Speak now, or forever hold your peace

Published: January 13, 2013

The writer is a lawyer and partner at Ijaz and Ijaz Co in Lahore saroop.ijaz@ tribune.com.pk

In the summer of 1979, a horrifying thing began to happen in Atlanta, Georgia, US — African-American children began going missing and subsequently their murdered bodies found. This continued till the spring of 1981 and by that time, the dead bodies of 28 children were found. The brilliant James Baldwin wrote an account of the episode in his 1985 book The Evidence of Things Not Seen. Baldwin narrates an arresting story, which provided the inspiration for the book. “Some years ago, after the disappearance of civil rights workers Chaney, Goodman and Schwirner in Mississippi, some friends of mine were dragging the river for their bodies. This one wasn’t Schwirner. This one wasn’t Goodman. This one wasn’t Chaney. Then …: ‘It suddenly struck us — what difference did it make that it wasn’t them? What are these bodies doing in the river?’”

In 2013 in Pakistan, murdered bodies of children are being found. Although a critical difference being that they do not go missing, nothing as sly as that; they are murdered for everyone to see by people who then have the audacity to claim responsibility for it. Syeda Mehzar Zehra is a 12-year-old child, who survived the murderous assault, for now, may she be blessed with a long and happy life. However, one cannot wish her convincingly. Her father was a Shia and was killed for being one. Many young Hazaras in Quetta, this Thursday did not have the fighting chance that Mehzar still has. Yet, we are still not asking ourselves, what are these bodies doing in the river, in our case, a river of Shia blood. If this goes on, we will begin to find bodies that we know, all of us would.

We live in a time and a place where murder does not stir us anymore, at least the common, run of the mill murder does not. The daily numbers of dead in Karachi or Peshawar are just a statistic. Maybe, I presume insensitivity, however, most of us do not give them a second or perhaps, a third thought. Life goes on. Let me propose a simple experiment, which will, perhaps, recapture your interest in the daily murder. Next time you see a news report about someone killed in Karachi or Quetta for no ostensible reason, try and look up the name (of course provided the newspaper has felt the need to print it). Chances are many of you will see a pattern. The Pakistani media goes out of its way to take terrible amounts of trouble in not stating the obvious. Shias are being killed in this country through an orchestrated scheme. Some people do not like it when the word ‘genocide’ is used; I assume they are waiting to begin condemnation once the threshold number is crossed, they will not have wait for much longer now. In any event, most news outlets do not deem it fit to mention that ‘Shias’ are killed in the attack. Apparently, saying ‘sectarian violence’ conveys all that needs to be said.

The policy of not identifying ‘sectarian’ affiliations is probably from a different time, now it seems from a different place. The objective would perhaps be something noble if slightly innocuous as not aggravating sectarian divides, not fanning flames etc. in any event, whatever it was, it has outlived its utility. The divide is already aggravated, the flames are already fanned. Identifying the victims in news reports and opinion pieces will not stop these barbaric murderers. However, it at least will allow the courtesy that they have not died accidentally. They have died for the reason of being a ‘Shia’ and it is only decent that this is acknowledged. Those who died in Quetta were denied even the nominal respect of coverage of their death since the media was busy covering an inconsequential political rally in Karachi and unserious quibbling on passports. While 100 people were murdered; this is shameful.

Remaining on news reporting, why the media persists with the hollow term ‘targeted killing’, when in fact, all they are saying is that the killing is entirely random. If it is a ‘targeted killing’ then there should be a responsibility or even a curiosity to find out why a particular individual was a target. To put it plainly, a disturbing majority of those killed without an apparent reason is ‘Shia’. Being a Shia in Pakistan is a very good reason for someone being a target. Not mentioning that is either complicity or cowardice.

Firstly with Malala Yousufzai, recently with Shahzeb Khan, we have seen some evidence of our ability to mobilise and condemn brutality. However, not all causes are treated equally. The Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ)/ASWJ/SSP do not allow for the shallow nuance and half-baked ideas of anti-imperialism, US withdrawal from Afghanistan, drone attacks, etc. They display these racist cults of deaths for what they are. Hence are less glamorous, less room to sound intellectually skeptic. Neither do the leaders of these organisations have feudal surnames and belong to far-flung ‘rural and backward areas’ so as to enrage our tender sensibilities. No long marches against them in the near future. Not as hip and modern as shady marches for hazy agendas of ‘change’. Operation against ‘our strategic assets’ brings forth the need for a consensus and other such insincere gibberish. The military establishment has never bothered with these formalities when it comes to Balochistan generally. The Army, the FC, the federal and provincial governments need to realise that this will get to everyone, it already is. The military establishment has to realise what its ‘double games’ are costing us and will eventually cost itself. The Balochistan government has to grow some spine and stand up to the FC or else go home. The Punjab government has to stop mollycoddling these organisations. The PPP-led federal government needs to stop ‘surviving’, look the challenge in the eye and put the talk into action.

