A hero is someone who is writ large, larger than life. According to Webster it is a figure "endowed with great strength or ability; man admired for his achievements and noble qualities; one that shows great courage, a central figure of an event, period or movement; object of extreme admiration and devotion......" For a person to be a hero he or she has to be a leader, excelling in his own field, whose strength and spirit shape destiny and who through his or her acts and deeds and performance of outstanding feats can make a nation proud and stand tall. According to David Krieger, President of NAPF: "The hero turns the tide of events, leads his people to victory, and overcomes obstacles that would defeat less determined mortals." A hero is someone more than an 'Idol' because to enter the corridors of greatness, outstanding acts must be accompanied with a selfless, honest and strong character, the ability to act according to one's beliefs at time of adversity, courage to do things which are right although unpopular and capacity to lead by example. Every nation, culture or community needs heroes, not only because it is through their achievements that majority of people can often enliven their otherwise mundane and sometimes miserable existence but indeed great men and women can become focal points of common identity and unity of people within a country and can beacons for future generations to follow. Because heroes are an endangered commodity, if a nation has one in its midst than the best advice is to respect and revere him till the end. History tells us that those nations who do not have heroes fail to rise, and those who stop producing them, wither away and are vanquished. Pakistan has been lucky. Ever since its birth in 1947, Pakistan has been blessed with achievers which any nation would have been proud to own. The first and foremost man in the long line of great people who walked and continue to walk this land of pure is none other than Jinnah, the founder of the nation and admittedly one of the greatest leaders the world has seen in the 20th century. Since then take any field. Amongst judges, Chief Justice Cornelius, Chief Justice Hamood-ur-Rehman and Justice Kayani were no less than Justice Marshall produced by the US. Their brilliance, legal acumen and sense of honesty and proprietary are excellent examples to be followed. One cannot hope for a more honest, hardworking and patriotic PM than Liaquat Ali Khan and a more dedicated administrator than Sardar Abdul Rab Nishtar. Few nations have more dedicated philanthropist than Hakeem Muhammad Saeed or Maulana Abdul Sattar Edhi who is running the largest free ambulance service in the world; or a more responsible businessman than Habib Esmail or can boast of a journalist of the calibre of Hamid Nizami of Nawa-e-Waqt? One must not forget the sport heroes that Pakistan has produced like Jehangir Khan, Hashim Khan in Squash, Imran Khan, Zaheer Abbas and Javed Miandad in Cricket, Salahuddin and Shehnaz Sheikh in Hockey; the list is endless. The melodies of our cultural heroes like Noor Jehan and Nusrat Fateh Ali are still heard all over the world. Our actors like Muhammad Ali are true heroes less than none. Amongst scientists there is no person more learned than the Nobal Prize winner Abdus Salam or the father of the bomb Dr A Q Khan. If logic and history is to be followed, then this nation should have been right at the top and a shining example for many to follow, but if one looks at it objectively, Pakistan has not achieved its potential. What happened then? Some say that the reason is a defect in the psyche of the nation. It is said that Pakistanis are their own worst enemies, and always see another Pakistani's rise and glory with envy rather than pride, which is why we, instead of respecting our heroes, work towards destroying them. There is an oft repeated saying that one need not put a lock on a prison full of Pakistanis because every time a prisoner would try and escape, others will pull him back. There may even be some truth in this. The facts are that Liaquat Ali Khan was shot, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto hanged, Benazir Bhutto assassinated, Hakim Muhammad Saeed gunned down, Abdus Salam banished from Pakistan and Dr A Q Khan is under virtual imprisonment. The facts also show that legendary sportsman and cultural icons have been often ignored and left to fend for themselves, both during and specially after their prowess has diminished. Pakistan at this moment is facing serious crises and challenges including menace of terrorism. Both United States and India seem to be bent upon aggravating the situation by threatening incursions into the country. If ever there was a time when a country needed heroes to rise from ashes, this is it. But people do not see real heroes around. A sense of despondency seems to be setting in. However I do not see hopelessness. For one I do not believe in the allegation that there is such a defect in Pakistani nation as may lead to self-destruction or which is not curable. Pakistanis seek heroes and also know how to respect and cherish them. Take the example of Dr A Q Khan. The entire community from Khyber to Karachi and Quetta to Lahore is one in standing by him irrespective of west's propaganda that he is involved in nuclear proliferation. The simple act of Chief Justice Chaudhry in refusing to bow before the army made him a hero and people of Pakistan continue to sacrifice for him. In each of the cases our heroes have not been let down. The fault has not been of the people of Pakistan and we have to search for the defect somewhere else. When I look at my country's history in one sweep I notice that in the present day world, with the rise of awareness, sporadic rise of heroes cannot bring about 'change' because this is not an era of masihas. We need a social environment in which many heroes can flourish and for that environment we have to have strong institutions, respect rule of law, strictly follow policy of meritocracy and revolutionise our education by putting it on a fast track. These are essentials which ensure that heroes are not only produced, but are nourished, protected and honoured. Unfortunately on account of our convoluted political system majority of those who come into power have been mediocre, and who, due to their insecurities and personal agendas, have intentionally discouraged or ignored those who had the potential of rising as a hero. My thesis is that every nation needs heroes and so do we. They are certainly out there and good news is that to find them we do not have to look far. I know that there are students who are paying their fees by giving tuition's. Even the parents who strive doubly hard and forego their pleasure in order to see that their children are able to study well are my heroes, as are civil servants who refuse to do wrong in spite of orders and directions from superiors, businessmen who pay creditors in spite of an economic crunch, scholars who are willing to speak the truth on the matter of religion in face of threats to their lives by misguided fanatics, members of civil society who are willing to stand up for their rights, sportsmen and artists who are able to hold Pakistan's flag high in the world and politicians who can vote according to their conscious. For me even that man who is repairing the puncture of the tube of a bicycle and does his work well for the wages paid to him is a hero. Let us recognise these heroes and honour their act of sacrifices and their stand for doing good in all circumstances. What needs to be done now and immediately is to make the environment conducive; everyone can contribute towards it. The ideal would be if four essentials i.e. institutions, rule of law, policy of meritocracy and education can be developed together. However if we cannot improve on all the fours, nothing stops us from concentrating on education, the other three will surely follow and we may be able to break the vicious cycle. This brings me to the issue of Corporate Social Responsibility. The idea is that large business houses while making money from the community must also give back to it. Pakistan too has a large corporate centre. Big telecommunication giants and large banks can certainly make a great contribution by establishing regular awards for our various heroes in different fields. Their job would be to recognise them and to bring them to the notice of the public and to honour them as heroes. I have noticed this being done in America, in Europe and even in India. There are awards for the human rights activist, awards for promoting scholarly and scientific work, ceremonies for those who have produced new technology, and more importantly sustaining those who are performing various arts, both while they are in their prime and thereafter. General public and media can contribute by creating an atmosphere of encouraging purchase of goods and services of such organisations which show corporate social responsibility thereby forcing chain reaction and support for a holistic development of the environment in which multiple heroes can grow. This will certainly bring out people from within civil society willing to fight for rights and rise above the common. We can have a galaxy of heroes. I have confidence in the quality of my nation. The writer is an advocate of the Supreme Court of Pakistan. E-mail: ali@mandviwallaandzafar.com