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Principles of policy of Pakistan’s constitution – by Mosharraf Zaidi

Principles of policy

Part I

February 23, 2010

In his column last week, my friend Harris Khalique quotes a small part of Article 38 of the Constitution, which is titled, “Promotion of social and economic well-being of the people”. Harris’s reminder is simple, timely and important. In the age of a palpable Pakistani rule of law narrative, the Constitution is too easily and too often reduced to a political hot potato, used primarily in the national conversation as an instrument of political advantage.

The Constitution, of course, is bigger. It is bigger than the petty politics that has defined the PPP’s repeated attempts to pretend like it’s 1973 for sure. But it is also bigger than the heroic lawyers’ movement, the still-nascent Pakistani media and the inexplicably weak parliamentary opposition to the PPP. No matter what side one takes in these seemingly existential debates in Pakistan, the Constitution is bigger than the sum of these parts. It is not just about the chief justice, or the NRO, or judicial appointments. Despite the advantage that the PPP has repeatedly handed to its opponents unerringly since it took power in 2008, the Constitution is bigger than both those that seek to let it grow and breathe in the space that was originally sought for it, and those that seek to tie it in knots and manipulate it for whatever specific purpose they seek to derive from it.

The Constitution is the overarching framework around which Pakistan is supposed to be organised. Its articulation of the way Pakistan is supposed to be is surprisingly clear and accessible (if you happen to be comfortable with the English language). At its very heart, the Constitution is about defining Pakistan. That the definition of Pakistan is spoken of in the present rather than the past participle is not necessarily tragic. What is tragic is that in the grand Pakistani drama, the national conversation is so pre-occupied with the petty politics of the thaana and the kutchehri that it has almost no time at all to focus on issues about which there is little or no disagreement at all. Article 38 is a subset of a more important section that is almost entirely absent from the national conversation. That section of the Constitution is a compendium of values that are supposed to define Pakistan’s personality, and is called the “Principles of policy”.

The “Principles of policy” section has a total of twelve articles, Article 29 through Article 40. Of these twelve articles, two are devoted to the definition of the section, and ten articulate the actual principles. Pakistanis are often bludgeoned with stark reminders of how far short their country falls on international indices of performance. Whether it is the ambient level of human development, or the openness of Pakistan’s markets, or the perception of corruption, everywhere Pakistanis turn, they find their country being ranked among the world’s bottom-feeders.

One way to test the degree of discrimination or bias that may be actively being practised by the international community is to judge Pakistan by its own standards, rather than those of others. And there is no less controversial and more comprehensive set of standards of behaviour, or features of personality, for Pakistan than the Constitution’s “Principles of policy”.

Let’s see how Pakistan measures up against each of the ten principles of policy defined in the Constitution.

The first principle is Article 31 titled “Islamic way of life”. Pakistanis that want more religion in their country are unhappy to the point of having taken up arms against the state. Pakistanis that want less religion in their country are unhappy to the point of actively promoting and supporting the carpet-bombing of villages in their own country. Suffice it to say, the Pakistani state’s performance in enabling Pakistani Muslims to be the best they can be is so dismal, that the bruises from these failures cannot be hidden. Pakistan’s key existential dilemmas, more than sixty years after coming into being, continue to constitute issues related to the appropriate role of faith in determining public policy.

Article 32 is titled “The promotion of local government institutions”. The exact text reads, “The state shall encourage local government institutions composed of elected representatives of the areas concerned and in such institutions special representation will be given to peasants, workers and women”. Each version of Pakistan’s local government system has been motivated by a military dictator’s zealous lust for the centralisation of power — by draining the provinces of their rightful autonomous status as power-brokers in the Pakistani federation. Rather than fixing what is wrong with military-endorsed local government systems, politicians are all too happy to scrap them, because democratised local governments would eat away at the family-dominated, centralised political party system. The Pakistani state has utterly failed to promote local government institutions.

The third principle is titled “Parochial and other similar prejudices to be discouraged”. Article 33 states that “The state shall discourage parochial, racial, tribal, sectarian and provincial prejudices among the citizens”. This would be funny only if it was fictional. Having sustained and nurtured tribal codes of conduct and justice for the entire duration of its existence in FATA, and having cultivated and nourished the feudal systems of Balochistan, Sindh and Southern Punjab, the Pakistani state has not just tolerated parochial and tribal prejudices. It has actively endorsed and sustained them. The fact that even in the 21st century, little girls can be traded by tribes as penalties is a reflection of how deep the failure of the state has been in living up to the standards of behaviour defined by the principles of policy.

