It comes as rather a shock to enter Jikka Gali and find that half of the place has gone Never much more than a one horse village which owed its scruffy existence to the convergence of four 'main' roads, this hive of rip-off merchants, gutter water and overcrowded public transport with an army facility off to one side, was known to outsiders only for its infuriating traffic jams during 'the season' when everyone and their uncles converge on nearby Murree. It's prime location, however, brought it first to the attention of the British Raj who used it as a staging post, one that, in its hey-day boasted a total of three cinema houses for British Tommie's and latterly, surprise, surprise, to the attention of no lesser personage than the ever enterprising Shahbaz Sharif who is, as we all know, the current Chief Minister of Punjab in which Jikka Gali lies. Shahbaz Sharif has been having a bit of a field day since regaining office: Visiting existing family properties in Murree and its environs and taking umbrage, publicly that is, at the sight of monstrous multi-storey constructions which blatantly contravene building laws and, now and then, or when he remembers, ordering demolition action on an emergency basis. Entire battalions of Rawalpindi police, the local force not being trusted to do the job, are trucked up for a day to lay waste to offending hotels and apartment blocks, the tamasha being witnessed by television crews who should, after so many repeat performances, know full well that nothing, other than window dressing, is going to happen. The cost of this ridiculous extravaganza ultimately is being borne by a 'struggling to survive on next to nothing', tax paying public. Admittedly a few windows are smashed, a few walls, preferably those in full public view, are broken down, the thus 'afflicted' properties usually belonging to 'outsiders' who aren't around to witness the event as against 'local' owners, who save their investments by dint of cash in the right palms. This repetitive saga, rather like a long running soap opera, limps along at a predictable pace and missing an episode or six doesn't alter a grand finale which doesn't exist. All of this may just change though which brings us, interestingly, right to the 'financial heart' of Jikka Gali. Anyone who has visited Murree in recent years knows the pain of trying to park their car without the omnipresent forklifts hijacking it the moment your back is turned. Parking in this horrifically congested tourist trap is, putting it simply, none existent. Various plans and proposals have been kicked around without concrete, quite literally in this instance, results, but, this is finally set to change. Jikka Gali, offensive as it has always been, is in the process of being sacrificed for the construction of a multi-storey parking lot where visitors to Murree will, if the organisers get it right, be forced to park their cars then board a shuttle to take them to and from their desired destination but, it doesn't stop here. The Punjab government decided, in all its wisdom, to demolish every single building on the left side of Jikka Gali: The road will be widened for ease of traffic movement, existing shopkeepers were each compensated to the tune of Rs 30,000 per month for six months with, maybe, an extension on these terms as no way will they have new premises by then and, according to a local informant, even when the new 'plaza' is completed, these shopkeepers will not be able to afford the rent plus, much of the space has been booked by fast food franchises anyway. So far so the meat of the matter Construction laws in this area, the ones so blatantly ignored by all and sundry and which Shahbaz Sharif is making a show of enforcing, allow for the construction of ground + 2 storey's only, quite sensible as the area is prone to landslides and earthquakes. The Jikka Gali multi-story carpark, being constructed down below where the old shops used to stand, is to have a minimum of five storey's (some say 16 storey's but this is probably local exaggeration) and has been sanctioned by the Punjab government in direct contravention of the law. Never one to miss an opportunity, the chief minister himself, hand in glove with a small group of selected 'friends', is taking the opportunity of constructing a four star hotel, no doubt to cash in on the tourists being forced into the multi-storey carpark. According to one Murree lawyer this four star hotel, maybe even five star, will definitely have at least four, if not five storey's which is, yet again, in contravention of the exact same law the chief minister is making such a public hue and cry about as he advocates demolition of commercial enterprises which will, let's face it, be in direct competition with his own. Once the left side of Jikka Gali has undergone its facelift, the short row of old shops remaining on the right are destined for demolition too. Tucked as they are into army land, this surrounds them on three sides with the road being in front, space is limited yet a 'plaza' is to be erected here as well and then the rejuvenation of the village will be complete...until that is, another multi-storey scheme pops up. The writer is a Murree-based freelance columnist