2016 has been a testing year for Pakistan as well as the whole world. With the tragedy in Quetta fresh in our minds, it almost feels wrong to celebrate August 14 . Many have suggested the same online.

I agree that we shouldn’t celebrate. For, celebrating after we lost so many of our fellow countrymen, is insensitive and cold. Because what is patriotism, if you can’t share in the pain of your brothers and sisters of the land?

But I refuse to let the significance of the day come and pass without giving it its due. So instead of celebrating, I say we reflect.

Reflect on our history. Reflect on the sacrifices of the people that lay down their lives so that we could have a place to call home. And then reflect some more, on how we got here, what went wrong, and what has kept the country still standing.

Instead of simply putting up a status or decorating the house, sit together with friends and family and make the day about Pakistan.

Discuss what it is about the country that makes you proud. Tell your younger siblings stories of the countless heroes we’ve had. If there is an issue in Pakistan you’re specifically passionate about, bring it up, talk about it.

And then, most importantly, reflect on what your role in all of this has been, how it can be enhanced, what is it that you can do to help take your country forward.

Independence days aren’t just for loud proclamations of patriotism; they are also about quiet moments of contemplation. About remembering why we’re here, what Pakistan stands for, what were the dreams and ambitions of our leaders when they put this country on our map, what were the collective values they wanted us, Pakistanis, to represent.

We also need to mourn. Mourn all the men, women and children, taken from us too soon. And then we have to take ownership – ownership of the situation, ownership of where our country is right now, and ownership of our role till now.

It is only after we have thought about all this and answered these questions for ourselves, that we can collectively take a vow, to not remain bystanders as others hijack our country.

Let’s do whatever we can in our capacities and take responsibility for our actions, expanding our thoughts and goals to include our country not just our individual existence.

These are days to renew faith in the vision that Quaid-e-Azam had for us as people – faith, that we will someday soon rise to that standard.

So put up those flags and say a silent prayer; for both our homeland, and for those that we have lost along the way. And then as difficult as it may be, tie it all together with hope for better days.