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This order of priorities is self-explanatory, says Fahim Zaman Khan, member of the Organizing Commission of the Forum, since the venue is in a region affected by militarization. On the one hand are the occupations inflicted by the United States on several countries - Iraq being the most recent -, on the other hand are existing or latent crises, at the bi-national and/or multilateral level - such as India with Pakistan, Nepal, Sri Lanka; or Iran with Pakistan, Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Turkey and Iraq -, in addition to dozens of internal conflicts throughout the region.

So this issue not only defines the geopolitical priorities, but is interrelated with all the other aspects defined for the program, such as: natural resources, development and globalization; social justice and human rights; State and religion; nation, nationalities and cultural and ethnic identities; development strategies; peoples, movements and alternative strategies; women, patriarchy and social change; and environment and the ecology.

To look at the economy or society, Zaman Khan adds, it is unavoidable to relate them with the impact of militarization. In Pakistan, for example, around 70% of the national budget is dedicated to military expenses, while education and health receive barely 3%.

Also, when speaking of natural resources it is inevitable to visualize that foreign occupation - and the threat of its extension not only to Iran and Syria but to the whole region - has to do with their control, as Ali Karamat points out, another member of the Forum Organizing Commission.

So demilitarization is also at the centre of alternatives. Especially since, under the pretext of the fight against the terrorism, the United States has considerably increased its military presence in the region, where numerous troops reside in: Iraq, Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Turkey and Pakistan. The whole of Asia has been strewn with military bases.

The Forum atmosphere

Hundred of volunteers are erecting tents, painting the stadium, flattening the land for the camp-site, and in general organizing the venue to accommodate some fifty thousand expected participants, a number which could easily double. The heterogeneous Organizing Commission driving the initiative includes the participation of social movements, political organizations and various social entities.

The delegations have begun to arrive and the Forum atmosphere is already coming to life in Karachi. The most noticeable absence is that of the International Council of the Forum, which for some barely explicable reason, decided on a premature evaluation of the polycentric events before these have concluded, which is taking place on these same dates in Nairobi (Kenya).

(Translation: ALAI)