The futility of writing opinion pieces like this is not lost on me. Yet, even more frightening is the notion when one will not write or say this, because it will become too repetitive, too exhausting, perhaps we will become too afraid or worse too numb.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 13th, 2013.

Reader Comments (41)

  • sabi
    Jan 13, 2013 - 12:35AM

    Author,
    Kiyani has catagoricaly said that military is not going to give up its doctrine based on idealogy of Pakistan.The powerfull dragon of fire, milked by deadly idealogy, is now starting expanding its wing to swallow its own masters and supporters.Let it happen why should they escape the fire they burnt for others.There is no escape believe me
    Kudos and regards.

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  • John B
    Jan 13, 2013 - 12:45AM

    The PM has given FC the authority of police to bring law and order which only is going to bring out the Baluchistan issue again overshadowing the Shia killing.

    At this juncture, I am reminded of the open letter written by President Zardhari to Washington Post where he alludes to the religious extremism prevailing in PAK.

    Given the situation of rampant sectarian and religious killing since then, and inability of PAK army to protect its own installations and ministers, and lack of interest in going after the beheading maniacs even after sacrificing her own sons of the soil at the alter, one wonders if there is a pervasive religious extremism rooted in ethnically biased PAK army in their moot response.

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  • Arifq
    Jan 13, 2013 - 12:51AM

    Hospitals/Doctors in Quetta have been threatened not to treat shia victims, this happened before the recent carnage of 100 Hazara Shias killed. I salute the protesters in Quetta who chose to defy the odds and made this sleeping nation notice. If we have any humanity then we must arrest those who continue to attack and kill Shia’s in Pakistan. We are all Hazara/Pakistanis.

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  • Parvez
    Jan 13, 2013 - 12:51AM

    Another good piece by you.
    A politician of any denomination has zero credibility, the man on the street expects nothing from him, except bad. On the other hand our security establishment have over the years painted a picture for public consumption as those the people could rely upon in bad times.
    This picture is fast fading and their credibility is plummeting. Finally the people will realise that they have to fend for themselves and the outcome of this realisation, would be any one’s guess

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  • Jat
    Jan 13, 2013 - 12:57AM

    Frightening scenario to say the least. But no one is listening. The defenders are happy merely defending their turf and even there, doing a poor job of it. The common people are barely surviving on the hope that all this cannot happen to them, until it does.

    The attackers are getting stronger and spreading their tentacles on an ever increasing ideological and geographical domain.

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  • bangash
    Jan 13, 2013 - 1:41AM

    very true..again verycourageous article..we are alienating shittes..its massacre…

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  • Jan 13, 2013 - 1:55AM

    First of all Thank you Saroop for very thought provoking article. Second point is: You can just imagine the ignorance of majority of Pakistani people from their posts on Burma. When they didn’t even have a prove or solid evidence for killing of Muslims in Burma, Almost every single Muslim on social media was posting pictures, videos and status updates for the “Muslims” of Burma. And Now when Hundreds of Shia Muslims are being targeted on a daily basis, i see all those Muslims n social media silent on this issue. I conclude two things from my observations: Either the Blood of Shia Muslim is not as important as Burma Muslims or Shias are in fact Kafirs and their elimination is almost priority of all “Sunni Muslims” in Pakistan and raising their voice for shias will make them Kafir too.

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  • Sidrah
    Jan 13, 2013 - 2:02AM

    I hope no one brings drone attacks into this.

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  • ABC
    Jan 13, 2013 - 2:14AM

    I didn’t know Pakistanis were this be-sharam and be-his. No particular tv anchor even bothered covering this butchering in Quetta because they know people care about political dramaz
    Ab Tahir-ul-Qadri ne khana khaya, Ab Tahir-ul-Qadri ne pehli dafa Pakistan ka mineral water piya, Ab Tahir-Ul-Qadri ne nai rang ki topi pehni.
    These things are being discussed but not even a single person focused on the heartless shia killing. When I see pictures from the protest I feel like crying. No wonder Pakistan is so bacwards and going worse every moment. We should die of shame.

