Merely days, after leading political leaders had stood by the victims, rendered shelterless by the vicious monsoon downpour across Pakistan, the country’s 75 independence anniversary, was celebrated with grand splendour by the ruling party. Hallmarking hundreds of millions for an array of entertainment programmes was slammed as downright criminal by members of treasury and opposition benches alike in the National Assembly. “The heart-wrenching screams of a drowning Balochistan were muffled by the loud music of fit-for-a-king independence events,” they sighed, pointing attention to a father who had killed his two daughters after battling frustration due to non-payment of house rent. “Are we really a free nation?” JUI’s Maulana Jamal Uddin, Jamaat-e-Islami’s Maulana Abdul Akbar Chitrali and GDA leader Saira Bano bemoaned the absence of children from far-flung areas and madressahs in the symbolic session of the august house, supposed to represent all of the country. Did the big metropolises hold some monopoly over the National Assembly? they wondered. Miss Bano noted the blood-stained letter of the father who had later taken his life in desperation as he tried to wake the fast-asleep nation. However, this prompted a heated exchange with Speaker Raja Parvaiz Ashraf, who remarked that we were, indeed, a free and alive nation. To which, the GDA leader again stressed the scores of children losing lives to hunger while the rulers of this country preferred to spend millions upon millions on lighting sprees, fireworks and musical events. A much better place for this hard-earned money was in the flood relief fund, she continued. That the government has committed undue extravagance cannot be denied, Miss Bano said. Maulana Chitrali condemned the August 14 celebration held in the Convention Centre as defiling of national values and ideals. Making the daughters of the soil dance in the name of festivity does not come even remotely close to why our forefathers had earned this freedom, he said while registering his protest. Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif should take notice of this gross misstep at a time when the country’s finances are in terrible shape. “By swaying our bodies to music tunes in the midst of ravaging floods, we are definitely inviting the wrath of Allah,” he believed. Despite belonging to the coalition government, Maulana Jamaluddin criticised the speaker for not extending the invitation of the special session to the madressah children and those from remote regions. The precious national treasure was recklessly pushed down the drain for activities not acceptable in our culture or society, he maintained. ” We sat red-faced in the Convention Centre and preferred to walk out than be a part of such a programme,” Maulana claimed. The honourable speaker, however, did not appreciate this strong criticism levelled against the three-day celebration held to commemorate the diamond jubilee of Pakistan’s independence and forbade the opposition from speaking any further. Pointing to the absence of a quorum, he delayed the proceedings till further notice.