By Gulnaz Nawaz
The day of Pakistan’s independence always brings out the best in individuals and their deepest feelings for their nation. Flags and lights are strung from every rooftop and draped over every passing vehicle. On this day, people start writing new patriotic songs and have parties to honor their freedom. Being a proud Pakistani, I also spent the morning getting up in my best Pakistani attire and am ready to celebrate the day. Let me assure you: I am not different from you. But my point is this: have we taken a single moment to consider the future of our country? Why do we agree on something once a year but then continue to disagree the other 364 days? Even though it’s been 75 years, I still wonder whether we’re independent.
How come we choose opposite sides, fire on Shia processions, and recklessly turn the nation into a battlefield when it comes to sectarian violence? So, what path does the nation plan to take? Is it leaning forward ever so slightly because we want our young people to save us? Then again, maybe it’s a descent into the depths of infinity. The most important anniversaries of our independence have all been marked by major crises or the closeness to them. The 25th one found us recovering from the trauma of 1971, while the 50th saw us set to enter the nuclear age. Our economy and other important institutions are under severe strain on this, the 75th day. In reality, we became a state prone to crises not long after 1947, with a new political and/or economic crisis surfacing every three to four years.
Pakistan is a challenging nation. Constantly, we are put to the test of our patriotism. Our Oscar victory was marred by controversy, and our team’s performance in the Olympics was a letdown for the nation. Even more upsetting is the widespread belief that this was to be anticipated. We have made some progress in the ways we think about issues like honor killing, terrorism, politics, women’s rights, and the future of children, but our society is still on the brink of disaster when you take into account everything from the food we eat to the education we receive to the state of our minds and the affairs of our own country.
Half of the politically and administratively savvy population wastes their time criticizing one another and does nothing to improve the situation in our nation. I’m not referring to the kind of life-altering choice that involves building a dam or becoming president. Yes, I am referring to the little things, the ones under our control. Creating much-needed facilities, such as hospitals and educational institutions, in underdeveloped regions The other half of the population, however, doesn’t give a hoot about the political party in power since all they care about is maintaining the status quo of mediocrity in our society. In reality, our leaders or the governments of other nations have nothing to do with this. Our flawed ideas and actions are to blame for all of society’s ills.
Our aggressive and self-centered nature means that we don’t care if anybody is wounded as we pursue our own goals. It seems we never stop to consider how we may improve our society. There’s no way one of us is going to consider the other’s proposal. We call ourselves “independent,” yet we actively work against the freedom of others to pursue their own goals in life in this nation. We band together when we perceive the nation is on the upswing, then turn on each other when our expectations are dashed. The comforts this nation provides are worth the hassles we have to go through to get here. Those who wrongly feel they are free are much more oppressed than the others, as Goethe put it.
We are diving headfirst into this bottomless pit of dangerous madness because we want to. Nothing or no one else can be blamed for the current state of affairs in our nation. But the renewed patriotism we’ve felt today isn’t enough to solve the problems of corruption, economic collapse, social inequality, and political intimidation that our country faces. It won’t help people who require necessities such as food or shelter. This won’t help people get out of their plight or educate the masses. Were you able to answer the question? To what use is freedom if it does not include freedom from want, inequity, injustice, and exploitation? To be free is to have the power of choice. Irresolvable dilemmas raise the question: what do they imply? Politicians in our nation are always at each other’s throats, so how can we expect them to see the larger picture?
This leaves us, the idealistic patriots, to pick up the slack. It is imperative that we not allow our spirits to wither away today. If you want to make a difference in the world when tomorrow comes, you have to carry the same feeling of pride and responsibility you feel now. One of the most valuable qualities we have is the capacity to maintain optimism and self-assurance in the face of difficulty. If we can continue our ancestors’ tradition of hard work and optimism, we just might change our national identity and become a respected country once again.
Our nation, and all of its citizens, can only improve and become truly independent if we first improve and become independent. If we all do what we can to make our immediate surroundings better, like respecting the rights of others, being kind to strangers, and giving money to people who need it, we may be able to start making positive changes in our society. But we shouldn’t take advantage of each other. Instead, we should show respect by listening to each other and working together to make ideas happen instead of just criticizing them. If we are successful in making the world a better place for future generations, there is hope that the larger issues will be resolved and that this nation and its people will be able to declare its independence with confidence.