This 23rd day of March

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I have said, and heard, “I love Pakistan” millions of times. At times I have wondered what it really means to love Pakistan. Is it love for the soil? the seas and the sand? or the land that is Pakistan’s territory?

For me loving Pakistan is loving the people who belong to this country; my people. It is this sense of belonging that creates a bond between families, tribes, towns and a countries.

Love, as one of its characteristics, has the urge to benefit and better the loved one; their life and their person. Selflessness is an essential ingredient of love. Benefiting one’s self at the cost of detriment to the other is not love by any stretch of imagination. Yet that is what many of us do, don’t we?

We loot billions while in offices of power, manufacture and sell fake medicine risking each other’s lives, we provide substandard food items and play havoc with the health of our people, we lie through the teeth while selling products deceiving others into paying more for an item that is worth much less, we violate traffic rules putting the lives of our fellows in danger, we remain silent on the miseries of our brothers and sisters – all of this for a little benefit to ourselves, regardless of the grave implications, of our acts and omissions, on the lives of our people. I cannot even think of doing any of those things to anyone in my family, because I love them. If I can do it to someone else, I obviously do not love that someone else.

A soldier’s patriotism is often deemed unquestionable, for he is willing to sacrifice his own life for his country. This is an epitome of love, since life is the most valuable of worldly assets. It is the kind of love that one has for his family. Frequent and shameless vile actions of some in our society and  the inconsiderate silence of others, are acts unbecoming of an emotion as sincere and pure as love.

From the humiliation and agony or being raped to committing suicide for denial of justice, the indifference of our society towards the victim speaks volumes of the care and concern that we have for the victim, or others who may follow. If I am content and do not act as long as the threat stays miles away from my own daughter or sister, it’s the sister and daughter that I love, not my country’s children, not my country.

We jump on an opportunity to criticize the vices of other Pakistanis, all the while ignoring our own ills, grave as they may be. Pakistan bashing aside; bigotry, intolerance and polarization have made us opinionated and judgmental. Peaceful differences of opinion find no space in our interactions. We cannot agree to disagree. For the advocate of each narrative, the believer of another is a traitor or a fool. Be it Malala, Sharmeen, Shafqat Amanat’s unintentional mistake, or any other issue, we find ourselves at each other’s throats for holding an opinion different than our own.

In times of tragedy like December, 2014, we did manage to stand together, but we haven’t yet learned to stand united. At times political affiliations blind us, at others, religious beliefs turn us into blood thirsty primates.

Patriotic songs, flag colored clothes, festive celebratory events, wearing the Pakistani flag on our chests and decorating our homes with it, are all testaments to the assertion, not the fact,  that we love Pakistan. Our actions, not our words or shrieks, will give merit to our claims.

My love for Pakistan would not allow me to distinguish between a Shia Pakistani and a Sunni Pakistani, a non-Muslim and a Muslim Pakistani, a Punjabi and a Pakhtoon, a male and a female citizen, a rich Pakistani and a poor Pakistani. If and when I love Pakistan, I will love them all, beyond cultural, ethnic, religious, political and social divides.

Unfortunate as it is, patriotism, like democracy, is turning into a fiction. It used to be a reality. The fight for independence and subsequent frequent wars with India may have tied our older generations together in a national bond. But as time passes the grip loosens, the bond weakens.

Tall claims, write-ups and promises won’t do us any good. We do not need a messiah or the “perfect” political leader to come and turn us into patriots, we do not need democracy or dictatorship for that either. To love our country we need to start loving each other, it is that simple.

Let’s not make any promises this 23rd of March. Before we go on to celebrate our love for Pakistan, let us first start loving Pakistanis.

 

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