Sometime ago my son presented me with a gift to outdo all gifts – a beautifully framed monochrome photograph of our Founding Father, Muhammad Ali Jinnah. I gave it a place of honor in my study, with the intention of relocating it to the foyer next to a specially made National Flag, where it could inspire visitors to my humble home. My inspiration for this arrangement stems from my daughter, for it is her home thousands of miles from us, which is resplendent with the Pakistani flag and a portrait of the Quaid-e-Azam, (in response to the stars and stripes that permanently decorate her neighbor’s hallways and porches).

I searched and found the exact dimensions of our flag as reflected in the constitution, but was shocked and angry when the samples provided to me turned out to be incorrectly made. I was at a loss for words when on pointing out these errors, the vendors expressed a sheepish reluctance to meet my specifications. Not one to let things go, I began a search to account for this reluctance and came to the conclusion that many of these flag makers were on the government payroll and their products were accepted by apathetical officials without going into the ‘hassle’ of either using a measuring tape or a color wheel to see if the crescent, star and proportionate colors were accurately depicted. My quest has now extended beyond the Federal Capital for someone, anyone, who can make our National Standard the way it is meant to be done.

I have visited countless government offices with their grimy cobwebs, stacks of dusty files and unwashed feet propped up on tables with utter disregard for decorum. These visits have been forced upon me to sort issues related to pension, utility bills and a host of other problems nonexistent in welfare states. Almost every office displays at least one photograph of Muhammad Ali Jinnah in a condition that is nothing short of an insult to his memory. The images are covered with layers of filth and cheap cellophane paper. Frames are missing in many cases and wherever these exist they are in a shape that speaks volumes of the absence of national pride. The sight infuriates me to the extent that my spouse now accompanies me wherever I go, ready to tug at my sleeve whenever I reach boiling point. My fury is fuelled by the fact that when the ‘lapse’ is pointed out to people working on the premises, they appear remorseless and label the grey haired senior citizen standing before them a ‘jhalla.’

On a visit to Moscow in the year 1997, I happened to drive past our Embassy and noticed that the Pakistani flag was flying at half-mast. Concerned, I turned and asked the Embassy official accompanying me if everything and everyone was all right at home. The quizzical looks I got prompted me to point out the fact that flags flying at half-mast indicated a day of mourning. The young man looked embarrassed and said that somebody in the Embassy had probably forgotten to pull the flag all the way up. I slumped back into my seat and uttered a silent ‘three cheers’ for everyone in the said Mission.

I once wrote a column wherein I related an incident that continues to warm my heart and give me hope. I am still searching for the young boy in that story; a young boy who, on the 14th of August a long time ago, got out of a car in the middle of speeding traffic to retrieve a Pakistani Flag thrown callously on the ground from a passing vehicle. This young hero (who must be in his teens now) picked up the symbol of our sovereignty, reverently tucked it into his pocket and proceeded on his journey. If this young man is one of my readers today, I have no hesitation in dedicating this week’s column to him and those who raised him.

The writer is a freelance columnist.