A better PakistanBe it 23rd March or 14th August — Pakistan’s Day or Independence Day, days to celebrate and remind us of our struggle and sacrifices made to gain a free homeland in which we live today — we get into a celebration mode with a lot of zeal. Sadly, our patriotism is now limited to wearing green and white coloured attires, badges and, at the most, putting up flags on cars, homes and streets. But is this all there is to patriotism? Or have we redefined it to be this way? Isn’t there a duty our country and our forefathers need us to perform? Why are we waiting for another Quaid-i-Azam or Liaquat Ali Khan who will get us out of the troubled times we are in; we don't really want to get 'our' hands dirty. But now it's high time we did something for our country, any more neglect will land us in a much bigger mess. If we don’t strive to awaken the Pakistani sleeping inside us for a long time, things will deteriorate to such a point that no act of ours can help us or our nation. It's not enough to assert only during a celebration or an India-Pakistan cricket match that we are all Pakistanis. We need to feel it daily and prove it in whatever situations we can. We need to show patriotism through the work we do. We have lost our sense of nationhood somewhere in our six decade long journey, we need to find it again. Pakistan and Pakistanis need a rebirth. Yes, our country is facing immense problems — electric power and gas shortages, increasing crime, corruption, terrorism, ethnic and religious divide, inflation, lack of education and health facilities for the masses, etc. — but these problems are not without solutions. We just need the sincere will to address these problems and implement the solutions. The main problem with us is that all of us believe it is someone else’s duty to act and solve our problems. This someone else can be the government, the rich, the other person on the street or even our neighbour — the responsibilities to address all the ills in society is always someone else’s. Our roads are dirty because the city administration doesn’t clean up the streets or picks the garbage. But have we ever thought for a second before throwing a candy wrapper out of the car window, and told our maid not to throw the garbage on the street? We have contributed towards the creation of this filthy environment, so why just blame others for not cleaning up. We do realise that to bring change in important areas it’s necessary to be in a responsible position that requires hard work, because life is easier when we are able to sit, watch and comment on things around us rather than do something to change it. Who in their rightful mind would think of becoming a good politician? Who would waste their energy to come up with a practical approach towards the electricity problem? Majority of our bright and intelligent youngsters become engineers, doctors or other professionals when they come of age but nobody thinks of being a social worker, reformer or a good politician and leader. We just want to go abroad and earn loads or money — that’s our idea of a blissful and hassle-free life. Our dilemma is that we don’t think of solutions on a larger scale for our collective problems. For instance, if there is load-shedding, we install a generator or UPS in our homes and go on with life, without thinking of saving electricity by using fewer electrical appliances or not indulging in electricity theft. This is just one case in point, but there are many like these. History proves that it’s not impossible to do anything. If a boy who lives in a very tiny cottage can dream of becoming a doctor and goes on and fulfils his dream, why can’t those of us who have better opportunities, do something to make a difference in society? Miracles do not happen on their own — you have to do something to get something! Faith, belief and efforts are required! Let’s talk about bribery, a ‘popular’ malice. It’s both a crime and a sin, yet it has become a common practice, so much so that none of us feel guilty or shameful anymore while taking or giving bribe. People’s conscience doesn’t even prick them when looking at the picture of the Quaid on the rupee note they give as bribe! Change takes a lot of effort on individual basis. Start with small positive steps, stop yourself from becoming selfish and dishonest even regarding the smallest of the issues. Don’t break traffic rules or go the wrong way on roads. Stop your family and friends from giving bribes to get away with breaking traffic rules or getting their work done urgently in any office. There is one more problem with us; we are not a united nation. We have divided ourselves on various grounds and unless we believe that we have to make Pakistan a better place for all Pakistanis to live in, we don’t stand a chance in making things any different. We must be the change we desire to see around us. If we start counteracting against these ills from this very age, then there sure is some hope for a better Pakistan. We all need to work, both independently and collectively, to achieve this goal for a better life and a prosperous destiny for our beloved homeland. Long live Pakistan and Pakistanis!
