Zahrah Nasir Flash has long since overtaken any remaining remnants of class in what used to be the picturesque hill station of Murree, which is now nothing more than a microcosm of all that is wrong in the Pakistani society. Greed knows no bounds: From tourists gorging themselves sick, literally, on fast food and shopkeepers overcharging at will, right on down to the lowest medieval note of local authoritarian figures lining their pockets minus even a modicum of care for the well being of the golden egg laying goose. The juxtaposition of mostly illegally constructed high-rise monstrosities with the shrinking, sadly dilapidated remains of anything remotely of interest is obnoxious to say the least, illustrating as it does a complete lack of respect for the very fabric on which the 'city was originally founded. What was once an idyllically bucolic, even paradisiacal retreat from the all-out rat race of over populated cities in the plains has been thoroughly trashed in the name of profit: the once pleasurable Mall where people used to enjoy a relaxing stroll is reduced to an elongated shopping arcade stuffed to the gunnels with largely imported garbage and noisy gangs of youngsters suggestively rotating their hips to the ear-splitting noise emanating from vibrating ghetto blasters. Peace and tranquillity is as much a part of the past as a high percentage of trees for which the area was, at one time, rightly famous. There are though, if one knows where to look, still some vestiges of civilisation hidden away here and there, most notably off the main thoroughfare in byways tourists tend to avoid as the once cobbled lanes meandering through these shadowed locations are incredibly steep even by local standards. Yet, even the timeless atmosphere of these hallowed walkways is being nibbled away at a surprising rate due to the dangerously looming multi-storey buildings encroaching from above. Lower bazaar, clinging to the mountainside immediately below The Mall, dates back to the founding days of Murree in the mid 1800s and vestiges of those historic days do still linger on with such artistic endeavours as intricately patterned, hand carved jerokas and the crumbling remains of lattice work hanging by a fast evaporating thread yet, if these buildings of architectural interest were located in another country they would certainly have been properly preserved and maintained to promote tourism, even international tourism at that and, as Murree parasitically survives on tourism, one would have expected the local authorities to have cashed in on historical heritage instead of negatively ignoring it in the long-term hope of old buildings falling down and being hurriedly replaced with new ones from which they can reap a backdoor profit. Non-existent sewage systems and open drains, much of the filth emanating from the towering constructions lining The Mall above, speak volumes about the disinterested apathy of the local authority whose members are rarely, if ever, available in their designated offices to discuss the deplorable situation forced on the indigenous population by the powers that be and, if one is lucky enough to apprehend one of the 'city fathers anywhere in the vicinity he never has time to talk, instead proffering a phone number that, inevitably fails to be answered. The Cantonment Board just isnt interested, complains a shopkeeper in the steep, narrow bazaar leading down from the underground, mostly cloth market off Maraba Chowk down towards Cart Road and the bus station. This one lane bazaar, dotted with all manner of shops including some selling vegetables, fresh and dried fruit along with eateries, does a brisk business with people walking from the upper to the lower reaches of Murree and the business people there do their level best to maintain a reasonable standard of hygiene but they are intermittedly swamped with unutterably smelly gutter water, including sewage, from, they say, the recently constructed Millennium Mall hovering like a thundercloud over their heads. Touted as the finest structure that you would never have seen before in Pakistan this huge building intends to have four floors of shopping, one floor of play area and three floors of parking with capsule lifts and escalators. Its advertisers claim that Emporio Armani, Gucci, Pierre Cardin and Victoria Secrets have already taken space there but this building, by local accounts, is responsible for filling the open drain, running through the aforementioned bazaar, with the most obnoxious filth imaginable. The smell is terrible, the shopkeepers collectively complain. And the flies are bad too. We get so many young children coming here and this is dangerous to their health. How on earth can we maintain decent standards of hygiene when we have to persevere with this? Apparently, or so it appears, the Millennium Mall, which surely contravenes local building laws, has failed to make proper provision for the disposal of its waste water which, on second thoughts should not be at all surprising as back in May 2007, when construction was in full swing, two people, a man and a woman, were killed and four others injured when a wall collapsed as a result of, so it was reported at the time, the use of sub-standard construction material. No longer 'The Queen of the Hills as in days of yore, Murree and its local government officials, now deserve the more appropriate title of 'King of the Dung Hill. The writer is a Murree-based freelance columnist.