Article 34 is titled “Full participation of women in national life”, and it has the second shortest description of all the principles, saying simply that “Steps shall be taken to ensure full participation of women in all spheres of national life”. Article 35 is titled “Protection of the family, etc.” and is the shortest of all the principles, saying simply that “The state shall protect the marriage, the family, the mother and the child”. The ratio of women in Pakistan’s civil services is shameful. Less than 9 per cent of all federal civil servants (BPS 17 and above) are women. The ratios are likely to be lower in the provincial services, and opportunities for women to make career progressions that lead to leadership positions in government are few and far between. The judiciary, the military and the private sector are not dramatically different. The Pakistani state hardly has much of a defence. It is keen to hand out women’s representation where it can make little impact, such as quotas for unelected representation — but extremely stingy where it can — such as in the public services. The Pakistani state has done a number of small things over the years to integrate women into public life, but those efforts have been miniscule compared to the challenge. The fifth principle about protecting the family is kind of moot when the state’s performance on protecting and promoting women has been as poor as it has.

The sixth principle is Article 36: “Protection of minorities”, and it says that “The state shall safeguard the legitimate rights and interests of minorities, including their due representation in the federal and provincial services”. What possible thing can be said in support of whatever symbolic efforts may exist in this regard while the memory of Gojra hangs in the air like the pungent smell of death?

Of the six principles, thus far, not a single one represents an area of success. Pakistanis can legitimately be disappointed at how little the Pakistani state has done to live up to the words and ideals articulated by the framers of the 1973 Constitution. But insofar as principles go, the meat and potatoes of the “Principles of policy” lie in Articles 37, 38, 39 and in part Article 40.

(To be continued)

The writer advises governments, donors and NGOs on public policy. He can be reached through his website

Source: The News, 23 Feb 2010

Principles of policy
Part II

March 02, 2010

The extent to which the Pakistan that we know conforms to the Pakistan that we were supposed to know (according to the framers of the Constitution) can be gauged from the Constitution’s own ten “Principles of policy”. The first six of these principles (Article 31 through Article 36 of the Constitution) touch upon a diverse array of issues, including an “Islamic way of life”, the “protection of the family”, and “the full participation of women in public life”. None of the first six principles of policy have any real tangible roots in modern Pakistani society. But does this necessarily mean that the Pakistan we know has failed the personality test outlined within its own Constitution? Not necessarily. Other crucial aspects of Pakistan — notwithstanding the importance of the issues addressed in Article 31 through Article 36 — are contained in the remaining principles. It would be unfair to declare failure without examining Article 37 through Article 40 — a section of the “Principles of policy” that we might even think of as the crux of the personality of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan.

Article 37 is titled “Promotion of social justice and eradication of social evils”, and it has nine bullet points. With due respect to the immense value of the space this newspaper affords me each week, these points require reproduction. Readers can wear whatever hat they’d like as they read these: jiyala, sher, mullah, sufi, stoner, poseur, moderate, fundo, liberal, disco or saada. It is unlikely that there will be different opinions about how Pakistan 2010 measures up against these:

“The state shall: (a) promote, with special care, the educational and economic interests of backward classes or areas; (b) remove illiteracy and provide free and compulsory secondary education within minimum possible period; (c) make technical and professional education generally available and higher education equally accessible to all on the basis of merit; (d) ensure inexpensive and expeditious justice; (e) make provision for securing just and humane conditions of work, ensuring that children and women are not employed in vocations unsuited to their age or sex, and for maternity benefits for women in employment; (f) enable the people of different areas, through education, training, agricultural and industrial development and other methods, to participate fully in all forms of national activities, including employment in the service of Pakistan; (g) prevent prostitution, gambling and taking of injurious drugs, printing, publication, circulation and display of obscene literature and advertisements; (h) prevent the consumption of alcoholic liquor otherwise than for medicinal and, in the case of non-Muslims, religious purposes; and (i) decentralise the government administration so as to facilitate expeditious disposal of its business to meet the convenience and requirements of the public.”