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  • "Azadar"
    Jan 13, 2013 - 2:24AM

    Please, do not stop writing Saroop! You give us hope that humanity exists. All your articles go against the tide of the typical selective discourse that we have to endure in our media.It takes great courage to say what you say on a regular basis. Aside from Dr. Hoodbhoy and Dr. Taqi, I cannot think of anyone else to have consistently written to highlight Shia Genocide in Pakistan by the same groups – ASWJ-LeJ who are also killing Sunnis, Ahmadis, Hindus, Christains, Sikhs just as they are killing Shias in Pakistan. So keep on writing and more power to your pen.

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  • kanwal
    Jan 13, 2013 - 2:36AM

    The so called silent majority of this country is complicit. And i am ashamed to be a pakistani now. Whats left to be proud of if death of humans keepss ongoing in hordes like this and yet fails ti generate as much stirr as the rubbish long marches which never are meant to take place. The futility of all this makes me weep sometimes.

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  • prashant
    Jan 13, 2013 - 2:45AM

    superb article..

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  • Mirza
    Jan 13, 2013 - 3:11AM

    Another great effort by ET to wake our conscience and stand up for the truth and justice to stop this genocide of Shia Muslims. I am ashamed to say but as a member of strict Sunni family we have no sympathy for Shia and it shows in the inertia in Pakistan. I wish we could do more to protect the innocent from being butchered. Let us hope that the UN would take notice of this systematic ethnic cleansing of Shia in Pakistan. This is heartbreaking to see and do nothing.

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  • Ahsan Mlk
    Jan 13, 2013 - 3:15AM

    This was not the first massacre, unfortunately it wont be the last.
    The problems of this country are political in nature, solutions are political also.

    You voted these murderers in – now vote them out.

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  • Vikas
    Jan 13, 2013 - 3:21AM

    World the round. You reap, what you sow. Where were you when hindus, christians, ahmadis were killed. You probably didn’t wanted to see the storm coming.Recommend

  • Jan 13, 2013 - 3:43AM

    …..”Yet, even more frightening is the notion when one will not write or say this, because it will become too repetitive, too exhausting, perhaps we will become too afraid or worse too numb.”

    Mr. Saroop, sometimes redundancy is very much necessary, regardless of repetition. However, I’m afraid that your scepticism would ultimately become a truth, which the nation shall have to face if it doesn’t wakeup!

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  • Saleem
    Jan 13, 2013 - 4:19AM

    I respect you for your courage to speak your mind and tell the truth in a land where such things can cost dear.

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  • Adil
    Jan 13, 2013 - 4:35AM

    Sadly brilliant. Wish the events did not inspire such thoughtful insight and comments. That oft repeated adage of ‘and then they came for me, and there was no one……’ is becoming true in our society as one section of society after another is being targeted. Next it will be the various sects within the Sunnis – the Deobandis, Hanfis, Wahabbis etc. To think that most Pakistanis were okay when the Christians and the Hindus were being ‘cleansed’, now we will eventually ALL have to be spiritually and physically bathed, washed, cleansed but perhaps left untended and unburied like the hundreds of those innocents killed and injured in Quetta. Right now, sayings such as ‘ religion teaches us tolerance ….. ‘ and ‘ours is a religion of peace……’ seem like a sick joke. Jee Ijaz Bhai, words are indeed beginning to fail us and are slowly becoming obsolete and meaningless. What will we run out of first: humanity, bodies, empathy, opinions, life …….? Let’s hope it’s humanity first – then we just won’t care for our fellow beings. Take these animals’ example, they seem to sleep okay after their dastardly deeds, while the rest of us have sleepless nights, and stomach churning days. “Kaisay raat katti, kaisay din beeta, tu bhee bhulla dai, mein bhee bhulla doon, Kitna lahoo aankhon sai tupka, tu bhee bhulla dai, mein bhee bhulla doon…..”

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  • Rana Hussain
    Jan 13, 2013 - 7:02AM

    You just put my feelings into words. Thank you.

