Zahrah Nasir In the run up to Eid-ul-Azha, Murree is usually a hustling bustling place with flocks of gaily decorated sacrificial animals for sale and people happily purchasing a few culinary extras for the festive occasion, butnot this year. The Mall, always flocked with crowds of shoppers on bright autumn days, was more akin to 'desolation row a couple of days ago when I strolled down and later, back up, its entire almost deserted length. Shopkeepers sat around gossiping, passing the time until, and if, potential customers appeared and were, so I discovered, more than usually content to drop prices way down in the hope of even a single sale to make their days work worth their while although, one cut rate sale wasnt going to help them break even. Maszoors hung around: hats pulled low, hands deep in empty pockets and resignation on their faces. Trolley wallahs snoozed in their motionless transport; even the usual beggars were absent from the strangely silent scene and hotel and restaurant touts were completely minus victims. No one has any money, said the butcher I frequent in Lower Bazaar. It is difficult enough for people to make their normal purchases let alone even think of buying extras for Eid. Dealers from down in Punjab usually truck up lots of sacrificial animals and sell them at a good profit, but they havent come this time, probably because so many animals were lost in the floods. Ive only seen two skinny little goats for sale for the ridiculous price of Rs14,000 each. No one is silly enough to pay that and no one has the money anyway. Sales of meat have really dropped over the past few months and the price of vegetables has gone through the roof along with the price of everything else. The government is to blame for all this. The government and the middlemen. Ordinary people cant make ends meet. Allah alone knows what is going to happen and, dont forget, winter is coming on and I think its going to be a bad one all round. Further down, in the sadly dilapidated depth of this old part of the town, a couple of elderly ladies are giving a second hand clothes dealer a hard time. Rs300 for a worn out sweater You must be mad, shrieks one virago waving a misshaped acrylic pullover in the air. Ill give you Rs30 and even thats daylight robbery and what about that jacketthe red one with a broken zip? Rs450 You must be joking. Come on, she instructed her companion. Well go and look somewhere else. I just have to get some warm clothes for the children, as I really have to go easy on heating this winter because fuel prices are out of reach. Whats a body supposed to do? If I could catch hold of the rulers Id bang their heads together and shake them until their teeth fell out They dont have to suffer like we do. Their pockets are so full of cash that they dont know what to do with it. Well I can tell them what to dogive it to those that need it'Us would do for a start. Come on lets go. I need to buy some boots too, but how Im going to manage that is beyond me. Shaking her head miserably, she hauls her friend along the roughly surfaced road, gutter water coursing filthily down one side, to a second hand shoe seller squatting against a wall and starts all over again. Its 11:15 am, the digital barometer in the centre of The Mall reads 11C although the brilliant sunshine has taken any chill out of the air and still the place is deserted. The tantalising aroma of hot naan, parathas and frying omelets wafts out of a side lane off G.P.O. chowk and I amble along it to my usual hole in the wall naan seller, who also bemoans the lack of business, the lack of money, the lack of reasonable governance and the total lack of law and order. What Id really like to know, he says, as he wraps four steaming rogani naan in a newspaper for me, is why corruption has spread from the government to all levels of society? For example, when I caught the Suzuki up to Murree from Jikka Gali this morning I saw chicken being sold at Rs126 per kilo. The price was chalked up on a board for all to see like its supposed to be but, here in Murree its only Rs104 per kilo which means that the guy in Jikka Gali is a crook, but no one does anything about it. Then theres the great sugar rip-off, of course, but what else can you expect when at least half the sugar mills are owned by people in government and just look at the Balochistan gold mine situationdaylight robbery and no one does anything about it. You know someth-ingand this is really the bottom line I tell youthese days who would be proud to be a Pakistani anymorenot even me and thats saying something I tell you. The writer is a Murree-based freelance columnist.