The Defence of Pakistan Day has come and gone, but unlike previous years it has left a nagging concern in me. The feeling stems from the fact that this year the Sixth of September was treated, with few exceptions, like any other Monday. Forty-six years ago, on that September day, I was a young man with confused notions, whose main interests were movies, friends and fun. The only excitement on that sleepy morning was created by my good friend Masih, who entered the classroom with the news that a constant stream of military vehicles had passed by his house in the Cantonment around midnight, heading towards the border. As we sat in the classroom waiting for our geography lecture to begin, we were jolted by what appeared to be two huge explosions followed by the receding roar of aircraft engines. We rushed out into the verandah with everyone offering an explanation, but saw nothing. Little did we know that what we had heard was the opening scene of a 17-day epic full of sacrifice, courage and indomitable national will, to annihilate those that sought to destroy Pakistan. Many years later, as I drove along the eastern bank of the Bambanwala Ravi Bedian Link Canal, or BRBL, from Dograi towards Ravi Siphon, I came to a bridge named after the nearby village of Bhaini. I looked around and soon spotted the group of nondescript graves by the side of the road. These were no ordinary tombs, but the last resting place of a few young men - part of two tank crews, who were interred, where they fell, in defence of their motherland. I crossed the bridge to a simple monument erected by a battalion of the Baloch Regiment. It was like any other similar structures at first glance, but a second look at the inscription forced me to stand riveted at the spot in gratitude and respect. The words transported me to a scene obscured by fire, smoke, dust and flying steel, where a thin line of brave men and a strip of water stood resolutely against those that sought to destroy Pakistan more than four decades ago. I saw more monuments dedicated to the heroes of that war on the Siphon and on Batapur Bridge before I sat down to rest at a wayside teahouse. It was then that a stark question popped into my head - was all this sacrifice in vain? As if in response, I was suddenly beset by thousands of desperate voices that reached out to me taking the shape of men, women and children with gaping wounds and ravaged bodies whispering as one, "No, We Did Not Die In Vain." Sitting there close to Batapur Bridge, the scene changed and I saw evil countenances, distorted by greed, corruption and self-preservation. I saw them driven by dark forces that grew by each passing day. I saw them sitting in high places and as I looked, the whispering voices that gave me hope, appeared to fade. I now walk in fear - fear that the nation may be on the road to forgetting the ones that whispered to me. If this is not so, then I need an answer as to why did we not celebrate the 'their' day in as befitting a manner as we had in the past. I fervently hope that this is not part of a strategy by the enemies of the State to weaken national resolve and dilute that which binds and unites us together and with our armed forces. I also pen this piece with the message that observance of historically important days, in spite of adverse circumstances, is like wielding a weapon against those that want to instil fear and bring life to a standstill. These celebrations weld the people together, rekindle pride and bolster a resolve to fight those that seek to dismember Pakistan, as Muhammad Ali Jinnah envisioned it. Also, it is in moments like these that I recall the words (or what I can remember of them), on the stone edifice at Bhaini Bridge: "When you return from this place, remember us as the ones who sacrificed our present to secure your future." The writer is a freelance columnist.