Nearly eighty years ago, on this day, members of the All-India Muslim league gathered in Minto Park (now named Iqbal Park), where the now magnificent Minar-i-Pakistan stands, and passed what came to be known as the Lahore Resolution. This historical resolution fermented the creation of Pakistan- it was a confirmation of the theory that the Muslims of the subcontinent needed a separate nation-state. It was the first time that some kind of map of Pakistan was drawn out- the resolution specified the areas “in which the Muslims are numerically in majority as in the North-Western and Eastern zones of India should be grouped to constitute independent states”.

The day did not just chart out a territorial plan for the future Pakistan- it was a day where a dream was dreamt. The dream was of a country where the Muslims of the sub-continent could practice their faith freely without any fear; it was the dream of a country where people of all religions could live side-by-side in security, peace and well-being. It is significant to note that the Lahore Resolution mentioned neither having Islam as a state religion or the word “Pakistan”.

Seventy-nine years later, this day will be full of fantastic parades and pompous display of patriotic emotion. Children will gather in parks to marvel the military show of might that will occur, and televisions across the nation will broadcast the many colours in which this day is celebrated. Across the country, in all provinces, despite the many differences we hold, people of all ages will celebrate the national holiday granted by the state and dress up in colours of green and white, commemorating our forefathers who stood on the very ground we did, who sacrificed so much against religious discrimination.

This day should be celebrated with the brightest of colours- indeed, this year we were particularly reminded of the blessings that Pakistan has granted us. For the past few years, the country we sought independence from- India- has been increasingly hostile towards Muslims, and this hostility came close to a nuclear war last month. In the aftermath of the Pulwama attack, anti-Muslim and anti-Pakistan sentiment escalated to extreme levels among the Indian administration and the media- never before did a nation so openly call for the blood of its neighbour. Indian citizens of Kashmiri descent had to suffer an onslaught of violence and discrimination in the immediacy of the attack, even more so than they ordinarily do. In trying to prove that Pakistan should never have existed, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, through his Islamophobic antics, unwittingly convinced even Pakistan’s harshest critics of the need for the Muslims of the subcontinent for their own state. With the danger of Indian escalation fresh in everyone’s minds, this Pakistan Day is celebrated with more gratitude and appreciation than past years where the threat of war and nuclear escalation did not seem so close.

Despite the tumultuous year Pakistan has had, with a potential war with India nearing our doorsteps, the constant shutting down of cities due to some new ethnic or religious conflict, and increasing polarisation among political parties, we start off 23rd March with a hopeful and optimistic note than past years. Pakistan’s international reputation is glowing currently- our diplomatic efforts for de-escalating a potential nuclear war has cemented Pakistan’s image as a mature and peace-affirming nation. It appears that we might finally have peace in Afghanistan, with Islamabad playing an instrumental role in brokering a deal between the United States and Afghanistan factions. A sustainable peace in the region can have a stabilising effect on our own frontier regions, which feel aggrieved and wounded in the ordeal of the war against terror. Lastly, and perhaps it is an illusion, but we seem to have a government which, truly or falsely, inspires trust among the people.

Yet, while we celebrate, we also need to reflect upon those dreams that were dreamt on this day which vapourised in the air and materialised into nothing. When our founding fathers said Pakistan would be a nation for Muslims, they meant Muslims of all sects, creeds and casts would have the freedom to pray and worship. As much as we commemorate this day, and as fiercely as we wave our flags today in celebration marches, it is an unfortunate reality that religious division and intolerance has seen an exponential increase this year. The past year, we have been witness to a religious extremist party shutting the major cities of the country down and openly delegitimising our judiciary and our rule of law.  In order to demand the blood of a helpless poverty-stricken Christian woman, who had been declared innocent by law, religious extremists inflicted vandalism and violence upon the streets of our cities, ensuring no economic or business activity occur for three days. While the state took vigilance and was successful in countering the protesters, eventually trying the instigators under the Anti-Terrorism law, we must question ourselves of how and when we let the youth of our country radicalise to a point that they threatened the writ of the state. The increasing influence of such extremist factions in the General Elections of 2018 is another alarming indicator of the youth being led into such radical notions and this should be one of our key concerns leading into the new patriotic year.

Let us blast Vital Signs’ patriotic songs this Pakistan day, wave our flags, and paint the sky with banners green and white- yet let us hold in our hearts dear the values of tolerance and religious freedom for which the Lahore resolution was passed for in the first place, seventy-nine years ago.