Let’s try to rein in our appetite for destruction for just one moment. Forget the ideological mishmash and the umbrage — either of living in a country of prohibition, or of living in a country whose promise of prohibition is about as binding as its promise of the protection of minority rights. The real question is whether there is a single one of the nine clauses that are treated with any degree of seriousness in Pakistan 2010. Emphatically, the Pakistani state has failed to promote social justice or eradicate social evils — according to Pakistan’s own definition. Not Amnesty International’s. Not the International Crisis Group’s. Not the New York Times’. Not David Ben-Gurion’s.

Article 38 is titled “Promotion of economic and social well-being of the people”. This principle, whose mention by Harris Khalique originally inspired this piece, also deserves reproduction here.

“The state shall: (a) secure the well-being of the people, irrespective of sex, caste, creed or race, by raising their standard of living, by preventing the concentration of wealth and means of production and distribution in the hands of a few to the detriment of general interest and by ensuring equitable adjustment of rights between employers and employees, and landlords and tenants; (b) provide for all citizens, within the available resources of the country, facilities for work and adequate livelihood with reasonable rest and leisure; (c) provide for all persons employed in the service of Pakistan or otherwise, social security by compulsory social insurance or other means; (d) provide basic necessities of life, such as food, clothing. housing, education and medical relief, for all such citizens, irrespective of sex, caste, creed or race, as are permanently or temporarily unable to earn their livelihood on account of infirmity, sickness or unemployment; (e) reduce disparity in the income and earnings of individuals, including persons in the various classes of the service of Pakistan; and (f) eliminate riba as early as possible.”

Much like Article 37, it is hard to find any area in which Article 38 has been adhered to. In most cases, in fact, it seems the active efforts of the state have been in the opposite direction of what the Constitution requires. The Constitution expressly forbids the concentration of wealth and calls for the adjustment of rights between landlords and tenants. Oh dear landlord. The Constitution expressly calls for a reduction in income disparities, especially between persons in the service of Pakistan. Oh dear GOR.

Article 39 is titled “Participation of people in armed forces”, and calls on the state to “enable people from all parts of Pakistan to participate in the armed forces of Pakistan”. People from all parts of Pakistan do not participate in the armed forces of Pakistan, and they never have. In the 1990s, young men used to be asked where their grandparents were born, as blooding new Urdu-speaking officers into the military was seen as an institutional risk. After decades of systematic exclusion, today, it is hard to find a Baloch citizen of Pakistan that feels anything but resentment towards the Pakistani state, with almost all the anger directed at the armed forces. In the future, Pakistanis from the tribal areas may find they have much in common with Muhajirs from the 1990s and the Baloch from 1947 onwards. Upward career mobility is not particularly smooth when you’re part of a ‘problem’ ethnic group.

The final principle of policy is Article 40, “Strengthening bonds with Muslim world and promoting international peace”. In the present global geopolitical context, Article 40 makes for compelling reading. It says that the state shall endeavour to “promote international peace and security”, and “encourage the settlement of international disputes by peaceful means” among other things. Pakistan has thorny and existential disagreements with Iran, Afghanistan and India. It is getting lectures on democratic conduct from Saudi Arabia. It is having trouble getting its paychecks from US Congress — paychecks promised on the back of waging war in its own territory. Safe to say that Article 40 is kind of lost in translation.

The utter dysfunction of Pakistan’s foreign relations is not an aberration. It follows the pattern of how brazenly the Pakistani state violates the nine principles of policy that precede the principle on foreign relations.

Pakistan treats its women, children, men, minorities, Muslims, disabled, needy and poor with little regard for the principles around which the state has been constructed. Why would Pakistan treat its neighbours, or countries with whom it shares brotherly bonds, any differently?

If this picture is too morbid or negative for the palate, there is something wrong with the palate. Not with the Constitution. The constitutional narrative since the Gen Musharraf era has focused with laser-like precision on the pomp, privilege and circumstance of the distribution of power among the elite.

Ordinary Pakistanis are right to be invested in the outcome of the tension between unconstitutional presidential power and constitutionally-mandated executive prime ministerial authority. But the discussion must reach far beyond the Charter of Democracy paradigm if it is to have real meaning for ordinary Pakistanis.

