it was founded in 1945. Its primary purpose—and greatest benefit to its members—is to maintain world peace. That, in turn, helps encourage business and international trade. In addition to that primary mission, the UN serves its member countries in a variety of other ways. The UN provides a forum for countries to promote their views and settle conflicts without violence. It allows countries to cooperate to solve world problems, such as poverty, disease, and environmental degradation. It serves as a symbol of international order and global identity. It promotes and coordinates economic and social progress in developing countries, with the idea that such problems create sources of conflict that can lead to war. The UN helps coordinate the work of hundreds of agencies and programs, both within its own organization and outside it. It also collects and publishes international data.

CREATION OF THE UNITED NATIONS

The UN is the result of a long history of efforts to promote international cooperation. In the late 18th century, German philosopher Immanuel Kant proposed a federation or “league” of the world’s nations. Kant believed that such a federation would allow countries to unite and punish any nation that committed an act of aggression. This type of union by nations to protect each other against an aggressor is sometimes referred to as collective security. Kant also felt that the federation would protect the rights of small nations that often become pawns in power struggles between larger countries.
Kant’s idea came to life after World War I (1914-1918). Horrified by the devastation of the war, countries were inspired to come together and work toward peace. They formed a new organization, the League of Nations, to achieve that goal. The League would last from 1920 to 1946 and have a total of 63 member nations through its history, including some of the world’s greatest powers: France, the United Kingdom, Italy, Japan, Germany, and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. But the League had two major flaws. First, several of the world’s most powerful countries were not members, most notably, the United States. Second, League members proved unwilling to oppose aggression by Japan, Italy, and Germany in the 1930s. This aggression ultimately led to World War II (1939-1945). In the end, the League failed in its most basic mission, to prevent another world war.
Despite this failure, the idea of a league did not die. The first commitment to create a new organization came in 1941, when U.S. president Franklin D. Roosevelt and British Prime Minister Winston Churchill signed the Atlantic Charter, in which they pledged to work toward a more effective system to keep world peace and promote cooperation. In 1942 representatives of the Allies—the World War II coalition of 26 nations fighting against Germany and Japan—signed a Declaration by United Nations accepting the principles of the Atlantic Charter. The declaration included the first formal use of the term United Nations, a name coined by President Roosevelt. A year later, four of the Allies—the United States, the United Kingdom, the Soviet Union, and China—agreed to establish a general international organization. The four countries met in 1944 at the Dumbarton Oaks estate in Washington, D.C., and drafted a charter for the new organization. They called the new league the United Nations. But they still could not agree to certain details, such as membership and voting rights.
The four countries met again in early 1945 at a summit in Yalta. There, they settled their differences and called for a conference of nations to complete their work. On April 25, 1945, the United Nations Conference on International Organization convened in San Francisco, with delegates from 50 countries attending. The delegates worked for two months to complete a charter for the UN that included its purpose, principles, and organizational structure. The charter contained a formal agreement committing all the world’s nations to a common set of basic rules governing their relations. The UN officially came into existence on October 24, 1945.
Like the League of Nations, the UN was founded to promote peace and prevent another world war. The UN recognized it would not be successful unless it had the ongoing support of the world’s most powerful countries. The organization took several steps to ensure that support. To encourage continued U.S. involvement, the UN placed its headquarters in New York City. To reassure the world’s most powerful countries that it would not threaten their sovereignty, the UN gave them veto authority over its most important actions. Five countries received this veto power: the United States, Britain, France, the Soviet Union, and China. (Russia inherited the Soviet Union’s veto after the breakup of that country in 1991.)
Another major strength of the UN, unlike the earlier League of Nations, is that virtually every territory in the world is a member, or a province, or a colony of a member. Switzerland is an exception, maintaining only an observer mission status, meaning it can participate in UN deliberations but cannot vote. Switzerland has considered becoming a full UN member. Over the years that nation’s voters have rejected two referendums suggesting Switzerland join. The Swiss apparently prefer to maintain their neutral observer status. Some nonmember political entities, such as the Vatican City and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), also have permanent observer mission status at the UN.
STRUCTURE OF THE UNITED NATIONS

The UN’s charter established six distinct bodies that serve different functions: (1) the General Assembly, (2) the Security Council, (3) the Secretariat, (4) the Economic and Social Council, (5) the International Court of Justice, and (6) the Trusteeship Council.

