When asked to reflect on his homeland of Pakistan, a country forever transformed by a history of partition and postcolonialism, Ahmad Ibrahim Suphi stated that “the people of the country are so divided nowadays it is hard to think of what to write.” Yet in the midst of great suffering, he sees people stepping up to look out for each other in ways he’s never seen before. A rose among the thorns. This is his reflection:

 In a country so divided, disputed and undecided it is August the 14th, Independence Day.  A question has recently gained popularity:  “We are independent but are we truly free?’’  Our green and white flag has been smeared with the tears of Peace watching over us like a melancholy spirit. A recent bombing in a hospital; murder of an inspirational artist;; a new mafia which has been abducting children and exporting their organs; parents receiving the mutilated, soulless shells of their children; people speaking up against Donald Trump, yet saying that we need to get rid of the Afghani “Immigrants;’’ and conflicts between supporters of opposing parties, beliefs, languages, sects, and between different education systems.

 You would expect all this to cause hate to exude out from the core, to enclose and confine a people. Yes, there has been a decrease in patriotism. But all this enmity has had a curious effect. It has given us a unity we have never encountered before—an intimate unity. It has helped us realize what a cruel world it is and it has pressured us to protect those around us from the pain we have witnessed.

 I have seen compassion: An aloof neighbor I’d never spoken with advised my mother to take me to the basketball court in a car instead of walking, the way she does with her children. A child in my school I’d never given a thought to told me that I should “try going and coming back before sunset.”

 My whole class stood up for two “Shias” in our class because at that moment we understood that, given the great violence and oppression against the Shiites, support was what they needed most. And beyond: People have stood up for the Afghani immigrants, calling them Pakistanis, looping them in as brothers.

Public celebrities have stood up, artists have written songs which have voiced their opinions. They have received threats. Some have been reduced to memories and videos. They have not stopped; they’re martyrdom has verified the power of words and their ability to inspire and to change: A song about a school shooting that killed more than a hundred children caused a months-long strike that moved the Pakistani army to declare war against terrorism and garnered the support of the people.


Where we find hatred we can find unity. Where we find unity, we can find love.  I say we have not yet gained freedom; this Independence Day is a reminder that we can continue to move towards freedom if we realize the power of speaking up.