Some people insisted that I was too hard on Pakistan last year. I don’t agree. I pinpointed what was wrong and spoke on topics that I felt needed our population’s attention. Also, I had limited column inches at my disposal. That said, the fact is that my write-ups failed to highlight all the good that was happening in the country.

I initially planned to list down the number of achievements that Pakistan achieved in the form of its country men and women but social media has already done a pretty good job at it with pictorial presentations. Those who haven’t seen these yet are highly encouraged to do so.

This column would hence not focus on the achievements but the people. Let’s start with Pervez Khan. A man who lived a normal everyday life and became a hero in his death. There can be no comparison to such bravery. None of us can try to fit in the shoes of people like Pervez. Just listening to a retelling of their bravery has the lay-populace such as myself cringe with goosebumps.

A suicide bomber walks in. He has nothing to lose. He is determined to do his job; cause the most destruction, kill as many as possible. Pervez finds him there. He is not an SSG commando. He is underpaid. He has children, a wife. In such situations, time usually stops. The mind works furiously weighing in the pros and the cons. In such situations, most would naturally become selfish. Others, heroes such as Pervez, chose the opposite. They fight for the greater good and in that process, embracing selflessness in its most pure form, sacrifice themselves. Of course there is the guilt of leaving loved ones behind; regret of missed opportunities, a never seen future. And yet, Pervez and people like him, make such hard choices. They do what most wouldn’t.

It’s a true shame that Pervez was put in this spot in the first place. There should have been efficient intelligence stopping the bomber even before he’d reached his target. There should have been mechanical security checks that don’t keep the guard’s life in peril. There should have been a crackdown on the supply chain of the many components that made up the bomb. Zarb-e-Azab should have been more efficient at eliminating the elements that corrode us from inside. However, Pakistan does not provide such conditions. In Pakistan you live a hard life and you make hard decisions as you go on. We, the nation have grown addicted to this ‘coming to terms with the situation’ choice. We too easily agree to our present and allow those in the higher chains of command to be neglectful and lazy. In retrospect, it is us who are responsible for the decision Pervez had to make that day. We were part of the process that made the conditions ripe for what happened. We forced Pervez to be selfless.

Moving on, as far as I am concerned, no one in this country embodies a better ‘be the change you want the world to be’ cliché than Muhammad Jibran Nasir. He has done all that I know I too should have done (as should have most of us). A man who got educated in the same schools such as most of us, living a life of relative luxury (as most of us), did not solely pinpoint what was wrong with the society. He did not limit his exasperations on the debacle that Pakistan was becoming to the protected confines of his mind and his loved ones. He took a step further, one that most of us were afraid to take. He took the battle to the streets with him alone as a one-man army. Jibran voiced what most of us were thinking but were too afraid to say. He took the bull by the horns, refusing to let go. Be it cancerous Mullahs, murders appeasing politicians or critiquing hay-wired cricketer-turned-politicians, Jibran insisted on being vocal refuting those who warned against having such opinions. Jibran also brought a precious touch of sanity, decorum and decency to the otherwise embarrassing programs that claimed to talk about ‘real issues’. His guest appearances toned down anchors who would otherwise, very shamelessly so, instigate arguments and scuffles, and enjoy the debacle and relish the ratings it brought with it. He, indirectly so, reminded them not only of their jobs but infact how programs of discussions are supposed to be administered. He still does so even today and, for his activities in 2015 and for all that is to come for the next year, I, as do many, many Pakistanis, thank him for being who he is.

The final paragraph will talk about Bisma. She did not live to see the 11th month of her life. She did not live to see 2016. Nisar Khuhro deserves a pat on the back for saying it as it is: some lives are simply more precious than others. Bilawal, a man who was educated by one of the best academic institutions in the world, also deserves a thanks for keeping it bare: some luxuries are simply worth more than principles, promises and hopes. Bilawal, much like his cricketer ‘uncle’, showed us in 2015 that education alone cannot help Pakistan. Bisma deserves a Thank You. She, in her very unfortunate death, reminded us how bad our situation is. Her farewell was a painful plea to us all to mend our ways before the society collapses, taking the country with it.

The Pakistan of 2016 needs a lot more: it needs our sincerity, our selflessness and our bravery. It’s good to be optimistic. Let’s be optimistic. However, it is important to not be (and remain) delusional. Here is to the hope that more Pervez are not forced into such situations. Here is to hoping that we all become Jibran and be brave enough to act our thoughts. Here’s to hoping that the Bismas of 2016 end up living long and happy lives.