The national spirit is about people belonging to diverse regions, ethnic communities and even with narrower identities and loyalties coming together to assist those who fall victim to some natural disaster or in times of grave national crisis. Pakistanis have demonstrated this spirit time and again, and often in abundance.
This rather soft, cultured and civilised side of the Pakistani society remains absent in our discourses and often ignored as an ordinary social event. Much of the good of the Pakistani society is often overshadowed by the bad incidents. As the good and bad co-exist in every human kind, so is the case of the societies in every part of the globe and of every religious or cultural persuasion.
The various events that take place in the society expose its multiple dimensions. When we watched horrible scenes of villagers in Sialkot clubbing two boys to shreds, tens of thousands of volunteers of all ages, from Gilgit-Baltistan to Thatta in Sindh, were helping others to secure their lives and possessions even risking their own lives. The first of such a brave volunteer was from Hunza, the only son of old parents who gave his life in an attempt to save members of his community in the neighbourhood.
In many cases of rising floodwaters drowning village after village, the members of the local community were the first to be on the scene to rescue the most vulnerable ones. They rescued women and children often wading through deep waters until they reached some dry patch above the surging tides. When thousands of volunteers provided this crucial help in the initial stage of flooding there were no cameras and no news of devastation had yet made the headlines. Unlike the political class, they were not doing it for any political effect but rather as a duty, as neighbours. The national spirit is inclusive in terms of extending support to communities — no matter which language they speak and no matter where they live. It is out of such a feeling of national solidarity that I have seen students from educational institutions, civil society networks, professional organisations and religious groups doing fund-raising for flood victims and reaching out to the displaced families in flood areas.
Countless others, even some disabled individuals, stepped forward appealing for donations and getting decent food cooked on time to feed the families taking shelter in cities and towns. In my view it is not the scale of any assistance, it is the spirit under which efforts to make a difference in the lives of others are made. May be the social mobilisation to raise funds for the support for the flood victims is not enough, and cannot be enough, given the scale of devastation, but the generosity and selflessness of those who have contributed time, money and effort is admirable. More than that, it also tells something about our positive values and deep sentiment of social solidarity.
There are many stories of heroism and sacrifice that have been told and will continue to be told about how the national spirit has manifested itself time and again among the Pakistanis in challenging times — times of scarcity, fear, violence and natural disasters. There is a common thread among all of them, that unfortunate members of the community that have fallen victim to some tragedy have rightful claim to what we have.
At the heart of the national spirit is our strong culture of giving to others in time of need, through charity that has to be invisible, and living traditions of hospitality, sharing and generosity.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 6th, 2010.
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