The government has announced that Pak-India talks on illegal hydropower projects being developed in Indian-occupied Kashmir will be held in Washington. Last week, crucial Pak-Afghanistan talks took place in London. As a rule, our governments blindly follow imperial pied pipers at the IMF and World Bank. Our metropolitan media and celebrity intellectuals are caught in a chamber echoing donor-driven ideas. So, how should we celebrate Pakistan Day?

For those of us who seek dignity for our hard-working people and an independent course for our country, it is hard to come to terms with the way our so-called leaders throw themselves at the feet of imperial masters. It is hard to sit and watch them degrade and throw away our bountiful national treasures so very cheaply and put up our inheritance for sale in the global bazaar, our ideals included. Surely, there must be some way for people like us to celebrate this day in 2017.

We’d do well not to switch on our TVs; what with the cheap cover-versions of classic milli naghmas blaring from every channel and cheesy hosts cheer-leading a flaky sense of nationalism; what with endless repetitive commercials bombarding us from all frequencies, wrapping up their wares in the national flag and offering package deals that come with a super-sized servings of consumable patriotism. We can sit on the couch and consume it all day and it won’t change a thing.

We’d do well not to listen to official speeches, to hypocritical leaders vomiting thousands upon thousands of words they do not mean, as that could easily make us puke. Like Daulay Shah’s child-victims, made to wear iron-caps from an early age so that their heads won’t grow and remain small for the rest of their lives, the brains of those currently in charge of our destiny are stunted by imperial iron-caps. Their minds cannot even grasp the meaning of independence.

Even if they were tutored to understand what it means, they are too stunted to value it. They are too stunted to value anything other than the currency of the imperial power bazaar. In the limited universe of their bazaar, there is only one coin that works, and power and money are the two sides of this coin. It is more power and more money they are after; hankering after poisoned dollars with a single mind; worshipping broken gods of imperial power with their eyes closed and hearts sealed.

Left to themselves, they’d find corporate sponsors and rent out Minar-e-Pakistan for commercial advertisements. They’d announce something extravagant and unnecessary for profiteering, something like an expensive elevated walkway connecting the top level of Minar-e-Pakistan with the minarets of the Badshahi mosque and Data Darbar. This is not a far-fetched idea considering that a 25 billion-rupee expressway to connect Gulberg to M2 has just been announced.

Riding the corrupt imperial bandwagon of neoliberalism, our leaders throw fudged faceless figures at us to prove our progress. Hiding behind selective clauses of the Constitution, they claim legitimacy for their self-serving rule. It is their pettiness and partisanship, their small minds and stunted vision that have brought us to this state. It is their abject submission and subservience to the imperial diktat that has made it so difficult for us to celebrate the idea of independence in any meaningful way today.

To my mind, the best way to celebrate the Pakistan Day is to call out the slaves of the empire posing as our leaders. Hoisting flags won’t do. We need to call out those moving and shaking our society in donor driven directions, polarising and fragmenting our polity. Whether it is sponsored madrassahs teaching medieval sectarian syllabi or foreign-funded NGOs selling neo-liberal political correctness and identity politics, we must expose them for who they are.

On second thoughts, to celebrate, I’d also switch on the TV in the morning just to watch the Pakistan Day parade in Islamabad. I’d like to see the Chinese troops march along Pak armed forces and celebrate the fact. They say that Turkey and Russia are also to participate. I’d like to find out what their participation entails, and celebrate what it signifies. I’d celebrate the fact that our security establishment is no longer a pawn of the empire.

I’d celebrate by entertaining friends from Gilgit Baltistan who are visiting Lahore for the first time. Seventy years after our independence, this wondrous region is still governed from Islamabad and its simple and loyal people are still to be granted full citizenship rights. A friend’s hospitality is no substitute for their rights, but I will do what I can to make them feel at home.

I’d also spend a part of the day helping a friend. Her house was damaged by fire and there’s a lot that needs to be fixed. Given the all-encompassing stranglehold of the imperial power bazaar on our lives, anything that defies the currency of the power bazaar is a good way to celebrate the day; anything that reminds us that there are things other than power and money, that the most valuable things in life are not to be found in the imperial bazaar, things like friendship and freedom.

I’d celebrate and I’d take time out for a special prayer. I’d pray to God to rid us of imperial slaves as our leaders. I’d pray that the curse of imperial subjugation is conclusively lifted from our land and our imagination. Lest we forget, God is more powerful than all the moneyed power-players peddling their wares in the imperial bazaar, pushing our world to poverty and gloom. Lest we forget, God has power over all things and is kind.

If you don’t like my ideas for celebration, please find a way that suits you, but do celebrate. Let your celebration be a rejection of the power bazaar. Remember to celebrate in a way that fosters compassion and solidarity with the less-privileged members of our society. Celebrate the values that make us human. Make a gesture that pays a tribute to the bounty and beauty of the land that we have inherited. Do something to enrich it.