As 14th August draws closer, so does the enthusiasm of the nation. I remember this one-time last year when a team from the Citizen’s Archive was invited to Habib University for a short talk centered around History of the Subcontinent. After a series of back and forths, one of the team members asked the audience a question that left all of us dumbstruck. The said person asked us what it meant to be Pakistani.
The room went silent. A whisper here, a loud “as opposed to what?” there. None of us had the answer. I now rethink the question and make sense of this particularly heavy question in my less knowledgeable world.
What does it mean to be Pakistani?
While I understand the need and importance for identity politics, I am at the same time very critical of it. For me to love and appreciate a country, my country; I do not need an opposition. I can love it as it is. For me to identify as Pakistani, I do not need to hate my neighbor. Unlearning hate is a difficult and tedious task and does not happen overnight, which is why we need to constantly question ourselves. Question the origins of this hate. Question the culprits of this hate. Question the notion of hate altogether.
But that still doesn’t answer the question.
So I thought about all the big gestures, the daring pledges, and the humongous flags. “Does that make me a Pakistani?” I ask myself, the answer still a blatant no.
What it really means to be Pakistani
To really value and treasure the sacrifices of our forefathers it is extremely important to take their legacy forward and to make sure their legacy stays intact.
We’re not here to fight wars and we’re definitely not here for bloodshed. We’re here for peace and goodwill for as long as Pakistan persists.
So this time around, with close to a week left in independence day a.k.a. 14th August, think about the last 72 years followed by the next 72. Think about the things we as individuals can do to make Pakistan a better country because that will make us Pakistani.
As you put up that huge green flag at the top of your house with brimming patriotism, make sure you do something practical this year:
Plant trees maybe? Help one poor kid with tuition fee, make sure you abide by traffic regulations this entire year, pick up after yourself as you would at your own house, be respectful of the sick, poor and elderly.
Do something different and support local art, reduce the intake of pirated media, minimize water wastage, conserve the environment and most importantly, be kind and empathetic towards the marginalized communities of this country.
Because no green flags, jingoistic tunes, and mindless fireworks will contribute to making a nation great. Accepting our realities and hardships and overcoming them as people of a nation-state will make this country different, not celebratory gun-fires that end up hurting people.
Every year we celebrate the history, this year pledge to change yourselves and not the country, be the ripple and not overconfident change makers. But above all, pledge to be kinder to each other and not fault-finding folk.