A) General Assembly
The General Assembly is made up of all 191 member countries, each with one vote. It undertakes all major discussions and decisions about UN actions. It is like a global town hall, providing a powerful medium for countries to put forward their ideas and debate issues. The Assembly can discuss and make recommendations on any issue covered by the UN’s charter. However, the recommendations are not binding because the Assembly has no authority to enforce them. Members decide routine matters with a simple majority vote. Important decisions require a two-thirds majority.
The General Assembly meets annually in regular sessions that generally run from mid-September to mid-December. Recently the General Assembly has been meeting year round. It also convenes for special sessions every few years on specific topics, such as economic cooperation or disarmament. In addition, the Assembly can meet in emergency session to deal with an immediate threat to international peace. At the beginning of each regular session, Assembly members elect a president to preside over the assembly. The Assembly sessions, like most UN deliberations, are simultaneously translated into many languages so that delegates from around the world can understand any speaker.
The General Assembly has the power to admit new members to the UN. It approves the budget for UN programs and operations. The Assembly can establish agencies and programs to carry out its recommendations. It elects members to serve on certain agencies and programs, and it coordinates those programs through various committees.

B) Security Council
The Security Council is the most powerful body in the UN. It is responsible for maintaining international peace, and for restoring peace when conflicts arise. Its decisions are binding on all UN members. The Security Council has the power to define what is a threat to security, to determine how the UN should respond, and to enforce its decisions by ordering UN members to take certain actions. For example, the Council may impose economic sanctions, such as halting trade with a country it considers an aggressor.
“The Security Council is the most powerful body in the UN.”
The Council convenes any time there is a threat to peace. A representative from each member country who sits on the Council must be available at all times so that the Council can meet at a moment’s notice. The Security Council also frequently meets at the request of a UN member—often a nation with a grievance about another nation’s actions.

The Security Council has 15 members; five of which hold permanent seats. The Assembly elects the other ten members for two-year terms. The five permanent members—the United States, Britain, France, Russia (formerly the Soviet Union), and China—have the most power. These nations were the winning powers at the end of World War II, and they still represent the bulk of the world’s military might. Decisions of the Council require nine votes. But any one of the permanent members can veto an important decision. This authority is known as the veto right of the great powers. As a result, the Council is effective only when its permanent members can reach a consensus. This created problems during the Cold War, the post-1945 struggle between the United States and Soviet Union that ended when the Soviet Union dissolved in 1991. During that time, the council was frequently deadlocked because the United States and Soviet Union could not agree. In the 1990s, increased cooperation between the United States and Russia has enabled the council to become more effective.

The Council has a variety of ways it can try to resolve conflicts between countries. Usually the Council’s first step is to encourage the countries to settle their disagreements without violence. The Council can mediate a dispute or recommend guidelines for a settlement. It can send peacekeeping troops into a distressed area. If war breaks out, the Council can call for a ceasefire. It can enforce its decisions by imposing economic sanctions on a country, or through joint military action.

Since the 1990s, there has been growing controversy over which countries should have permanent seats on the Council. Some nations believe that other countries beside the original five should be included. For example, Japan and Germany are powerful countries that pay large membership dues and make substantial contributions to the UN, yet they do not have permanent seats. There is no easy solution to this problem. Adding more permanent members creates its own set of complications, including how to decide which countries get a seat and which do not. For example, if Germany joined, three of the permanent members would be European, giving that region an unfair advantage. Several proposals for addressing this problem have been considered, including adding Germany and Japan as permanent members, waiving the veto power of the permanent members, and limiting Council membership to one year. Thus far, none of the proposals have been adopted, partly because the present structure works well for the five permanent members and they can veto any changes to it.