The Constitution is meaningful for ordinary Pakistanis in the rights that it affords them, and the principles that it defines for how the state will behave. These principles of policy are not theoretical constructs, to be dismissed as ideals. They define what the personality of Pakistan should be. They are its DNA and the real raison d’etre of the Pakistani state.


The writer advises governments, donors and NGOs on public policy. He can be reached through his website

Source: The News

About the author

Abdul Nishapuri


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  • Pakistani Constituent Assembly was elected in 1947 and after nine years adopted the first indigenous constitution, the short-lived Constitution of 1956 which was rejected by several quarters because of numerous shortfalls. In October 1958, President Iskander Mirza staged a coup d’état and abrogated the constitution. Shortly afterwards General Ayub Khan deposed Iskandar and declared himself president In 1960 Ayub Khan appointed a commission to draft a new constitution. The new Constitution of 1962 was decreed by President Ayub in March of that year, but it also proved a false document because of several flaws.

    Here Mosharraf Zaidi failed to remember or because of short knowledge failed to mention that it was the Bhutto, the creator of PPP who gave the first unanimously adopted constitution of 1973. All the articles of constitution described by Mosharraf Zaidi were the charisma of Bhutto. It was the power of that sacred document that Baloch leader who were continuously negating Pakistan, first admitted this constitution and included in the political mainstream.

    I wonder PPP is the inheritor of this constitution, how it can negate it, as mention by Zaidi sahib, no one can even dare to think to ignore this sacred document how can PPP. For PPP rendered sacrifices for this document only, it sacrificed its leader for this constitution. PPP is more than vigilant to act upon it. Regarding Article 38, Promotion of social and economic well-being of the people” I quote, Benazir income support program is much bigger example, Do you think program was not launched for the social and economic well being of people of Pakistan?. Do you think Benazir Employees Stock Option Scheme is not to empower employees? Do you think Aghaz-e- Haqooq-e-Balochistan package is not to compensate the downtrodden people of Balochistan? Do you think it is not all about article 38?

    About Article 31 titled “Islamic way of life”. Do you think anyone is banned by the Govt to perform its rituals? However no one wants brutal Taliban version of Islam and there is no place of violence in Islam, Islam is religion of peace not brutality and Govt is right enough to take action spreading violence in the name of Islam.

    The Article 32 is titled “The promotion of local government institutions”. Again Mosharraf Zaidi is failed to describe it accordingly. The recent move by the Govt regarding local bodies system is according to the will of the representatives of all the provinces. Even Govt was against to dissolve this system. It was the PML-N that made big fuss on it.

    Regarding “. Article 33 states that “The state shall discourage parochial, racial, tribal, sectarian and provincial prejudices among the citizens”. Do you think Govt is not working against all these nightmares? What was the apology of Zardari to Baloch leaders?. What was NFC award? Certainly I can point out all the writers and PML_N for their grudges and prejudices against PPP government What is happening that entire media and some major political parties are overriding on the same path. What is going against Zardari is the racist nature of Pakistan politics, It is not PPP that is indulged in the politics of racism, or sectarian. Even it is working hard to uproot this evil.Regarding Mosharraf Zaidi narrative that a little girl can be traded by tribes as penalties is a reflection of how deep the failure of the state has been in living up to the standards of behaviour defined by the principles of policy. Do you think the recent action against these brutal tribes is not a step of implementing this article?. Do you think the bill presented in the assembly for the protection of women in Assembly is not part of this article? This bill also completely encircles article 34 also.
    Regarding article 36, that is about protection of minorities, Mosharraf Zaidi forgot the reaction of PPP, how vigilantly PPP mobilized its ministers to take notice of incident and bring culprits to Justice. The minister for Minorities Shehbaz Bhatti, at the direction of president was at the place of incident within hours. The federal minister on interior Rehman Malik, personally visited the area and monitored the inquiry, even it was in jurisdiction of PML-N. Mosharraf Zaidi failed to mention that PPP is the only secular party and demonstrated its secular mindset at several occasion. It is the only party that is much more vocal about the rights of minorities. The writers also failed to mention the recent statement of president on the beheading of some Sikhs.

