Islamabad - The clock is striking 02:00pm; most of the offices around Melody Market are on lunch break, but hundreds of chairs placed in the food street are giving a deserted look and shopkeepers are waiting for customers. Either the people here are not hungry or this food park has lost its charm.

Located in the Sector G-6 of the federal capital, Melody Food Park was established by the Capital Development Authority (CDA) in the year 2002 to provide low-priced food in a pleasant environment. 

Initially, the park attracted thousands of visitors on daily basis, which gradually started decreasing, and now according to some shopkeepers, 50 percent customers of this food street have gone. 

Lal Masjid siege and a blast in 2007, CDA operation against encroachments and illegal kiosks, and ambiguity regarding the legality of this food park also contributed day by day in the falling number of visitors coming here.

There are around 32 shops in the market, providing fast food, desi dishes, and juices to the customers.

Moreover, ‘halwa puri’ breakfast is also available for people living in hostels in nearby residential areas. 

The street is found filled with tables and chairs because most of the visitors here prefer to sit and dine in open air. To provide shed in the sunshine and shelter in rain, movable fibre umbrellas are also placed. 

But, not every shopkeeper is providing this facility because a number of food outlets are using tents to provide shed to the customers from climate miseries. And according to them neither CDA nor food park committee ever provided any facility to the businesspeople here.

Tables, chairs, and sheds were given by a beverage company when the food park was inaugurated, and since then no major change has been brought in by any authority of the food park for the improvement of the market. 

The bulldozed material of kiosks leaves the impression of an airstrike on part of the food street while sewerage stink, electric generators, scattered tissue papers, disposable plates and polythene bags on grounds explain activeness of sanitary department.

Shoaib Rabbani, a government employee, was once a frequent visitor of this food street. He steadily lost his interest in coming here with friends and he now visits rarely. 

“They now serve you burgers and chips by setting tables on the sewerage line, this is their hygiene standard,” said Rabbani. According to him, strict and regular inspection is required to check the food standard and cleanliness of the park.

While, a hotel owner, Mohammad Shehzad is satisfied with the sanitary standards of the market and, according to him, CDA workers regularly visit the food park to clean it.

But he admitted that the market is losing charm and for him, CDA is responsible for this reason which bulldozed the sheds and families feel awkward to sit under the open sky. 

“We try to provide best quality food to the customer. However, food inspector rarely visits for inspection,” said Shehzad. 

Another customer, Jameel Cheema while talking to The Nation expressed dissatisfaction on the rates of edibles. According to him, breakfast here is very costly and the rates must be subsidised.

On the other side, supervisor of the food park committee Mohammad Asim said the rates in this park are very nominal as compared to other food outlets in the city. “There is nearly one hundred rupees difference on items available in Food Street,” said Asim.  

But, Oun Abbas and Jahanzeb Hussain who work in a nearby office and are compelled to visit Food Street for lunch are not satisfied with the food and facilities at the market. 

“They lost the taste and standard, they lost the customer,” said Oun.

“Cats are found not only under the tables of customers, but they are also present in the shops,” Jahanzeb stated.

According to them, the shopkeepers and CDA must ensure the food quality, reduce rates and keep cleanliness to return good days of this food street.

Meanwhile, the committee supervisor said although the business is not as good as it was a few years back and customer ratio has decreased, yet the situation is not very bad.

“There is a proper mechanism for the cleanliness which is followed. However, for the last three months we have been facing problems on this front,” said Asim.

In his opinion, CDA’s last year operation against encroachments in the food park and its announcement regarding the closure of this market left an impact on customers and they lost their trust in the quality and prices also.  

Oun Abbas said, “Once I used to sit and eat here for hours but now sitting here, even for fifteen minutes, has become difficult.”

–The writer is a freelance contributor.