C) Secretariat
The Secretariat is the UN’s executive branch. It oversees the administration of the UN’s programs and policies and carries out day-to-day operations. This branch is headed by the secretary general, who acts as the UN’s spokesperson.

C-1 Secretariat Staff

The UN’s staff includes administrators, experts on technical issues such as environmental protection, and economic advisors working on various programs and projects in the member countries. These workers have a variety of responsibilities, such as overseeing the operations of peacekeeping missions, preparing studies on world issues, organizing international conferences, and surveying economic and social trends. The largest concentration of staff outside New York City is in Geneva, Switzerland, where several UN programs and agencies have headquarters.

One purpose of the Secretariat is to develop an international civil service of diplomats and bureaucrats whose loyalties are not tied to any one country. The staff answers only to the UN and takes an oath not to obey any outside authority. The UN charter calls on its members to respect the independence and international character of the staff. However, the UN has had mixed success following through on this ideal. The secretary general is generally seen as an independent diplomat. But member nations still compete to place their citizens in control of staffs that administer important UN programs.

In the early 1990s the UN bureaucracy came under increasing criticism for inefficiency and even corruption. Much of this criticism came from the United States, which believed it was bearing an unfair share of the costs of supporting the UN. By the mid-1990s, these criticisms had led to a series of reforms, including budget and staff reductions.

C-2 Secretary General
The secretary general is a powerful public figure who oversees the daily operations of the UN and plays a major role in setting the organization’s agenda in international security affairs. The secretary general can bring to the Security Council any matter that might threaten world peace. The secretary general has the authority to serve as a neutral mediator in international conflicts and to bring hostile parties together to negotiate. The secretary general’s personal attention to a problem can often help bring about a resolution. For example, in the 1990s Secretary General Boutros Boutros-Ghali personally mediated conflicts in Somalia, the former Yugoslavia, and elsewhere. In the 1980s, Secretary General Javier Pérez de Cuéllar mediated conflicts in Central America. The secretary general also works to build consensus among the five permanent members of the Security Council, knowing that without it the Council cannot act.

The secretary general is formally chosen by the General Assembly. But the secretary general must first be nominated by the Security Council and win the consent of all five of its permanent members. The secretary general serves a five-year term, which may be renewed. The Security Council can nominate a candidate from any country, but it is an unwritten tradition that the position rotates geographically, with a secretary general chosen from a new region after every two terms. In 1997 the General Assembly created the post of deputy secretary general to assist in the management of the Secretariat. The secretary general appoints the deputy secretary general.

The secretary general, like the rest of the UN staff, is supposed to be independent. In reality, the secretary general must rely on member countries, especially the five permanent Security Council members, to get anything done. As a result, the secretary general often struggles with the Security Council over what direction the UN should take. Since the Security Council chooses the secretary general, there is a limit on how independent the position can be.
Kofi Annan of Ghana was elected by the General Assembly to be secretary general from 1997 through 2001. In 2001 the General Assembly unanimously elected him to a second term, running from 2002 through 2006. He is the first secretary general from sub-Saharan Africa and the first to rise through the UN staff to the top job. Before becoming secretary general, Annan served as undersecretary general for peacekeeping operations. He was credited with doing the best job possible with difficult peacekeeping missions in Somalia and Bosnia in the early 1990s. Annan was educated in the United States and knows the UN bureaucracy well. As secretary general, Annan has reformed the UN secretariat’s finances and management and has significantly improved relations between the UN and the United States. He has also worked to improve human rights worldwide and to slow the spread of acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS), particularly in developing countries.

Annan’s immediate predecessor, Boutros Boutros-Ghali of Egypt, was secretary general from 1992 through 1996. He tried to expand the UN’s role as peacekeeper and peacemaker. He was outspoken with the Security Council, a trait that got him into trouble with its members, particularly the United States. For example, he scolded the Council for giving him big projects without enough money to carry them out. In 1996 the United States vetoed his candidacy for a second term. Since both Annan and Boutros-Ghali represented African nations, Annan’s selection preserved the tradition of keeping the secretary general’s post in the same geographic region for two terms.