What Pakistan means to me
By Hashir A. AwanFor me Pakistan is Shah Latif’s poetry, Farid’s Sufism, Liaquat Ali’s fist, Edhi’s selfless service, Arfa’s intelligence, Malala’s courage, K2’s peak, Quetta’s fruits, Afridi’s and Miandad’s sixes, and much more. From Karachi to Kashmir, Pakistan is a multifaceted land. It is blessed with many natural resources. From the coal of Thar to the water of Indus, from the natural gas of Sui to the agricultural richness of the Indus plain, it is highly blessed with natural bounties. Every green thing means Pakistan to me, every verse of the national anthem means Pakistan to me! Pakistan is one of the most beautiful places in the world, especially Kashmir, which is called heaven on earth. The Kaghan valley in the lower Himalayas mountain range is famous for its bewitching splendour and natural beauty. Lake Saiful-Muluk is a completely enchanting tourist spot located in Kaghan, and the Mall Road, in Murree, is one of the most vibrant open-air shopping places in the world, with awesome view when it snows in winter. Every leaf of the conifer tree in these mountains is Pakistan to me. Sindh’s and Punjab’s evergreen fields are agricultural heaven from where we get an amazing variety of crops. The local cuisine is also one of the specialties and unique things of Pakistan, be it Punjab’s glass of lassi or Peshawar’s chappli kabab or Quetta’s sajji and Karachi’s haleem. Pakistan’s traditions are dear to me too. In Sindh we will find the Islamic teachings of Bin Qasim and the simplicity of the Sufis. The block-printed Ajrak and Sindhi cap are vital cultural elements of Sindh. Every single person making Ajrak means Pakistan to me. Go to Khyber Pakhtunkhwa to find the Peshawari chappal and unique food items. See the Kalash dance of Swat, be mesmerised by the beauty of this remote region, and enjoy the polo matches which are life to the people of Abbottabad and Hunza. The sparsely-populated province of Balochistan is the largest province of my country. Balochistan has some exquisite lakes and ranges — the Koh-i-Sulaiman is one of the highest peaks in the country and is of immense importance in Balochistan. One of the coolest things you’ll find in Pakistan is the painted trucks with pictures of literally anything. The bangles, the clothes and the hustle and bustle of bazaars just before Eid are unique to Pakistan. Pakistan is a land of saints and Sufis, and it is dotted with numerous shrines of these holy men, and grandiose mosques, such as Shahjehan Mosque, Badshahi mosque and Faisal mosque. Every brick of the ancient city of Mohenjodero, the Mughal forts and Makli Hill ruins is Pakistan to me. Pakistan is one of the trade hubs in Asia with the largest deep-sea port in Asia, the Gwadar port. Apart from the natural beauty, skyscrapers too can be seen in urban centres such as Karachi. Pakistan has everything that a Pakistani should be proud of, and I am proud of Pakistan! Pakistan means everything to me. It is my homeland, my country. Every single Pakistani of the one hundred and seventy million people is Pakistan to me.
Are we free?
By Noor-ul-ain HanifThe word ‘free’ is made up of only four alphabets but it carries a world of meaning. It is the quality of this word that whenever or wherever we hear it, we become interested and wonder “What’s free in today’s world”. If there’s a marketing campaign that offers free samples, we rush to get our share of the free product. Another thought that comes to our minds when we hear the word ‘free’ is ‘freedom’. A small amount of people know the real meaning of this word. People who have struggled and achieved freedom are well-informed about the real cost of freedom. There are a lot of people who are still struggling for freedom but there are also blessed people like us who have already achieved freedom but take it for granted. Looking at things from a broader perspective, we are free but in reality we are not. If you are not in agreement with me then put your hand on your heart and ask yourself; “Are we free?” I am sure your heart will reply, “No, we are not”. Physically, we are an independent country but mentally, spiritually and economically, we are a suppressed nation. We are still slaves but the only difference is that before 1947 we were the slaves of the British, but today we are slaves of our souls. Yes, we are the servants of bribery, backbiting, malice, grudges, laziness and ethnic hatred, etc. These diseases have eaten our nation. We have become so habitual to these wrongs that we don’t consider them as wrongs or sins. It is our misfortune that we couldn’t distinguish between honesty and dishonesty, truth and lie, and fairness and cheating. Malice and backbiting are our national games and this is the first game in which every Pakistani participates and gets full marks. We have also rented a room to grudge in our hearts that’s why it’s present in our souls all the time. In every nation, the youth plays an important role in every walk of life, whether its education, fashion, music, etc. Every field needs young blood to lead it into the future. The youth of every nation has the power to break free from the shackles of the past and change the rules, and the Pakistani youth have a lot of potential to rebuild the nation by their sound character. So we, the youth, have to take the initiative. Criticising someone is very easy but becoming someone who sets examples for others to follow is very difficult. We first have to alter and modify ourselves. We have to fight the evils in our society and system, and learn from the life and character of our freedom fighters and founding fathers. Through our character, we have to convey the message of Islam and the ideals of ‘unity, faith and discipline’ that our beloved Quaid-i-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah advocated, in order to make our country strong. This will take a lot of effort and time but in the end positive results can be achieved with sincerity and determination. After reading all this, I ask you again, are you free? I am sure you will reply proudly, “Yes, I am free.”