After seven long, hard years, Pakistan once again celebrated 23rd March with the characteristic fervor and zeal that seemed to have disappeared from the landscape to take refuge in our fondest memories. The Pakistan Day parade returned to Islamabad to put on a spectacle that enthralled everyone from those present at the charged venue to the many watching from the comfort of their homes. For some, it was their first time witnessing the parade and all that it offers; rising and diving fighter jets piercing through the air spraying colours in the bright sky, files of tanks passing by slowly with unquestionable authority, soldiers led by officers marching on in perfect harmony making music with their firm, measured steps and the shaking ground beneath and the uninterrupted chants and slogans echoing the resolve of this bruised yet undefeated nation. For others though, it was a much-awaited reenactment. The outpouring of people in the streets of Lahore, Karachi and elsewhere across Pakistan almost seemed like a lashing out of pent up energy, a defiant roar by those forced to speak in whispers, an unrestrained expression of love in a place where hate has reigned supreme for far too long. On this one day, Pakistan was what it once was and what it could be again.

Some well-meaning critics point out that the country’s many woes will not be addressed by parades and chanting crowds. Eager participation and reading too much into the celebrations is a sign of desperation, they say. People caught in a desperate situation showing desperation shouldn’t be a cause for concern but reassurance. It is when they accept their fate and resign to become victims of what they deem to be an unalterable reality that ought to raise alarm bells. Would the sight of empty streets and empty stands have been more palatable? Indeed rhetoric is no substitute for substance but it is never meaningless for a nation. It can inspire action and change. Regardless, perhaps for a day, the people could forgive themselves and each other for what they have done over the last many decades. May be it is fine to share a few moments of happiness and foolish romance without feeling guilty or hypocritical. More than anything, the Pakistan Day parade was a reminder of what we had lost, and could find again. Hopefully, it will compel everyone to wonder what else has been lost or forgotten without realisation. Maybe we could bring all that back or better, create something that is finally new.