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As a 12-year-old, I sometimes get confused with concepts such as ‘patriotism’, ‘importance of freedom’, ‘nationalism’, etc. These terms seem great, but I must confess that, at times, I fail to embrace the true concept and significance of these terms in my everyday life.

The dictionary definition of “patriotism” is “love for or devotion to one’s country” while “nationalism” is defined “as loyalty and devotion to a nation especially as expressed in a glorifying of one nation above all others and a stressing of the promotion of its culture and interests.”

Loyalty, love and devotion are the key words, but it is hard to embrace these emotions when I see problems in my country such as poverty, power failures, water shortage, terrorism, inflation, unemployment, water and air pollution, etc. Put more simply, it is difficult to like one’s country with ‘all your heart’ when there are so many problems faced by us and our countrymen.

We are a country of about 215 million people living in areas stretching from Gilgit/Baltistan to remote corners of Balochistan. We are all connected, in my opinion, in one way or the other. We share similar cultural, social and religious values, and also the country’s resources. In short, we are similar in many ways and are one giant family.

We need to develop a sense of duty to our country and the great leaders and all the martyrs of the past. We owe it to them and their sacrifices to care for this country and contribute, in whatever way we can, for its betterment and that of its people

It is this realisation and belief that helps me in understanding the ideas of patriotism and nationalism. Because this realisation/belief brings forth the idea to do good to the people of my country since we all are connected in many ways. This idea is not a new one, for it comes from all the great national/political leaders that the world has seen in ancient and recent history.

In our case, the relevance of the idea comes from leaders like Muhammad Ali Jinnah, Allama Iqbal, Chaudhry Rehmat Ali and Sir Syed Ahmed Khan. They worked tirelessly, with a spirit of nationalism, to make sure that we and our elders get a country of our own. Had they not done that, we would have been living a miserable life (like the Indian Kashmiri people) in an undivided India.

I also realise that we need to develop a sense of duty to our great leaders of the past and all the martyrs of the country. We owe it to them and their sacrifices to care for this country and contribute, in whatever way we can, for its betterment and that of its people.

We also get a better idea of the importance of our country and countrymen when we get to know about the life of Pakistanis living abroad. A majority of them do miss Pakistan and its societal and cultural norms on many occasions. So it is a blessing in itself to live in a society full of people who have the same social, cultural and moral values as we do.

There are quite a few simple ways to express our patriotism and nationalism. Celebrating August 14 is great, but we must be able to do something constructive for the betterment of our country. We can do simple things like planting trees, making small donations, doing charity work, doing research on your country and getting to know about all its good and not-so-good things. This will get things rolling and help us develop a sense of care for our countrymen and country.

Another more important way for contributing towards our country is to excel in our chosen field. Whether it is science, arts, computer and technology, medicine, education and social services, engineering, business, finance, economics or law, there is so much we can do by striving for excellence in our chosen field. Our country would need us in all the aforementioned fields because they all are important parts of any economy.

So the next time we support our national cricket team and be proud of its players, just know that there are many such things about Pakistan that you should cherish and be proud of. Ours is a great country with tremendous potential in its human and natural capital/resources. All we need are proper systems and set of priorities to turn this potential into development and prosperity.

Long live Pakistan!

Published in Dawn, Young World, August 11th, 2018