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  • Musa Bajwa
    Jan 13, 2013 - 7:13AM

    Brilliant, the shear fact that no one has commented on this shows the Hippocratic nature of our nation as a whole. If Palestine is attacked these Malun Moulvis, start coming on the streets, social media is hyped up, but everyone considers that this genocide is not a big deal, well time is running out my friends, and yes i am a SHIA.

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  • Feroz
    Jan 13, 2013 - 8:49AM

    Saroop, I can feel the pangs of anger and sorrow in your article. You are at least lucky that you can write such articles to try and raise awareness. When readers make comments using such words as “strategic Assets” and “strategic depth” it is unlikely to make it past the moderator. This is very disturbing because it conveys an impression that either the country is now totally indoctrinated or that the atmosphere of fear has deeply permeated the Media. Any criticism of the Army or the Judiciary is often likely to find the bin. Of course the moderators will be very liberal when you stick it to the Politicians, such has become the culture of the country symbolizing a love of the Gun and Power. Yes, Peace can be achieved by saying nothing and doing nothing to oppose the mindset, however it will resemble the peace of the graveyard.

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  • gp65.
    Jan 13, 2013 - 10:43AM

    While the hydra headed monster of radicalization attacks Pakistan’s citizens, the army creates a distraction on the easter front so that it can justify its current paradigm and does not have to confront and fight these home grown frankensteins.

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  • Feedom Seeker
    Jan 13, 2013 - 10:45AM

    This road will lead to destruction. The people who are living with sword will die with sword. Time will decide this.

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  • Jan 13, 2013 - 11:34AM

    Even though the opinion articles today are freer on religious and sectarian terminology and views than in the past, still in the comments’ moderation on their websites such taboos are still evident in Dawn and ET, though the latter is surprisingly less self-censoring, most times anyways.

    Still in the reporting, you can compare how BBC directly names and identifies the sectarian backgrounds quite easily as compared to any Pakistani news outlet. Note even in the author’s own article, the religious extremists’ groups own sectarian ideological affiliations are still not mentioned. The practice of uncomfortable avoidance of sectarian identification is just so ingrained.

    After the recent blasts in Quetta, when pointed out on the Hazaras being targeted, 2 Aaj News anchors of a popular show couldn’t help but quickly dismiss in a resentful tone ‘Its happening everywhere in Pakistan, not just against them’. Such statement only reflected the overall prejudiced based denialism held by some of Pakistan’s Sunni majority against the Shia minority in regards to the trend of sectarianism in the scheme of overall religious terrorism.

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  • Alex
    Jan 13, 2013 - 11:42AM

    In that itself identifies as islamic and paints everything in islam, why is the author worried so much and why so much surprise that this happened? Ask the outside world, because none are surprised. There is nothing that can stop this irreversible trend started by teaching even school children about rabid religious mindset.

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  • Aijaz Haider
    Jan 13, 2013 - 12:05PM

    Killing of Shias and others must be stopped at all costs. But the problem is suicide attackers are difficult to identify and stopped. Late Bashir Bilour was accompanied by guards but they lost their lives. The misconception that suicide bombing is a short-cut to heaven must be cleared from the minds.

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  • Jat
    Jan 13, 2013 - 12:59PM

    @kanwal: The futility of all this makes me weep sometimes.

    I feel for you. This is a carefully orchestrated Creeping Genocide. Slow enough to remain under the radars of international media, Human Rights Commission and Amnesty International, but fast enough to be effective.

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  • gp65.
    Jan 13, 2013 - 1:55PM

    @Aijaz Haider: “But the problem is suicide attackers are difficult to identify and stopped.”
    These attackers are not difficult to identify since they take credit for these killings. When their leader was prosecuted he was let go because ultimately there were no witnesses and why were there no witnesses? BEcause they were all killed. He also read out the names of the children of the judge who was trying his case. So finally the court freed him.

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  • ss
    Jan 13, 2013 - 2:34PM

    you are one of a very few sane voices in Pakistan, keep writing and keep highlighting the issues of oppressed Pakistanis.

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  • pnpuri
    Jan 13, 2013 - 3:27PM

    killing only proves two nation theory was based on a myth. otherwise why sunni muslims kill shias. one invariably reads about fight between sindhies and pakhtuns and sindhies and muhajirs. one wonders how and why MQM continues to play a roll in pakistan. my parents came from gujarat pakistan to India. as a child or even in college, i have heard myself being described as refugee. but for last 30 years or so i do not recollect having heard of word ‘refugee’ in common parlance. the indians including hindues are divided on basis of caste, language and provincialism, but there has been very few occasions of killings on basis of such divide. there are some sad incidents of hindu muslim riots but average indian has condemned those and state has been able to control.

