Someone wise once said, “Those who live in the past or the future, cannot live in the present.” However, it is very probably that words are from a fifteen year old, who strung up some words for Instagram. It teaches us a valuable lesson about being Pakistani. The past holds martyred children, their only fault being that they went to school as usual, massacred tourists at Wagah border who simply wished to enjoy the show with their families on a sunny day, the countless servicemen who lost their lives because they took up a sworn duty to protect us in good times and bad and victims of sectarian and religious violence, the people of a lesser God. It is an agonizing past, to say the least. Though we cannot and should not attempt to erase it entirely, to live in this past will prevent us from living in the present. We have shared a collective loss and though we mourn for it, there is much to celebrate as our beloved Pakistan grows a year older and wiser.

It has been a great year for Pakistan as we saw an end of an era for some of the most dangerous and wanted men responsible for corruption, sectarian violence and terrorism in the country. A certain sense of security prevails; Karachi is abuzz once again, the nightlights shine brighter and business is better than ever. The Pakistan Army has played an instrumental role in protecting the sovereignty of the state and ensuring relative peace and prosperity in the region. Around 100,000 IDPs from Waziristan have been repatriated just in the beginning of this year. We pay tribute to the hundreds of servicemen who have made it possible for us to walk out of our houses without the fear of losing our lives. It is indeed a great privilege to have this freedom after almost a decade of uncertainty and violence marring our daily lives.

The celebrations of this year’s Independence Day, spoke volumes of how optimistic we are with the developments of the past year. It was heartening to see families along with their young children flock to malls, roadside restaurants and monuments to enjoy the lighted festive atmosphere of Lahore and Karachi. Television and Media played an important role as usual to celebrate this day with the fervor that it deserves.

This year has seen a revival of political participation across the country. Women, young people, the elderly and families along with their children were seen actively partaking in political rallies, leaving the comfort of their homes for a cause greater than themselves. To mobilize the public to care so deeply for politics and governance in a country like Pakistan, where certain political families have always reigned, is a feat in itself. We can forever debate the actions of certain political parties and their leadership, the how, when, why, where, but the fact remains that political participation was witnessed at the most basic level which shows great promise for the future. We have become a nation who is aware that our each and every vote counts, one that treasures the institution of democracy.

Women are breaking stereotypes all over Pakistan. Where it would not be fair to say that life is significantly any different for the average Pakistani woman, they have many leading examples to look up to and be inspired by. Whether it’s women joining service- our first female fighter pilot in the Pakistan Air Force or the firefighter hailing from Multan- or adventurous mountaineer climbing Everest, Pakistani women are making waves across the globe. It is heartening to see women in Traffic Police uniforms on motorcycles and to see them breaking cultural taboos. Women are heading technological and social innovation incubators and actively participating in the political arena of the country. This progress needs to continue, as Pakistan requires women to contribute to its economy to ensure sustainable development.

Our youth is taking responsibility for their country and their future more than ever before. Young people head the leading social initiatives that are touching thousands of lives across Pakistan, whether it is providing education, vocational training, maternal and reproductive health awareness or teacher training. They have given up bright careers abroad to settle back home for the greater good and betterment of their nation. Increased youth participation in their communities and in politics- a successful year run by the youth parliament that contributed to madrassah reforms- is an indicator that only good things await Pakistan in the future.

There is so much that needs to be addressed still and we actively speak out in of support of these improvements throughout the year. Each one of us has good days and bad days. Similarly as a nation we have had our share of both. This month we think of both and choose to focus on the positivity, the resilience and the mettle of the Pakistani people and the nation. We truly are extraordinary and will most definitely continue to achieve so much more in the coming years.