As Pakistan enters its 70th year of existence, I can’t help but reminisce about the events of the last year’s Independence Day. My friends and I lit dozens of patakhay (firecrackers) and released them into the streets of Lahore. The world lit up in a mixture of light and sound, and for a brief moment, there was nothing but the blinding flashes of light and the deafening cracks all around. And just like that, it was all over; silence and darkness enveloped us yet again. But for that fleeting moment, it was only us and the jubilation of azaadi.
This year, the national atmosphere is more somber. As a nation, we are plunging into a cesspool of intolerance, hostility, and helplessness. It pains me greatly that the country that gave me my identity and the very basis of who I am as a person is in such turmoil.
There are countless people who say that the only thing they have received from Pakistan is their passport or their national ID card. And while I firmly believe that it is our duty to work in whatever way we can for our nation, it is evident that the government that was supposed to support the people has failed them.
We have been failed by our nation, but we in turn have failed it too. As a people, we are petty narrow-minded individuals who search out for benefit in the smallest of matters. We turn on each other, beat each other and kill each other for our differences.
Our undying attraction to chaos has torn apart the country. Our brightest minds, our bravest heroes and our most loyal servants are butchered by the very people who they strive to help.
On the other hand, we are a country of altruistic, warm-hearted and selfless people. The level of trust and faith I have seen strangers give each other in Pakistan is truly unique. I have experienced selflessness beyond comprehension and warmth beyond comparison. I have seen a light in the eyes of my compatriots that I have seldom seen elsewhere.
The mess that we are all in is a shared one. The pain and despair that we feel when reading the news is a collective one. We all share the same pride, headstrong nature and relentless bravery. At the end of the day, despite all differences that compartmentalise us and all the incidents that divide us, we all bleed green and we are there for each other when we are in need.
In many ways, we are the patakhas that were set off on the 14th of August. We are loud, erratic and at times, a menace. We are also incredibly bright, entertaining, warm and of course, not recommended for the faint-hearted.
As the clock ticks time away and the constant flow of heartbreaking news reports come in, let’s all remind ourselves that we are here because we refuse to fall down. We are here because despite all our criticisms, laments and complaints, we know deep down that change will come. All we have to do is accept it and light the fires inside ourselves.