Pakistan celebrates independence day

With a struggling economy, tense geo-political relationships and rising extremism, Pakistanis find reasons to celebrate.


    Around this time of year, no matter where you go in Pakistan - from the smallest village to the biggest city - the national flag is draped everywhere.

    Vendor stalls pop up seemingly overnight to sell the ubiquitous green and white flags embossed with a crescent moon and star.

    On Tuesday, the nation is celebrating 65 years of independence from colonial Britain and the creation of an independent Muslim state.

    Pakistanis are a deeply patriotic people, and millions will attend planned events across the country.

    With a struggling economy, tense geo-political relationships and rising extremism, however, things have been less than positive for the country in recent years. Some are asking if there's much to celebrate at all, on this anniversary.

    Dig a little deeper, though, and there are a few bright spots.

    In recent months, for example, Islamabad has been strengthening its ties with New Delhi. For the moment, the developments are largely trade-related. Increasing the flow of goods across the border is widely seen as the best way towards healing some very old wounds.

    The territorial dispute over Kashmir is still simmering and both sides remain deeply suspicious of each other following the 2008 Mumbai attacks -  the liberalising of trade, however, means Pakistanis and Indians will have more person-to-person interactions at a grassroots level.

    Something citizens on both sides of the border have experienced very little of in the past six-and-a-half decades.

    Bridging gaps with fashion

    One industry which is expected to win big with the easing trade restrictions is, perhaps somewhat surprisingly, fashion.

    Pakistani apparel is coveted in India. Traditional saris and shalwar kameezs are the clothes of choice for many women across the subcontinent, but Pakistani designs and craftsmanship are widely seen as more innovative and of a higher quality than those found elsewhere.

    I recently met with Khadija Shah, a Lahore-based fashion designer who runs the label Elaan.

    She recently inked a deal with a major Indian buyer who will display her high-end garments in showrooms across India, potentially growing her customer base dramatically.

    Khadija said that while their governments might not realise it, people from both countries see there is more that unites them than divides.

    "They come and meet us they come and see us, and realise we aren't much different we are the same people, we wear the same clothes. They want our stuff, we want their stuff. They want to come to Lahore we want to go to Delhi," Khadija said.

    "It's definitely going to be a good situation [with increasing trade] and I think it's going to go far in creating peace between the two countries."

    So while Pakistan struggles to deal with its multitude of other issues, many hope its oldest conflict is that much closer to improving, one business transaction at a time.



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