A few days away from Independence Day, celebrations are still a distant thought in the morose atmosphere of the city amid the persistent violence plaguing the metropolis, tensions over the flood crisis, and memories of the recent Margalla Hills plane crash.
Sheikh Nisar Ahmed, a flag maker who has been in the business since 1985, says people are hardly thinking about the August 14 celebrations, consumed with concerns over the spate of target killings, rising prices of commodities during Ramazan, the recent plane crash and the flood situation.
Fondly called the ‘parcham wala’, Ahmed clearly recalls the historic day when he displayed the world’s largest flag and made it to the Guinness Book of World Records on August 14, 2004, beating the US record.
“The ground of the National Stadium was covered by our flag and there wasn’t even space to walk,” he said, swelling with pride. “And we completed the flag in just 13 days.”
The largest flag of Pakistan that measures 340ft x 510ft ie 173,400 sq. ft broke the Guinness World record of the American super flag, which was 255ft x 505ft.
However, this record was later broken on November 25, 2007 by an Israeli flag that had a total area of 18,843 m² (202,823.55 ft²).
He said though this is the peak time of flag sales in the city, the business this time is 50 per cent slower than its usual pace.
“The business is slow and people don’t appear as patriotic or enthusiastic about the day,” he regretted.
“Although our company clients have placed orders for big flags, the general mood of the public reflects that the passion is not there,” he said. “Somehow, even children don’t seem excited.”
“People are caught up with so many tensions, they are not interested in buying flags and badges for the Independence Day,” said a flag vendor in Saddar. He said business has been dull so far, with hardly any customers turning up at his stall.
“It’s the children who celebrate the day as they are unaware of the gloom that surrounds us,” said Shaukat. “We elders have too much to worry about for now.”
He said even though he and his family remained safe during the unrest in the city, they were trapped at home. “There wasn’t much fuel in my car and the petrol pumps were closed. I had no other option but to skip office,” he said.
Thirty-two-year-old Assam Shan, who never forgets to hoist the national flag at his house in Clifton every year, says he is just not in the mood this time. “When you see people dying everywhere, it dampens the feelings of patriotism,” he said.
“The Independence Day is about patriotism that is evoked by thinking about the good things about the country but they seem to be missing at this point of time,” says Adeeba Khan, a primary class teacher in the Beaconhouse school. “Children should be told good things about their country, but I am afraid there is nothing much to tell them on this Independence Day,” she said.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 9th, 2010.