Past secretaries general have come from various regions of the world, but it is an unwritten rule that they never should come from one of the most powerful countries. This tradition is a response to concerns that a secretary general selected from such a country would not be perceived by other nations as objective or neutral. There is also a fear that such a selection would give the world’s most influential nations that much more power. Past secretaries general include Trygve Lie of Norway, who served from 1946 to 1953; Dag Hammarskjöld of Sweden, 1953 to 1961; U Thant of Burma, 1961 through 1971; Kurt Waldheim of Austria, 1972 to 1982; and Javier Pérez de Cuéllar of Peru, 1982 through 1991. No woman has yet served in this position.

D) Economic and Social Council
The Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) works under the authority of the General Assembly to coordinate the economic and social work of the UN. ECOSOC has 54 member countries elected by the General Assembly for three-year terms. ECOSOC coordinates studies and recommends actions on international topics such as medicine, education, economics, and social needs. It oversees the work of a large number of programs and agencies. It operates mainly through various standing committees, functional commissions, and regional commissions. There are five regional commissions that look at how the UN’s programs in a particular region are working together. There are nine functional commissions that deal with topics such as population growth, narcotics trafficking, human rights, and the status of women. Other committees work on topics relevant to several UN programs, such as crime prevention, public finance, natural resources, science, and geographical names.
ECOSOC coordinates many specialized agencies that provide a variety of social, economic, and related services. The agencies operate independently but work with other programs in the UN. Those programs include the World Health Organization (WHO), the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), the International Labor Organization (ILO), and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).

E) International Court of Justice
The International Court of Justice, also known as the World Court, is the judicial arm of the UN. It is located in The Hague, Netherlands. The court hears cases brought by nations against each other. It has 15 judges, elected by the Security Council and the General Assembly. A country is not required to participate in the court’s proceedings, but if it agrees to participate, it must abide by the court’s decisions.

F) Trusteeship Council
The Trusteeship Council was established to oversee the transition of a handful of colonies to independence. The last of those colonies gained independence in 1994, making the Trusteeship Council obsolete.

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Old Friday, November 11, 2005
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This will brief about its working!

Dilemmas of the same kind

By Shamshad Ahmad Khan


THE United Nations at 60 is weak and frail, not in size, but in terms of its credibility and authority. It now also stands crippled by scandals of corruption, inefficiency and gross mismanagement. Two years senior in age to our own country, it is doing no better with a woeful record of failures and a dismal culture of poor governance.

Throughout its independent statehood, Pakistan that came into being as a fortress of ‘peace and honour” for the Muslims of the subcontinent, has gone through traumatic experiences, including costly wars, loss of half the country, political breakdowns, military takeovers, economic stagnation and social malaise.

Throughout its existence since it came into being as “mankind’s last best hope”, the UN has failed to deliver on its Charter obligations. It has prevented no war or genocide and resolved no dispute and remains helplessly far from fulfilling its promise of peace and prosperity. In both cases, the visions given to them by their founding fathers remain unfulfilled. Democratic norms as well as the respective basic legal frameworks, the Charter in the case of the UN and the Constitution in the case of Pakistan have received little respect or adherence in practical terms.

The vision of an ideal democratic state and a progressive Pakistan promising to its people long-cherished freedom, genuine democracy and social justice remains illusive. The UN also envisioned a global system, which would be based on justice and equity and governed by rules, laws, values and cooperation. Unfortunately, the world that ensued was neither just nor equal, and remains divided between two unequal parts, one incredibly rich, and the other desperately poor.

Agonizingly, since independence, Pakistan has been wallowing in political and economic uncertainty and has had neither domestic stability nor peaceful borders. Its 58-year political history has been replete with crises that perhaps no other country in the world has experienced.

