What Pakistan Day Means in this Time of National Crisis

“We are going through fire: the sunshine has yet to come. But I have no doubt that with Unity, Faith and Discipline we will compare with any nation of the world. Are you prepared to undergo the fire? You must make up your minds now. We must sink individualism and petty jealousies and make up our minds to serve the people with honesty and faithfulness. We are passing through a period of fear, danger, and menace. We must have faith, unity and discipline.”

– Quaid-i-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah

Every 23 March, Pakistanis celebrate the anniversary of Lahore Resolution, when the idea of Pakistan entered the world. It is always a jubilant time marked by many celebrations, including, usually, a large military parade attended by thousands.

Unfortunately, 80 years after the Lahore Resolution, none of this has happened this Pakistan Day. Pakistan, along with the entire world, is battling a severe pandemic of a new disease known as COVID-19. It spreads from human to human, rendering every one of us a hazard and requiring people to forego close contact with other people. Therefore, all festivities have been cancelled and Pakistanis have had to spend Pakistan Day by themselves. Our soldiers who would usually be marching in the parade instead carry out the grim duty of patrolling the streets of major cities to make sure the movement of citizens is restricted.

This is not a normal time for us. We are facing an extraordinary situation and that requires us to adopt extraordinary measures. Not celebrating our national day the usual way is one of the sacrifices we have to make to overcome a threat facing us in this time. We have, of course, faced countless threats throughout Pakistan’s existence. This one is of an unusual nature but, nevertheless, we have to tackle it as we have tackled all other threats. We need to apply the spirit of Pakistan Day and the spirit of the founding fathers we celebrate to fighting this plague of virus, plus an equally severe plague of locusts.

It is a crisis that requires every Pakistani to play their part. Most of us simply have to stay home and be by ourselves to beat the virus, though this itself will likely be severely problematic for a nation of 200 million people, most of whom are poor. This is especially as the locust outbreak will make it impossible for most Pakistanis to stockpile on food for extended quarantine. What our nation needs to survive through this crisis is, first, that we figure out exactly what sort of measures will be needed or can serve as viable solutions and, second, that all people inhabiting Pakistan cooperate and resolve to carry out stringent action.

This can be done. Our national day, Pakistan Day, is a time that brings Pakistanis together in a show of national unity and fervor. If we can do that for celebrating our nationhood, we can do that for saving our nation. Now is more important than ever for all Pakistanis to get together, but not literally as we usually do on 23 March. We need to send out the message to every Pakistani that this virus must be fought and we must make sure they hear it. Our founding father, Quaid-e-Azam, gave us the message of “Unity, Faith, Discipline” to be our guiding principles. Unity, faith, and discipline are exactly what are needed to combat the coronavirus epidemic.

This 23 March is the time for Pakistanis to truly prove that they love this country by joining the fight against the virus. The entire population is always eager to display its patriotism. We hoist the Pakistani flag during national days and we get jubilant whenever Pakistan scores a major victory in the world of cricket. We should be even more eager to halt or slow the spread of this disease through our country to ensure that as many people are saved as possible by, at the very least, making minor sacrifices such as avoiding meeting other people.

Our founding fathers fought a difficult struggle for seven years after the Lahore Resolution to make sure the dream of Pakistan comes true. This struggle we are fighting now may only last weeks or months. PM Imran Khan suggests the country cannot afford a mandatory lockdown and that, therefore, the best response is for people themselves to keep themselves at home and decide when they need to go out. It is far from the sole domain of the authorities to manage this emergency. The full involvement of the masses is necessary. Pakistan is a democracy, which means that its people have a say in the running of the country and are guaranteed their rights. But along with rights comes responsibilities. If a democracy is rule by the people, then the people have essential duties to fulfill. They must act responsibly in order for the nation to thrive and survive.

The people must act together in a synchronous manner. If each individual person kept his or her distance from every other person, then the masses as a whole will disperse and be low-density. Certain habits and instincts must also be controlled. For example, people must avoid touching their faces. That requires a lot of discipline on the very personal level. Certain people have extra special responsibilities, for example, those that run shops and businesses. They must, acting in conjunction with others, ensure that people can continue to get what they need without running the risk of contracting the virus. Different people have different duties to tend to in this crisis depending on their role in life. But we are all together in whatever we have to do. A tremendous nation endeavor needs to be undertaken in order to defend our vital food source from the locust attacks, keep the supply chains of the nation running, and prevent the virus from spreading along its channels. This requires huge amounts of determination and innovation.

Discipline is needed so that people respond to the epidemic with full urgency and strictly behave in the manner needed to keep the spread of the virus at bay. Unity is needed so that people cooperate with each other in the mass response and be aware of the need to keep each other and the general society safe. And faith is needed so that we can be confident that we will make it through the emergency, helping save as many of our people as possible, and that Pakistan will rebound from it stronger than it was before. Now is the time for a new Pakistan Resolution. We must resolve, first, to triumph over the epidemic and, second, to make our nation ready for any threat that may emerge from now on.

So let us all fully engage ourselves in the new battle for our nation and, as always, Pakistan Zindabad!