    There several flaws in article, I could go on describing but its enough. It is a great dilemma that In the last few years, Pakistan witnessed a mushroom growth of media and plethora of writers. It could be viewed as positive progress for any country but Pakistan remained unlucky as most of these writers never intended to underscore of positive aspects of the picture, they are constantly running behind the rumors and putting their weight to run maligned campaigns, the only thing which appears in the writings is pessimism, and aim to create mess and anarchy. Without prior knowledge of Pakistan history and homework, they suddenly appear in the news papers and screens, leaving a stupid question mark?. Do they have any solution? I think not, in the race of fame cheap they are even ready to compromise their conscience. The same is the story of Mr. Mosharraf Zaidi, who is working in similar fashion. This article may fascinate some of the non-sense and idiots, who don’t have enough knowledge of history but for sensible people it is just bull shit.

  • Mosharraf Zaidi is no doubt would be authentic writers in the list of Chaos merchants, as knows well how to befool the people and instigate their emotions through gimmickry of words.Undoubtedly, he was going well and cunningly busy in strengthening, chaos merchants, like Dr. Mere Mutabiq, Kamran Khan and Ansar Abbasi etc, but he really committed a mistake, perhaps because of his immaturity. In this article, he has slipped to some extent from his lesson.PPP was the party, whose slogan is Roti, Kapra and Makan and it was not a mere slogan but it was the force, it was the dream, it was the philosophy that gave hope and reason to browbeaten people to live. One can track record of PPP’s friendly policies towards Bourgeoisie class of Pakistan. I am sure there is need to remind PPP’s manifesto to Mosharraf Zaidi, so that he did not dare to ride on the same stupid trail. PPP had a clear vision about all the socio-economic reforms. Have a look please, what is the manifesto of PPP. ReligionThe message of Islam is the message of Peace. It is a message of brother hood and love. The holy saints in the valley of the Indus preached a message of love and compassion. The PPP Parliamentarians commits itself to religious tolerance. Religious beliefs of individual citizens have little to do with the business of the state. TerrorismTerrorism was born in the bowels of dictatorship which recruited, trained, armed and financed extreme factions while marginalising the moderate, democratic and pluralistic forces. History teaches us that democracies don’t go to war with each other and democracies don’t promote international terrorism. The best guarantee of a safe and secure Federation is in the values of freedom, fundamental rights and economic empowerment of the people with checks and balances that end concentration of power. Dictatorship relabeled can only play into the hands of the underground militants and extremists who today are regrouping in Pakistan which witnessed terrible suicide bombings that shook the Nation and its markets causing greater economic impoverishment. PPP is proud to have given Pakistan stability and the writ of the state in all its governments making the safety of citizens its top priority. It can do so again. Poverty The overthrow of the PPP government in 1996 led to the impoverishment of the people of Pakistan. For the first time in recorded history, mass unemployment reached such heights that people chose to commit economic suicide because they were unable to feed their families. A country which under the PPP became one of the ten emerging capital markets of the world, attracting massive foreign investment became a barren landscape. Investors fled from the country as they were unjustly scandalised in politically motivated allegations by hostile regimes seeking to score political points. The bill was picked up by the unfortunate people of the country whose per capita income fell as the gap between the rich and the poor widened. The PPP had revenues to build schools, hospitals, roads and provide people with basic amenities. The regimes that replaced it froze foreign accounts, raised utility bills, retrenched hundred of thousands of employees without any benefit to the country. They brazenly cut the budgets that the PPP so painstakingly allocated for important programs that included education, health, women’s empowerment, youth, population control, labour and the rural poor. They did this even as they hired favourites at exorbitant salaries paid in advance. The PPP Parliamentarians pledges to eradicate poverty by ensuring that the social sector budget is increased as is the Annual Development Plan. It is by investing in our young people that we can build a progressive and prosperous society.Economics The PPP government presided over boom economies during its three tenures in office. Sound macro economic management allows private entrepreneurs to build investment, trade and develop the economy. The PPP tripled growth rates and doubled the national revenues while enjoying lowest deficit figures and bringing in massive investment which created jobs and promoted the service industry including housing. As the party that introduced the privatization bill and streamlined the revenue services while creating boards at local bank branches for quick disbursement of loans, the PPP is committed to the free flow of capital. The flow of capital is the engine that drives a growing economy encouraging the youth while ending unemployment which brings misery.PPP introduced an autonomous State Bank and a strong regulatory authority is necessary to safeguard the deposits of the working and middle classes