Pakistan — the land of the pure — is a nation that has in its few decades of existence seen massive political upheavals, nationalisation, military regimes and wars. Over the past couple of decades it has also seen its global value fluctuate from important strategic partner of stronger countries, to one relegated to the blacklists. However, the nation and its citizens, despite adversity have survived and maintained a fierce sense of patriotism.

But what does this patriotism entail? Is it only just the act of jamming roads on 14th August, waving flags from car windows? Is it only the intense debating on political parties and their merits? Or is it simply the act of defending our sports teams against that of our neighbour to the east? Somehow or the other, what patriotism is has been diluted and relegated to a select few moments throughout the year; at best, this patriotic spirit is merely performative.

Patriotism is defined as vigorous support or devotion to one’s country. However, this support shouldn’t only be reserved for special occasions. When I asked around what Pakistan meant to people and what patriotism meant, the answers I received weren’t exactly encouraging. Most of the millennial generation seems to be disillusioned with the direction the country is taking, they’re holding out hope for a better future, while planning on securing their own futures elsewhere. Despite this, they’re all excited for the 14th August celebrations.

This complicated relationship my generation has with Pakistan prompted me to write this article. I remember when I moved back around five years ago, almost everyone my age felt that I was making the wrong decision. That I should have stayed abroad and by hook or crook found a way to stay there. I’m a firm believer in seeing where life takes you and going with the flow, so I didn’t mind moving back at the time. Funnily enough, moving abroad was less of a culture shock than moving back to my hometown that had changed so much since I’d left (that is a story for another day though).

Every day on social media I see more and more people complaining about the life they’re living here and ironically they’re rallying against those trying to bring actual positive change. While the political side I’ll leave to more informed minds, on the social side I just see unrest at any change that takes place in this country. We reject our national heroes for asinine reasons (sorry Malala and Dr. Abdus Salam), we cry out against minority movements that are trying to shed light on pressing issues (sorry Aurat March) and actively try to derail any such progress under the mantle of “this isn’t Pakistani.” What is Pakistani though? We are a land of myriad cultures and a plethora of languages. We are a people that are as varied as the landscapes from the mountains to the plains and the coastline. That’s always been the beauty of Pakistan to me. However, somehow that beauty seems to be lost on people. Our patriotism has limited itself to only the identity that we associate with. We aren’t able to accept our fellow countrymen with all their diverse beauty – and that is what makes me sad to be a Pakistani today.

Moreover, patriotism for me also entails being a model citizen. Yet, when I see people toss out candy wrappers from their cars while blaring the national anthem on Independence Day, I wonder whether they truly understand what it means to be a citizen of a state. Our love for our nation is so warped that we only find it in actions that rarely speak louder than words. And what’s more, we rarely accept any criticism as a nation. Anyone who highlights problems with the country is immediately labelled a traitor and someone to be distrusted. Yet, we will never stop to pick up that candy wrapper and throw it where it’s supposed to be thrown.

As the country goes through its regular tumultuous political affairs, we must turn to ourselves to fix what’s broken. Relying on those we voted in to swoop in and remedy everything is idiotic. We need to do better. We need to clean up after ourselves in public spaces, we need to respect basic traffic laws, we need to instil a sense of civic duty in our children and we need to remember that this country is only as good as its citizens. It’s imperative that we listen to the heretofore suppressed voices and not be myopic in our thinking. We must allow space for every citizen of this nation to be an equal part of Pakistan.

This Independence Day I urge you to not just paint your face the colours of our flags and go out on the streets, chanting national slogans, but to remember what those slogans stand for. I urge you to pledge allegiance to being a model citizen and upholding the values of humanity and tolerance that this nation was built on. More importantly, I urge you to pick up the candy wrappers and remember that this simple act can go a long way.

Good Times


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