In both cases, the goals of freedom from fear, want and ignorance continue to elude realization. Pakistan has not achieved socio-political stability and economic self-reliance nor has the UN freed the world from conflict, oppression, violence, poverty, hunger and disease. Pakistan’s founder Mohammad Ali Jinnah had warned against the “evils” of bribery, corruption, black-marketing, nepotism and jobbery. He wanted these evils to be nipped with “an iron hand”.

We as a nation have not only failed to grapple with these challenges but are living with these problems as an “integral” part of our society. Crime and corruption are rampant. Aversion to the rule of law is endemic. Poor governance is our national hallmark. There is constant erosion of law and order.

The UN’s reality is no less grim. As a universal organization, it was meant to provide a moral edifice for the reordering of the global system in conformity with its ideals and to function as an instrument of international legitimacy upholding the “fundamental values of freedom, tolerance and solidarity as well as the basic principles of human dignity, equality and equity” at the global level. Unfortunately, the UN has never risen above the considerations of “power and expediency”. Today’s UN is no more than a debating club, producing voluminous and repetitive documentation without any tangible results.

And now, according to Paul Volcker’s Independent Inquiry Committee, which Secretary-General Kofi Annan had himself tasked to look into the scandals surrounding the Iraqi Oil-for-Food Programme, has indicted the UN as being guilty of “illicit, unethical and corrupt” behaviour.

Though absolved himself of any wrongdoing, the secretary-general is being blamed for “poor leadership and complacency” over the scandals involving the Iraqi Oil-for-Food Programme and sexual abuse charges against senior UN officials as well as the blue-helmeted peace-keepers in Africa.

Indeed, the UN has never been so helpless and ineffective in meeting its Charter obligations. In recent years, its role has been circumvented by the unabashed use of power. The new unipolarity is responsible for an ominous effect on the role and relevance of the UN, leaving very little to be addressed meaningfully through a multilateral approach.

Ironically, both Pakistan and the UN have been at the mercy of the US, always in need of “political and material” support and succour from Washington for their survival. Both have had painful experiences and yet have learnt no lessons. Both seem to be content with their respective “errands” and roles on behalf and in the interest of the sole superpower of this century. Both appear to have no other option. Perhaps they have a point.

The world has changed. Pakistan and the UN confront a dual challenge in terms of the risks and opportunities presented to them by the turbulent world of today. After a century of “great wars” and “great upsurge” in terms of freedom, democracy and human rights, the new millennium unfortunately did not start well for Pakistan and the UN.

Both remain burdened with the same problems, perhaps in their acutest form. Pakistan’s difficulties have been exacerbated by decades of political ineptitude and instability, protracted military rule, economic stagnation, rampant corruption, and general aversion to the rule of law. Religious extremism, obscurantism and terrorism-related problems have given Pakistan a new identity and placed it on the global radar screen.

For the UN, its multiple challenges lie in the uninterrupted global legacy of armed conflict, unresolved disputes, military occupations, invasions in the name of self-defence, wars of aggression and attrition, human tragedies and humanitarian catastrophes, massacres and genocides, which continue to define the “new world disorder.” There is no let up in violence. Injustice and oppression continue unabated. Poverty, hunger, disease, and above all, human rights violations and denial of basic rights are endemic to most societies.

The global development agenda has been set aside, if not shelved. Humanity finds itself divided along economic and religious lines. Dialogue among civilizations is almost dead.

The economic adventurism of the 19th century is resurfacing. Iraq is still burning. Peace has yet to come to Afghanistan. Kashmir stands disillusioned. Palestine has given up. Terrorism is the new scourge afflicting our world. Unfortunately, the war on terror has not gone beyond retribution and retaliation.

According to the UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, terrorism is the product of what he once described as “a broader mix of problems caused by bad governments, opportunistic politicians and militant leaders who exploit grievances”. At one time, he also believed that “when there are no legitimate means of addressing the massive and systemic political, economic and social inequalities, an environment is created in which peaceful solutions often lose out against extreme and violent alternatives”. Our president also subscribes to this view and believes that terrorism stems from unresolved disputes and issues that have not been addressed, giving rise to forces of hatred and violence.