in the banking sector. The seizure of foreign exchange reserves and collapse of cooperatives as well as investment companies when PPP was in Opposition robbed ordinary citizens. PPP power projects, mass telephone system enabled ordinary people to set up businesses when previously power shutdowns and twenty year waiting lines for phone prevented them from success in private initiatives.PPP focuses on making the changes that help people make successful businesses. PPP times are boom times for the business communities as well as for the labour that is absorbed by a booming market. Open Minds, Open Markets, Open opportunities is our slogan. A PPP Parliamentarians government is necessary for sound macro management as well as for investment, revenues, growth, employment and safeguarding the savings of the people. Education Our great martyred leader, the Quaid e Awam, believed that education was the key to empowerment of the people. He introduced free and compulsory primary education, promoted centres of excellence, created Institutes of Science and Technology and took Pakistan to the cutting edge of nuclear physics establishing centres of nuclear medicine. He set up a chain of new Universities, Medical and Engineering colleges in the neglected areas as a harbinger to a Muslim renaissance. Western countries developed by encouraging free debate in universities of excellence which produce the men and women needed to govern great nations. Textbooks to government primary schools will be provided free of cost while a means test will make students eligible for additional government support. Libraries will be promoted and vocational centres, on the pattern of the Computer Literacy Program, enhanced. Internet access for government schools will enable the children of the underprivileged to access the worldwide information highway. The global language, English, will be an optional language for students to study preventing lingual apartheid where children of the rich speak English competing for world wide jobs and children of the working classes are denied that opportunity. PPP Parliamentarians commits to its sons and daughters an education that enables a brighter future than that of their parents so that they can hold high their head in the comity of Nations. Health Having eliminated polio, iodised salt and inoculated children in deadly diseases, the PPP pledges investment in health. Its previous health policies won it the World Health Organisation Gold medal. PPP aspires to win more medals for health for our people believing that health is wealth. It increased health expenditures in the past seeing in a healthy body a healthy society. Elimination of lead poisoning and other simple measures can improve the quality of health with small initiatives quantifying into big results.PPP Parliamentarians will improve government health centres and hospitals. It will establish Old Peoples Homes as well as Homes for Poor Children to aid and assist families that find such issues challenging. Human Rights The plight of women, minorities, children and the wretched of the earth is miserable. It is a deep stigma on our national conscience that disadvantaged groups suffered a series of punishments, laws, public humiliations and gang rapes while the state watched helplessly. The PPP Parliamentarians pledges to protect the minorities, women and children of Pakistan. It pledges to protect the weak from the strong. It pledges to undo laws that are discriminatory against minorities, women and children. It calls upon the people of Pakistan to give it a constitutional majority to build a society where the weak and underprivileged are freed from archaic state laws. The PPP Parliamentarians pledges to promote universal female literacy and protection of the child to honour our women and our future generations. The PPP Parliamentarians will encourage non governmental organisations as watchdogs for the empowerment of women and minorities. Labour Created as the Party to protect Labour rights, the PPP introduced the reform for minimum wages, cost of living, social security, medical cover, old age benefits, pensions and other such measures for the betterment of the working classes. The PPP is proud of its record where Labour rights were fully protected. PPP Parliamentarians opposes retrenchment of Labour. It pledges to hold high the banner of Labour rights with a view to ensuring that Labour enjoys a good working relationship with the government while enhancing productivity. PPP Parliamentarians is opposed to contract labour as well as retrenchment of labour. It supports wage increases for labour given high rates of inflation. It supports laws in accordance with the International Labour Organisation. Review the situation with a view to providing relief to retrenched workers. Additionally use Labour welfare funds to build residential colonies for workers. Establish cadet colleges for children of labor force. Local Government The PPP Parliamentarians is committed to devolution of power in accordance with its new social contract. It supports constitutional terms for district governments. It supports district governments which are independent of the Federal authority and have access to an appropriate and independent fiscal base within the parameters of provincial autonomy. I suggest Mr. Zaidi to first briefly study the manifesto and revisit his article. Perhaps, he is seriously misguided by some of the idiots. All this could be well for those parties who are playing role of B-team of extremists but blaming PPP in this regard is totally unjust and unfair, For PPP has clear vision about socio-economic policies and reforms.

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