The Miriam – Webster Dictionary describes ‘Patriotism’ as ‘love for or devotion to one’s country’. The English term patriot was first attested in the Elizabethan era, via Middle French from Late Latin (6th century) ‘Patriota’, meaning ‘countryman’. Its ultimate derivation emerged from Greek ‘Patriōtēs’, meaning ‘from the same country’ and from ‘Patris’, meaning ‘fatherland’. The abstract noun ‘patriotism’ appeared in the early 18th century.

The national flag is a symbol of patriotic feeling and is revered throughout the world. It is considered to embody history and the country’s national aspirations. For example, our own flag signifies the minorities in white (which is also the colour of peace) and the Muslim majority in green. The centrepiece of this green and white harmony is the rising crescent (signifying light, progress and growth) and a five pointed star which reflects our aspirations. This is a design, influenced perhaps, by the original flag of the Muslim League, which itself drew inspiration from the ‘Standards’ of the Sultanate of Delhi, the Ottoman and the Mughal Empire.

It is the duty of every Pakistani to pay respect to the green and white rectangle that symbolises our sovereignty and greatness. A demonstration of this can be seen how the Armed Forces store and parade their national standard. I am fascinated by the sight of our flag attached to a descending military skydiver during public demonstrations and how the small group waiting in the drop zone scramble to catch it before it touches the ground. It is at moments like these that I am reminded of the faded and dirty ‘national emblem’ that flutters on a makeshift out-of-alignment mast atop the FIA Headquarters on Peshawar More (turn) Interchange or the tattered remnants that tell the tale of a callous nation from a private rooftop.

Rulers too are like national flags – emblems, mentors and role models, elected by the people because of leadership qualities that inspire and motivate. Regretfully political leadership in Pakistan, barring our Founding Father and the First Prime Minister, has been found grossly wanting in character. They are role models, but in the Machiavellian sense. They have a vote bank that is blind and deaf to their shortcomings and misdemeanours – even acts that fall in the realm of treason.

When we probe deeper into manifestations of patriotism and patriotic thought, we come across the expression ‘true patriotism’. This phenomenon is way beyond our comprehension since ‘truthfulness’ has now become a rare virtue amongst us. Adherence to the truth breeds courage and ‘true patriotism’ requires a whole lot of courage as was demonstrated in the rejection of the executive order issued on the findings of the Dawn Leaks commission. Leakage of what transpired during a high level security related meeting was without doubt a breach of security, as it force multiplied the enemy’s information and diplomatic offensive against our national centre of gravity, which (whether we like it or not) lies in the Armed Forces. The issue became an act of treason, when it was found that the leak was not inadvertent, but premeditated. It did not take rocket science to determine, as to who had engineered the act, but the ‘executive order’ overlooked the fact that all those responsible needed to be punished severely. This was perhaps the point that the ISPR tweet was trying to bring home to the ‘patriots’ in this country.

The Panama Case too, is an issue of ‘financial and moral patriotism’ since ‘flight of capital’ and ‘money laundering’ are acts detrimental to the economic security of the motherland. ‘Moral patriotism’ takes a hit, when someone holding public office is associated with the aforementioned practices and refuses to accept the consequences.

What we are witnessing in Pakistan these days is a test of ‘patriotic thought’. ‘Dawn and Panama Leaks’ are a Godsend opportunity to put into motion a clean-up act – especially against those, who mock the notion of ‘patriotism’ by ‘putting self-interest above that of their country’.