“What freeman knoweth freedom? Never he Whose father’s father through long lives have reigned O’er kingdoms which mere heritage attained. Though from his youth to age he roam as free” (Helen Hunt Jackson) The marvellous words of the American activist & poetess stand true to this day, even though she wrote this in a completely different context. It is though her concept of freedom hauntingly describes the current political and social unrest in Pakistan. Her poem “Freedom” is a reminder of how freedom is not always free. Its major premise is that freedom, even in a free man, must be gained by learning society’s right and wrong ways. In the month of independence, my pen has failed me several times as I look back and analyse the political, economic, and social situation in Pakistan and ponder upon the last 7 decades – I ask myself are we truly free? And what is true freedom (Haqeeqi Azadi) as the popularists say? The internet was flooded with similar debates of independence and freedom, but do we understand what it means to be free? It seems that the entire Pakistani nation is looking for a silver lining when there can not be any. They are praying for hope from leaders who are dishonest and corrupt to the core, they are looking in the wrong direction! Perhaps true freedom is being enjoyed by the 1% elite and might of our society. The sharifs are acquitted by the court, Mr Bilawal Bhutto Zardari completed his leadership training course whilst he had a flavour of a ministry, Imran Khan is well on his way to becoming the Pakistani Mandela and the caretaker set up is scratching their head thinking which landmine to step on and which to avoid. Micro-investing models have been developed with the aim of enhancing financial literacy. Our leaders’ negligence and ignorance towards the deteriorating economic condition have led the nation to the point of civil disobedience. I was hoping for a technocratic cabinet – one that would be able to present a comprehensive action plan. However, that also seems to be a farfetched idea for the leadership, especially after the announcement of the cabinet, A few capable names that have been included, seem to be helpless and have their hands bound due to agreements made in the past. According to the Fraser Institute’s Economic Freedom of the World Report 2022, Pakistan has slid from 72nd rank in 1970 to 130 in 2022 as the least economically independent country. The report takes into consideration 12 quantitative and qualitative factors, grouped into five broad categories of freedoms such as the size of government, legal system & property rights, sound money, freedom to trade internationally and regulations. Topping the list is Hong Kong followed by Singapore, Switzerland, and New Zealand. Ours is perhaps among the handful of countries that declined in economic Freedom over the years. The Heritage Foundation has placed Pakistan at 152 in 2023 in its economic freedom index with an average score lower than the world and regional averages. It is about time that the people of Pakistan understand that there can not be true freedom without the economic independence of the country. We are in shackles because of the debt we owe to international lending bodies and other countries. Unfortunately, Pakistan has been stripped of its honour and dignity in the last 7 to seven decades due to corruption, nepotism and red-tapism. There are still some promising opportunities for Pakistan to reestablish its economic cycle. The SIFC required serious commitment and dedication. To ensure successful execution the caretaker setup must be extended, regardless of the team. Since the military has always come to the rescue and has been the guarantor on behalf of the politicians in matters from CPEC to IMF, it only makes sense that the current team can effectively use their new roles under the military in SIFC as well. After all, the FDI target of 100 billion dollars requires such commitment. Now true freedom for Pakistan would be achieving this target of 100-billion-dollar investment. This would enable the CPEC projects to flourish, and the SEZs to become effectively functional. Saudi Arabia has shown interest in investing 10 billion dollars at the beginning which could pave the way for other Foreign Investors to enter the market. The collaboration between Saudi Aramco and Pakistan companies for a greenfield refinery project at Gwadar is just the first of many CPEC-focused investments to enter the market. The proposed project aims to establish a comprehensive refinery petrochemical complex that would possess a crude oil processing capacity of at least 300,000 barrels per day (BPD). Pakistan can explore its largely unexplored minerals market which has exceptional export potential. Our dying textile industry needs to be revived and made competitive once again. While the SME sector could hugely benefit if we can divert finances intelligently. Technology and innovation could be a huge asset for Pakistan provided its youth is deeply invested in the area. The prioritisation of innovation within conventional financial institutions has the potential to facilitate financial inclusion and foster economic autonomy. In summary, the government must undertake proactive measures that not only enhance public consciousness regarding the significance of saving and investing for households but also foster the creation of novel and tailored formal financial services that cater to the financially marginalised parts of society. Micro-investing models have arisen as a response to the fact that a significant portion of the population does not engage in investment activities. These models specifically aim to cater to individuals with limited disposable income for investment purposes. Micro-investing models have been developed with the aim of enhancing financial literacy by reducing the obstacles associated with investment initiation. Perhaps by taking each of the steps mentioned above, in a few years, we might be able to gain the true freedom our nation longs for and raise our flag high. For now, I will reiterate, that there is no freedom without economic independence. The writer is Foreign Research Associate, Centre of Excellence, China Pakistan Economic Corridor, Islamabad.