I remember my revered professor Dr Arshad Syed Karim once expressing regret over captioning his book “From Community to Nation”. He deplored; it should have been ‘From Nation to Communities’. A nation born on 14 August 1947 with enthusiasm, leaving no stone unturned to accommodate immigrants and vowing to be a great nation in the days to come, slowly and helplessly split apart on ethnic, sectarian, linguistic and political lines. The patriotic Pakistanis watched it happening helplessly.

Since inception, the Power Game began, and the old masters found soft targets to hit whenever needed. The country torn apart in two pieces due to factors known to us all, Alas! We did not learn. The radicalization has changed our lifestyle, leading to law-and-order challenges. It is worth contemplating if Independence has poured ‘sunlight on our dignity’ and ‘awaken our spirit’ in the past 75 years, especially with present enigma of serious economic crisis and unprofessional response from the regime.

Undoubtedly, we have progressed. If good cars and high-rise buildings are a mark of progression, let’s be realistic, there is a hollowness in it. Is it not a pity that this nuclear power is often found on the brinks of bankruptcy? It is the absence of national cohesion and pragmatic nation building measures that are not letting us rise despite having the best talent, the vast natural resources and beautiful land of all seasons.

Churchill warned Atlee that men of straw would take over, since locals don’t have administrative and diplomatic skills, making them unfit for leadership. However, we struggled for liberation on assumption that we are cultivated enough to rule. One just wonders how long before that ultimate freedom of ‘power to choose’, ‘to respond’ and ‘change’ will become our way of life. There is nothing worse than hearing our faith and sovereignty are in perils, and that the country is at the crossroads time and again.

This will be yet another 14th August to be celebrated befittingly. Ceremonies, speeches, and programmes will be held. National songs will inspire us to cherish freedom once more. But it will be just another day for many ‘impoverished people’ wishing to meet necessities of life. And for those organizing shows, deliriously a routine extra happy hour to flout system and flourish their opulence.

For those in positions and power to make a difference, there is an opportunity to make a pledge to do something different this time. For instance, why not simply adopt a kid for education, provide treatment to ailing patient, donate blood or provide shed for a dweller. Can they resolve to make tomorrow better than yesterday, yes only if they feel obliged to do so.

For at least one day, no lip service, just recognition of the ‘Nation as your home’. Keeping your neighbourhood clean, removing litter, using fewer lights, saving energy, obeying traffic laws, parking vehicles correctly, and celebrating in a dignified manner are some of the things you can do to honour Independence Day. Changing things will be easier I reiterate, if we start treating the ‘State as our home’ and the inmates as brothers and sisters, valuing diversity and accepting everyone norms regardless of disagreements.

Twice in my lifetime I saw my parents and siblings cry like a child. First in 1965 war when we were in Bangkok, where my father was serving in embassy, we heard BBC made that breaking news, though later proved to be erroneous, that Indian forces were in the vicinity of Lahore. Sense of lost and pain was like body organ getting ripped apart. Secondly, later at Bombay (now Mumbai), during 1971 war, first the agony of detention suffocated us, later losing the east wing being the bluest moment with heart froze, tears for how much we were hurt.

On every UN mission like armed forces, our police also excelled, so was in great demand for more deployment to restore peace in the region. Some did question that being ‘so good’ how come our land is subject to many unfortunate sharpening, a few even suggested doing peacekeeping back home. I visited Europe first time in 2001, there was a hardly a family I met that didn’t boast their forefathers sacrifices in World War-II and how later many got together to rebuild from scratch and now becoming a leading country.

Somehow progression is slow, the reason being, politics and expediency in everything we do. In governance, rule of law and in state pillars, formal and informal sector there is lack of inclusiveness and ownership. Honestly, I don’t feel like ‘we own our country’ like ‘we own up our home’. Our home is where our heart is, isn’t it? The reality is that it is, but it is mostly restricted to our four walls.

I often witnessed that houses where many brothers live with their families, they very well maintain their portions. But the common areas are neglected. Everybody tries to pass the buck on the other. This is exactly what we are doing with our country. We build palatial houses and buildings, but road just in front remains neglected.

Freedom has a price and comes with blood, often paid by predecessors, and enjoyed in times by others. My grandpa was a railway station master at Ambala in 1947 and he helped exodus his family and thousands other to migrate to Pakistan. But he himself was not found for months and everybody thought he was another casualty in that senseless killing for different beliefs.

He narrated when he returned luckily, his railway station was attacked and some friends from same clan killing others saved his live. Love in times of confusion and enemies showing respects somehow opportune him to live his remaining life in the Freeland.

For this 75th year of independence, let us have a word of honour to treat our country as if it is our home. We shouldn’t play pranks as we had been doing in the past and paid the price. ‘Can we continue to pity nations that allow their rights to wear away and freedoms to be eroded’. Certainly not! In memory of the martyrs, and those still grieving the loss of the East Wing, let’s strive to improve before future generations see their parents tear up as we did.

By Dr Kaleem Imam

–The writer holds a Doctorate in politics and international relations and has served as a federal secretary and inspector-general of police. He tweets @KaleemImam; email: skimam98@hotmail.com; fb@syedkaleemimam