As 14th of August (Pakistan's Independence Day) draws near, I see people from all walks of life in my country preparing for the "big day" in their own ways. Cars start appearing with the national flag perched on them, stalls selling flags, badges and everything green imaginable show up on road sides, profile pictures on the internet suddenly change to depict the flag or the Quaid, and of course, who can miss the rehearsels for bike stunts! It is definitely a day of great national pride for us and the feeling is shared by every Pakistani no matter which part of the world they live in. Yet amidst all this hype to celebrate can we at least stop and think what we're celebrating here?
Why is it that the moment someone starts to question anything in Pakistan, either their loyalty to this country or their faith starts getting questioned? Being Pakistani or independent is not just about flaunting the national flag and calling yourself "Pakistani and proud". We are all well aware of the circumstances that we are living in and they are definitely not getting any better with every passing day. Whatever few achievments we have had are mostly limited to the hard work of some individuals. There is hardly anything that we can be collectively proud of as a nation. Have we ever stopped to question ourselves why that is so? Is America or India or any other country really responsible for our troubles? Is it fair to pin everything on our government or the military when they actually came from amongst us?
This is not an attempt to dampen our joy in celebrating this day, but a reminder to stop, think and question - something we have forgotten to do of late. Only by attaining self-acceptance will we truly be able to solve our problems and take out our beloved nation from the rut it is stuck in. What I also find baffling are visions of Pakistanis across the world who probably have never set foot in this country suddenly overcome by a wave of patriotism come August 14th or a Pakistan cricket match. True, Pakistanis abroad tend to feel more strongly about the country as they're away from home, but for once can we burst out of our idealistic bubbles and accept the reality we are living in? The residents of Pakistan may have their fair share of sarcastic humour and cynicism but it all stems from the circumstances we are living in and witnessing day in and day out.
Coming back to the subject, how would putting up lights and singing national anthems on one day help this country? Is that all the Independence Day is about? Instead of flaunting our patriotism with words, why not prove it by putting the proverbial money where our mouths are? In order to celebrate the Independence Day in the true sense of the word, the least we can do is take the first step towards building a sustainable Pakistan so that the future generations would actually have something to celebrate. There are countless people struggling with very worthwhile projects based on education and sustainability. I say, let's celebrate this Independence Day by contributing our resources, monetary or otherwise, in helping these projects attain their goal towards a better Pakistan. It's the least we can do if we can't make any similar initiatives of our own. We need to especially inculcate the spirit of volunteerism in our youth which comprise such a major part of the population so that they bring their spare time to constructive use, instead of whiling it away in front of TV screens, video games or the internet. If we look at it this way, if every single educated Pakistani would take upon him/herself the responsibility to educate one disadvantaged child, imagine the difference that could make!
So, how will you celebrate this Independence Day?
The author is an Anti-Drug Ambassador for the Ministry of Narcotics Control. The Anti-Drug Ambassadors are a group of young people from diverse backgrounds dedicated to the cause of eradicating or reducing significantly the impact of illicit drug use amongst the youth of Pakistan.