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  • patriot
    Jan 13, 2013 - 4:29PM

    We are gonna speak against this corrupt govt! It is the root of all evil.

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  • Ali naqvi
    Jan 13, 2013 - 5:14PM

    I Condemn the Killing of innocent people ever where but especially the thousands of Shia Muslims killed in Pakistan.

    I fully support the people of Shia Muslims of Pakistan and their Legitimate demands for protection of their lives, from targeted killings, Suicide bombings, Beheading of Shia Muslims!!!!!

    Sipah-e-Sahaba ,Lashkar-e-Jhanvi are splits group from the Taliban. They get their funding from Saudi Arabia and UAE.

    The truth is the Government of Pakistan is 100% aware but their is some support for theses groups in the intelligence and the government it self.

    BUT THE INNOCENT KILLINGS OF SHIA MUSLIMS MUST STOP!!

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  • Anonymous
    Jan 13, 2013 - 5:46PM

    Dear Saroop,
    You are right what you have said.
    I have realized recently that our collective response to killing is determined by “who is killer” not who is killed. We have become so blind with hatred that we have lost sense of right and wrong. Our visceral hatred evokes our responses rather than empathy.
    Please keep writing.

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  • John the Baptist
    Jan 13, 2013 - 7:10PM

    Where is the government?

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  • Enlightened
    Jan 13, 2013 - 8:24PM

    The journalists in Pakistan are braver than the politicians who can at least name the organisations behind the carnage of the helpless Shias and demand action against them. But the establishment who should be in the fore-front to take on these barbarians is still busy playing double games as rightly pointed out by the author. One can understand if such games are played with its immediate neighbours or US but if the same is played with its own people is beyond ones comprehension as well mind-boggling.

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  • Aijaz Haider
    Jan 13, 2013 - 9:08PM

    @gp65.: What I wanted to say was that it is difficult to identify an approaching or already present suicide bomber in a large gathering or group of people. It is not possible to have explosive detectors everywhere.

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  • naeem khan Manhattan,Ks
    Jan 13, 2013 - 10:28PM

    This article saddened me immensely, yes I remember the children in Atlanta and the whole nation was jolted then and they did capture the murderer. I am seeing some reaction from some people across the Pakistani nation but the government is too busy surviving and then boosting that they have completed their term. Their term has been the most corrupt and inept government that I have seen in decades. I grew up in Mardan in the 60s and we were friends with others who were not so called Sunnis, it did not matter who they were because we were friends, some of my friends even married Shia girls. What has happened to the country I came from, why so much hatred in the name of religion, I thought God is so merciful and we are in the image of God regardless of our beliefs.I feel so ashamed to be even consider ex-Pakistani. Thank you Ijaz for writing such a thought provoking article

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  • Danial AZAD
    Jan 14, 2013 - 3:52AM

    If every body in every field they are do their best then there wont be any target killing any more.
    I cant think to write any more because i am tired of hearing these terrible about my people.

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  • Alex
    Jan 14, 2013 - 4:08AM

    @naeem khan Manhattan,Ks:
    YOU are contradicting yourself!! At one point you do not want to give the democratic govt the space to breath and you will support the rabid religious and indisciplined forces ready to remove a democratically elected govt. This irresponsible act and thinking done back in 1970s by Zia was responsible for removing a democratic govt and whole world knows what Zia did to Pak society. Instead of supporting a democratic govt, this kind of reckless thought process will give space to religious goons who are far worse. Patience is the key…you do not get an Anwar Sadad or Mahatir overnight. Afterall, given the terrible levels of religious hypocrisy in Pakistan society. And leaders come from the society that elects them. You do not get brilliant leaders from a religious society. Change the society and stop blaming your govt.

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  • Alia Nazar
    Jan 14, 2013 - 3:36PM

    Above of all we r all Hazarias&Pakistanies.

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  • Imran Ahmed (@IAgnikul)
    Jan 14, 2013 - 7:07PM

    Paraphrasing words from a movie “it is not given to us to choose the times or the circumstances we are born into, we can only choose how we face these times and these circumstances that exist around us during the time allotted to each on this Earth”

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