This March 23rd, admit that you do not love Pakistan
I do not believe that patriotism and the expression of love for our country ought to be limited to just a couple of occasions like March 23rd or August 14th. Yet here I am, writing a piece for one of these very days, which is less of a celebration and more of a concern.
I have said and heard the phrase “I love Pakistan” a million times and wondered what it really means. Love for the soil, the seas and the sand, for 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 a family, a tribe, a town and a country.
Love, as one of its characteristics, has the urge to better the loved one’s life. Selflessness is an essential ingredient of love. Benefitting one’s self at the cost of detriment to another is not love by any stretch of the imagination. Yet, that is what a huge majority of us do in our daily lives. We loot billions, while in offices of power, we manufacture and sell fake medicine risking each other’s lives, we provide substandard food items playing 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 – all of this for a little benefit for ourselves regardless of its grave implications on the lives of our own 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 this kind of love that one has for his family. Frequent and shameless vile actions of some in our society and inconsiderate silence of others, are acts unbecoming of an emotion as sincere and pure as love.
From 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 that child, 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 is the sister and daughter that I love, not my country’s children, not my country.
We jump on an opportunity to criticise the vices of other Pakistanis, all the time ignoring our own ills. Pakistan bashing aside; bigotry, intolerance and polarisation has made us opinionated and judgmental. Peaceful differences of opinion find no space in our interactions. We cannot agree to disagree. For the believer of each narrative, the believer of another is a traitor or a fool. Be it Malala Yousafzai, Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy, Shafqat Amanat’s unintentional mistake, or any other issue, we find ourselves at each other’s throats for having an opinion different than our own.
In times of tragedy like December 16, 2014, we do 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 coloured 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 Pakhtun, 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, may be owing to the fight for independence and then frequent wars with India our older generations were tied together in a national bond. But as time passes the grip loosens, the bond is breaking.
Tall claims, articles and promises won’t do us any good. We do not need a messiah or the perfect political leader to come and make us love each other, 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 March 23rd. Let us just try and love our country, before we go on to celebrate a love in waiting.
The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.