Every day we receive news about numerous events that involve some kind of violence, many of them, ending in deaths of innocent people. To the average person, it is unbelievable how horrible Pakistan’s security situation is. Countless women are killed in the name of so called “honor”; so many others are doused in acid for exercising their right to say No. One day, the newscaster announces the murder of an Ahmadi the next, a renowned Qawal bites the dust because apparently they were blasphemous.

In such a situation, one tends to be skeptical of the overflowing patriotism that fills us every year on 23rd March and 14th August. Where does it go? Was it even there in the first place or was it just another trending hashtag and an excuse to take pictures for Instagram? If we were truly ready to give up everything for this country, wouldn’t we first give up illiteracy, ignorance and hate, the vices that are slowly eating us up as a nation? Our middle school history teachers have always told us to be thankful to our ancestors for this country because if it wasn’t for them, we would still be the slaves of Hindus. I wonder if it’s any different now; we are not slaves to Hindus or British but to things that are no better. We are slaves to the terrorists who endanger our lives, to the government which can’t protect us, to the society that burns innocent people to death, to the idea that anyone with opposing views is an enemy who must be dealt with. I wonder what the ancestors I am so thankful to would think of Pakistan today. Would they be glad we are an independent and unified nation by name? Or would they weep on finding this country in shambles, for which they sacrificed their flesh and blood. The ideology of having a separate state for Muslims where the rights of all minorities were safe and fulfilled would shatter into pieces in front of their eyes. The fire that burned inside their hearts for years and years of struggle which smelled of the warm blood of its martyrs and dripped with the sweat of their leaders was put out by this avarice and atrocity we witness daily. They used their own bones as bricks, their flesh as cement and their blood as gravel, only for the country to end up like this: stinking of murder and injustice, reeking of abuse and intolerance.

In the blurred memories of my childhood I remember my grandfather telling me how much I should value this country and how my forefathers had given so much to this land. He migrated from Ludhiana in Punjab, India to Pakistan during Partition and inevitably it was the most difficult journeys of his life. I can’t begin to understand how one recovers from watching his father being killed in front of his eyes and what impression it leaves on the mind of a 19 year old. This is why he never talked much about that time. The fire that burned in his eyes was like that of a person from whom everything had been taken away with a piece of land and an ideology to build on, in return. He knew very well that Pakistan was not the country he or his peers thought it would be, but still he encouraged me to serve the land my ancestors had gifted us because he beloved it could become what they had believed. For years, I followed his advice, I believed there was a way as long as there was hope in our hearts and no matter how worse the situation got, and we could get through it. Today, I am exactly the age that he was when he decided that Pakistan was his home forever. His family was taken away, he saw brutal murders, and his peers gave up their lives fighting and jumped into wells to save their lives, but he had one thing to hold on to, and it was hope. Today, many of us 19-year-olds might live in a country where there’s violence and barbarism but we sit in air conditioned rooms all day, we have everything we want to eat, we have loving families and aspiring opportunities. There’s just one thing missing: hope.

Yes, we wanted to make things right when we were younger. We thought we would grow up to become President and with the help of our friends we’d make this country right again. But somewhere along growing up and realizing the tooth fairy wasn’t real, we also realized that there was too much wrong with his country and started to doubt our ability to fix it. The most brilliant of my peers now aspire to go abroad for higher studies as soon as possible, to get out of this bloody country and never come back. The children of politicians and the ones too poor to get a higher education can take care of the country. We are on the verge of abandoning my hopes for the future of this country. We see so many people struggling, trying their best to make it a little better, a little more bearable, but their efforts are nowhere near those of the ones trying to tear it apart, to bring destruction and chaos and to undermine every effort of peace. We all want our homeland to prosper, but none of us believe it can. We all have plans and getaways and none of them lead us back to Pakistan. The generation of our mothers and fathers used to believe they were the ones who could fix the country because who else would do it. Today my generation believes there’s nothing we can do and we may just leave it as it is. We cheer on our compatriots who still have hope, who work for it every day, but for ourselves, our hopes lie somewhere else, somewhere far away from the land of our ancestors.