It was a bright sunny day of winter. The people were leaving for workplaces and the children were heading towards their schools. Fifteen year old Aitezaz left his home too, to never to return back alive. Irony is that many leave their homes in Pakistan to make a living and return back dead. Many are killed in bomb blasts. Few are robbed of their lives in street crime incidents and still others become target of gang wars in areas like Karachi. Many go missing in the streets of Balochistan. But the life goes on in Pakistan.

How life goes on in a country like Pakistan might be confusing for many people. The country which has suffered decades of dictatorship, sectarian violence and fanaticism is a hard place to live. A constitution which has definition of what a Muslim is, has been put in abeyance various times. The law defining faith is definitely not a law which should make us proud but unfortunately that is the best we have. A constitution which discriminates on the basis of faith is the best shot for us Pakistanis. Nothing mentioned up till now is surprising about Pakistan. What is surprising is that even in such unfavourable situations, Pakistan is dear to many. There are many who are ready to sacrifice their lives for this war torn country.

Terrorism, fragile law and order situation and extremism are things which make news about Pakistan globally. The other things which invite attention are numerous crises, be they energy crisis or corruption scandals. Still other unwelcoming aspects include our corrupt leaders seeking foreign aid. No wonder many have lost hope. The people around the globe have no faith in Pakistan. The international and even local media has no rosy picture to paint. But despite all such gruesome details, there is a lot which is positive. There are few very important sides to Pakistani story which do not make news about Pakistan unless a Malala is hit by bullet or some Aitezaz sacrifices his life to save hundreds.

Aitezaz mere fifteen felt obliged to forget about his life to save other students. The world had still not come out of the awe of Malala that another Pakistani made his way to news channels. The media persons were still paying tribute to the young daughter of Pakistan, when a son did something which would make the whole humanity proud of him.

Fanaticism, extremism, backwardness and conservatism, that is what world knows about Pakistan but that’s not the complete story. That is not even one side of the story. Pakistanis are not merely rightist fanatics speaking against the rival sects, they are people having different faith sitting around the same table joking about the bloody politics of their country. They are the ones who dream about change though they may disagree how this change is going to come. Few might think that revolution is the way and others believe that evolution is the path.

Pakistanis are a nation, worrying about a test match being not drawn when it is losing it. They are the ones who take pride in the Sadquain and Gull Ji and the ones who flaunt Mughal architecture. Pakistanis are the students who see the Muslim architectures as a cultural asset and who are equally mesmerized by the English designs of Government College Lahore. They are the people who idealize Edhi and see him as the real hero. They are the ones who see Neelo’s defiance to the ruler of the time as legendary and they are the ones who write “Raqs Zanjeer Pehan Kar Bhi Kiya Jata Hai” to pay her tribute.

So Pakistan has all colours, all faiths living side by side. It is definitely not as bright as is presented in Pakistan Studies but it is also not as dark as BBC presented in “Secret Pakistan.”

Pakistan is not mere centre of emanating global terrorism, we are much more. We are the people who have grown up reading and listening to Faiz. We are the ones who recite whole heartedly “Nisar Mein Teri Galiyon kay Aey Watan.” We are the people who swirl to Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan’s compositions and the ones who take pride in Abida Parveen. We are the people who read Wussat Ullah Khan and Muhammad Hanif once in the evening and cherish it for whole week. We are the people whose generations cherish the revolutionary song Hum Daikhain Ge. We are the people challenging a dictator’s constitution chanting Mein Nahin Manta.

We are the teachers in northwest Pakistan who come to school amidst fears of bomb blasts. We are the students defying terrorists to reach our institutions. We are journalists reporting amid escalating violence. We are Farzanaz marching for our brothers and we are Nabeelas speaking against drone strikes. We are Arfas and Malalas. We are the people on social media censuring aggression against minorities. We are the groups in workplaces and restaurants discussing worsening law and order situation. We are writers mourning over injustice in the land of pure. We are the people who sport Ajrak and Sindhi Topi and we are the ones who even take pride in our shiny colorful buses, trucks and rickshaws. We are labourers toiling and peasants sweating.

Pakistan is not only intolerant militants. It is in fact, all faiths living in Pakistan in common men who share light moments in work and at homes. Many are conservative and many are liberals. We are left right and center. We are diverse and seek unity in diversity.

The world might be surprised to see one Malala and one  Aitezaz among us . They might think we have one person like Edhi. But we are dozens of them aching for our fellows and standing up for our principles and we are hundreds of common men praising and idealizing them. We might have made up the glory of the past to entrench nationalism in our children’s brain but the efforts which we put daily are far more glorious and far more real. We struggle for survival and the struggle is glorious.

We definitely are not the ideal republic as we have not achieved much. We are short on achievements but we have exemplary instances of remarkable struggle.

Next time you come across a narrative about Pakistan, keep this perspective in mind that we are the ones that we are like any other nation in the world facing many problems and crisis, having both positive and negative attitudes. What is remarkable about us is that we are surviving against all odds and we have no intention of changing this attitude.