“You are free…” His three words, enshrouded in solace, reverberated across the nascent soil, as Muhammad Ali Jinnah’s sanguine gaze envisaged the fruits to be conceived by that very soil, beneath which the arduousness of the preceding decade and beyond was sheathed. The soil that was fertilised by perspiration, stains of blood, and relentless toil, all so that those three words could be uttered and the elation accompanying them could finally adopt a tangible nature. Emulating the spirit enkindled on August 14, 1947, vehement processions inundate the decrepit streets, waving flags, flaunting green and white adornments, in an attempt to be the loudest to resound chants of independence and bask in the glory of another national holiday. Yet, the pale rays of the sun dawning upon August 15 re-illuminate the scene maintained over the remaining 364 days. The flags that soared in the wind with pride now merge with plastic bags, tracing the streets. The adornments are left abandoned to decompose. Chants paused to be resumed next year. Individuals retreat to their villas or bastis, for those structures are the sole entities we call home now. The historical words of “unity, faith and discipline,” remain mere letters weaved together to embellish social media; ensuring that they maintain their status as history. This consequential and perturbing narrative can broadly be traced to the vacancy characterising the word “patriotism,” the concept either being blurred into jingoism or mere antipathy. As we continue exercising our efforts towards disassociation from the Pakistani identity, whether it be in the form of pride in foreign passports, degrees from international universities, residences in overseas soil, or merely allocating a derogatory status to those unable to communicate eloquently in the English language, we ourselves stand as evidence that the foreigners exited the subcontinent only physically; leaving the propagation of their superior cultures upon our shoulders as though it is a moral obligation. However, what incentive does unconditional devotion to and vigorous support for the nation hold for the citizens of Pakistan. It is a nation where minorities are unjustly flagellated as the authorities remain blindfolded, counting their bills. It is a nation plagued by hypocrisy, corruption and extremism. It is a nation where luxury for approximately 55 million citizens is defined by a day’s piece of bread and pure water; a nation whose image is tainted worldwide? In such cases, one may justify the antipathy towards the country, mocking any hint of patriotism. However, once the binaries of patriotism are cleared from behind the haze, and its true essence, detached from its convoluted nature, is unveiled, that very virtue can emerge as the core of abandonment of antipathic sentiments. Although it would be erroneous to make blanket statements about Pakistani patriotism, where studies exemplify the nation as the forerunner of patriots in Asia, and copious notable figures express their sentiments of devotion, locally and internationally, one can still identify the general distortion of the essence of patriotism. So, what does it truly entail? T The topic has remained subject to debate and controversy owing to its alarming potential, association with nationalistic endeavours narrated in history books, or often coming with the risk of fostering superiority complexes among masses. Yet, it is not difficult to maintain a moderate and simplistic approach while adhering to the fundamentals. It is vital to distinguish patriotism from mere love for one’s country, as the latter often harbours uniformity, nullifying the idea as a whole. Therefore, conceptually, unadulterated affection towards the nation demands going beyond mere expression and translating it into genuine concern enshrouded by a spirit of altruism. It is facile to momentarily shake heads at bright red newsreels trailing across the television screens and to subsequently criticise the predicaments we reside in. Here, often the government is utilised as a scape-goat, as though the citizens themselves have been chained and paralysed in the name of democracy. When devotion to one’s motherland as a moral obligation or constitutional duty fail as sufficient arguments, one must, at the very least, resort to realising this as a need of the hour. When logic concurs with the idea that only a few authoritative bodies cannot be accountable for the failings of the state, despite their consequentiality, then the role of each citizen is illuminated. The concept is not to be mistaken as a blind negation of the nations’ flaws as a whole, but rather, adopting an approach of realistic optimism, to individually and collectively focus on the inclusion of positives while exercising conscious efforts to liberate the society of its maladies, and in such a way, the purpose of criticism is not limited to antipathy or expression of remorse, but the identification of a sense of accountability and concern in being the energy we seek. Only through looking upon patriotism as a mechanism of profound introspection, solidarity, rightful accountability, holistic perceptions, farsightedness, reform and most vitally, its implementation, can its fundamental essence be recognised, as a simple effort to learn from the past, celebrate the good of the present, and look forward to the good we enkindle in the future. Then the victim of our lambasting does not remain Pakistan itself, but what afflicts Pakistan. We cannot celebrate independence after having robbed our nation of that virtue ourselves, nor can we celebrate independence when we limit ‘home’ to our singular identities or to the four walls that enclose us. So, we need to truly honour the words of the father of this soil, “You are free…” to make those three historical words and what they precede, the present and the future of Pakistan.