Dr Abdus Salam, the laudable figure in the world for his breakthrough theories, was a true patriot in deciding to come back to Pakistan, despite knowing the dangers this country posed for non-Muslims, and the insults hurled against him for being an Ahmedi. Even in death, his grave was desecrated. Malala, the Nobel Laureate and an epitome of peace and education is being rejected by many who refuse to see her as a heroine and a pride of nation. There is no doubt that it was their love for Pakistan for which they did not give up their nationalities. They are patriots.

The question arises whether patriotism is an inherent social responsibility or is it an acquired sense of actualization of the love for the country? It is a sense of one’s love and solidarity with the country. It is to pursue what is in the best interest of the country. This should be appreciated. However, in our country, (or maybe in other parts of the world) this sense of appreciation is not just limited to the national anthem played before a cricket or soccer match.

In Pakistan, the concept remains blurred, as jingoism and chauvinism are generally perceived as acts of patriotism. That people should sacrifice their lives for Pakistan, not that the state should protect the lives of its citizens. Perhaps that is the reason why people are not enjoying the quality of life here. Chauvinism, in extreme forms, takes the shape of fanaticism, which becomes repulsive towards other minorities and those not conforming to the mainstream. Chauvinism has a tendency to compartmentalize itself and imposes fascist goals on others, rendering minorities vulnerable.

Patriotism is the love for the country where you reside and call it home; where people can walk freely as dignified citizens. Many people define patriotism in their own fashion, some consider their chauvinistic ideals to be patriotic, like condemning Malala who, according to them, is giving a bad name to Pakistan for exposing the malice of the Taliban. This suits the establishment well: sweep the dirt under the carpet.

Whereas real patriots think that institutional corruption, human rights violation and the follies of the state policies should be talked about and exposed to make things more clear and transparent to people.

The media fiasco that we have recently witnessed has divided the population further into two groups: one, that wants to stand by the truth, whether or not it brings shame to Pakistan and the other that does not want information to get out incase it create a negative impression to the outside world. Chauvinism has a tendency to become hegemonic, which means any dissenting opinion does not get respect or space in debate.

Freedom of speech is curbed by fanatics. Even many other media houses misreport or malign the character of a person and show irresponsibility in reporting. This in no way should mean that a channel be banned altogether. If channels can be banned, then why are banned outfits still operating without any repercussions from the law enforcement agencies? Attempts are made to hide the news from people if the incident takes place in the rural or peripheral areas, especially in FATA and Baluchistan where the case for missing persons has still not been resolved.

In Swat, after the operation, a lot of families are still suffering because their young sons, who were forced to side with the Taliban at gunpoint, have either gone missing or are languishing in jails without trial. They are but pawns used by the Taliban who force the unwilling into war, whereas the masterminds, the real culprits, are still at large. There are scores of missing persons in Swat alone, but it hardly makes it to the news. The irony is that Islamist websites like the sectarian Haq Char Yar is operating freely, whereas not a single Balochi site is allowed in Pakistan. There are many other examples to cite about the tug of war between chauvinists and patriots, like expelling non-muslim students from schools, making them recite the Kalima because of non-availability of text-books for religious minorities, charging innocents under blasphemy, and the migration of thousands of Hindu families because their daughters are not safe from forced marriages and conversions. These are the news stories that never make to the mainstream, or are hushed up in the “interest” of the country.

Morality itself is a relative term, but not informing the public is a heinous crime. Informing the public and working in their defense and protection and love for the country is patriotism, whereas hiding the truth for the fear of getting exposed is chauvinism, not patriotism.

The writer is a freelance columnist.  Follow her on Twitter