It is impossible to understand why the sick, ‘greed mindset’ of not simply the money-minded idiots of Murree Cantonment Board and destructive Union Councils throughout the area but also of the incumbent Prime Minister and his legions of ‘relatives’ and ‘chumchas’, completely fail to see that the systematic rape and destruction of the entire Galiat area – and no doubt other scenic regions of the country too – is, rapidly now, hitting the tourist industry. This is happening along with the precious environment of course, slap-bang on the head and is rapidly destroying the little ‘un-spoilt’ places which have managed, miraculously, to hang on until now.

Take, for example, the relatively narrow stretch of main road – the Kashmir highway – running from the almost perpetually blocked with traffic Kashmiri Bazaar, through which only one large truck at a time can move with any degree of safety. Just along, this is a mere matter of perhaps 5 or 6 kilometres, to the turn-off leading to that monstrous scar on the landscape called ‘P.C. Bhurban Hotel. This is, right now in the traditional dry period before the area becomes snowbound, nothing more than one long mess of construction in progress and dare to step off the beaten track on to a perilous ‘link’ road, one car at a time only with no passing places access ‘roads’ or even more dangerous stony tracks and the uncontrolled construction story becomes even more horrific.

The above mentioned stretch of road is currently akin to navigating through an assault course: Heaps of cement blocks spilling across the road here, mountains of sand there, treacherous to tires ‘bajera’ scattered higgledy-piggledy everywhere with wheelbarrow pushing labourers expecting to be given right of way along with the rest of the mix. And all reverberating to the combined sound of huge cement mixers. Those ever present, ever hopeful, rip-off merchants boring for water even in to the very foundations of long existing apartment blocks where, no doubt, they have doused sewage soaked earth as ‘water bearing’ as they have been known to do before.

In the few days since I last traversed what is, for me, a very regular route, a huge, newly painted, red roof has sprung out of the mountainside below. And slightly before, the turn-off to the P.C. Hotel: On enquiring who was building yet another huge eyesore, I was told – ‘Nawaz Sharif’s new residence or maybe his uncles.’ Now, let’s get one thing straight: How many houses can a person, or his uncle, live in at one time? The straight mathematical answer is just one of course but, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and his ‘uncle’ are already reported to own at least 3 huge properties in Murree itself, 3 in the Bhurban area and a massive, incredibly costly, mansion on top of a mountain just outside Changla Gali on the Nathia Gali road which, like all Galiat roads, is a fully qualified ‘road to destruction’.

What makes these out of place, usually badly built and prone to earthquake damage, buildings even worse is that their owners are rarely to be seen. Perhaps they are spending as little as a week a year in residence – if that but when they are in residence then local ‘yokels’, as all permanent residents are derogatorily regarded, look out!

The ‘cash not class’ brigade, in the newest model, fully loaded – with idiots boasting the crassest outlooks imaginable – 4 x 4’s drive around as if the roads belong to them and them alone, as does any available water – an increasingly rare commodity throughout the Galiat – along with anything else they happen to fancy. This fancy extending to importing, from cities usually, whores and other people of ill repute and all of whom think absolutely nothing of tossing garbage out of open vehicle windows. Exactly as do other tourists from the plains, and allowing children, as young as four or five, to ride in vehicles with their heads, sometimes more than half of their bodies, sticking out through open sun roofs with never a thought as to what will happen if the vehicle has to suddenly brake!

The Galiat being one of the most popular, year round, tourist destinations in the country, does, on the whole, survive on income thus earned. Therefore, many local people accept the demolition of their heritage as being par for the course with nary a thought as to what will happen when, as it eventually will, is ruined beyond salvation and the tourists, with their money, move on to wreck pastures new.

As a prime example of monetarily based reality, the Galiat, tops the score and clearly demonstrates, in microcosmic proportions, what is wrong with the country as a whole. No one gives a damn about anything at all unless, or until, it affects them directly and costs them ‘something’ in one way or another.

Over the last 20 years in particular, with each year exceeding the previous one, the once upon a time, beautifully pristine Galiat, teeming with wildlife of all sorts, has turned into a common sight is of nightmarish mess of ugly, against the rules construction, uncontrolled sewage, garbage strewn forests – or rather what remains of the forests. Yet nothing is being done to bring this rape to a halt, let alone even try, through tree planting campaigns for instance, to put all of these myriad wrongs to right. This, ladies and gentleman, is not just the state of the Galiat, but the state of Pakistan today!

 The writer has authored two books titled The Gun Tree:  One Woman’s War, The Parwan Wind - Dust Motes and lives in Bhurban.

zahrahnasir@hotmail.com