With growing complexity and magnitude of inter-connected global challenges, the despair over the UN’s capacity to manage these has been increasing. What aggravates this bleak scenario is the growing inability of the international community to respond to these challenges with unity of purpose. There is no global consensus on major peace and security issues or on how to address them. The UN General Assembly, despite its universal character, has no role or authority in decisions of global relevance and impact.

In Pakistan too, there is no consensus on major national issues with the mainstream political forces standing “marginalized,” and the country’s parliament remaining “trivialized”. The people of Pakistan or the parliaments “elected” in their name have also had no role in determining the course of their history or the direction of their country’s political, economic and social policies.

The closeness of problems and challenges between Pakistan and the UN does not end here. Both suffer a serious image problem with deep-rooted negative perceptions about their policies and performance. Both are conscious of the need to correct this image and their leadership, howsoever beleaguered, is sparing no effort to manage the grim situation.

President Musharraf is seeking to enlighten Pakistan with “moderation and tolerance” while also projecting its credentials of “peace and honour” at regional and global levels. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, on his part, has been vigorously pursuing “bold and radical” reform for the strengthening of the United Nations. Intentions on the part of both are genuine but the issues they are seeking to grapple with are complex and need an attitudinal change.

These are exceptional times warranting exceptional responses to common challenges. With this imperative in mind, the secretary-general through his report In Larger Freedom, tried to forge a global consensus on core issues of “development, security, human rights and UN renewal”. In his ambitious approach, however, he went too far in advocating the “realities of power” and espousing a “compromise” on principles.

The overwhelming majority of UN membership also saw in his report a clear imbalance in the development-related content and the “security agenda”. Some thought he was more responsive to the preferences of a particular group of influential countries and trying to appease certain quarters at a time when he was under “pressure and scrutiny” on his handling of the Oil-for-Food Programme.

In New York, world leaders, found it difficult to endorse the secretary-general’s “ambitious” agenda or to allow him the authority and powers of a “corporate chief executive officer”. They gave him only a limited framework to proceed with his reform programme.

What is clear in today’s context is that both in Pakistan and the UN, the “system and methods of governance” are no longer an issue of relevance as far as the international community is concerned. Perhaps, there is no alternative to continuing with the present system in both cases.

There must be lot of anxiety, however, among the major powers on the prospect of “succession” which in both cases will be due in 2007. Kofi Annan’s renewal of office has statutory limitations, though as in 2001, he may be counting on Asia’s inability to field a unanimous candidate this time too.

On his part, President Musharraf is well-entrenched, both domestically and externally, constitutional constraints notwithstanding, for another five-year term.

Meanwhile, there is “good news” in the final outcome at the New York Summit for us in Pakistan. A “democracy fund” has been established at the UN in support of “democratic principles and practices” in the member states. Whatever its size, the fund may not be sufficient to meet the “going price” of getting elected to Pakistan’s local bodies or assemblies or for switching loyalties and affiliations, but hopefully will be sufficient at least to serve the “genuine” needs of our politicians in terms of their “training and travelling” in the name of democracy. No wonder, India, the largest democracy, will be contributing significantly through “generous funds and rich experience”.

On its part, the UN is also groping for help to reinforce and renovate its 38-storey headquarters building in New York at an estimated cost of a billion dollars. An American business magnate, Donald Trump is believed to have offered assistance. The UN in need will indeed accept the offer, if it has not already done so. But it will never consider moving its headquarters to a more “hospitable” city even if the host government offers to build at its own cost “an equally grand and posh” premises. In the ultimate analysis, indeed, Pakistan and the UN, despite their “dilemmas of the same kind,” have no choices.

The writer is a former foreign secretary.
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Old Saturday, November 12, 2005
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Assalam Alaikum,

My gratitude to both for sharing this information.

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Old Monday, November 14, 2005
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Thanks for Adil and Baban Mian
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i have recently joined this forum n found it really very informative. its just a new world for me i even don't know how to reply or contribute in this forum well apart frm this the above two write ups are classy collections thnks for sharing this with us....
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