It rains panic in Murree

September 11, 2022

There is an urgent need to pay attention to one of the most beloved tourist spots in the country

It rains panic in Murree


he panic induced by recent floods in the country and the unprecedented inflation have brought down the number of tourists to places like Murree and its suburbs.

Social media is jam-packed with distressing footage of raging rivers, giving an impression that all mountainous areas have been endangered. Murree has a large drain carrying rainwater from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa to the Punjab and Islamabad. Ideally, the water should flow through Islamabad to Rawalpindi through more than 20 streams including Nullah Leh.

The water also feeds Rivers Korang and Soan. The Murree streams are located in the catchment area of Khanpur Dam, situated in Margalla Hills above Islamabad. However, it falls under the jurisdiction of KP government, which starts right off Shah Allah Ditta. However, the dam is also accessible from Murree.

Wealthy people from Islamabad have bought farmland all the way from Shah Allah Ditta to Khanpur Dam with no regard for the fact that being a part of the Margalla Hills National Park this area is not suitable for construction. The same is true for the mushrooming construction on the way from Islamabad to Murree.

Due to this ill-planned construction, natural drains choke up. When water is denied its way down from Murree, it submerges everything that stands in its way. It then also contributes to the hill torrents and causes landslides on Murree Expressway and other roads. Fortunately, this region did not receive unusual rains this year.

A group of journalists from Islamabad drove to Murree on Saturday (September 3) for something that was not even remotely related to sightseeing. They were to listen to lectures on the new products that carry high quantities of nicotine and the harm these do to human lives. The Society for Protection of Rights of the Child (SPARC) had arranged the consultation.

A visit to Murree reveals that this incredibly beautiful city is in the grip of uncontrolled construction activity. More and more multi-story hotels are popping up right, left and centre. On Kuldana Road, these hotels are being constructed at a very precarious slope. Some of these might not be able to stand urban flooding or a climate calamity. During the recent years, the government had worked on the idea of making this road a second mall. The district administration officers from Rawalpindi were very enthusiastic about this plan. However, some local landlords and a hotel mafia stood in the way of its implementation.

It rains panic in Murree

This city has been neglected and its people and tourists have been left at the mercy of land grabbers and hotel mafia. The sooner it is freed from them, the better.

Had the government been able to develop the Mall 2, it would have likely done it in an orderly and sensible way and taken the necessary precautions. But then the hotel mafia would not have been able to fleece the tourists. Another development we noticed was that the hotel agents and hawkers were not as aggressive as they are known to be. A visit to The Mall was a refreshing experience. Several shops of popular brands and good quality items have replaced some of the hotels. Families can now move along the road without being bothered by the hotel staff.

Iqbal Municipal Library has also mounted a shop selling a known ice cream brand. But its staircase is set up in a dark corner and the doors are locked. Under the library, benches have been placed for tourists to sit on. Earlier, the hotel staff would not let anyone sit anywhere along The Mall unless they ordered food.

Opposite the library, an office of the Tourism Police has come up. Their helpline is 1757. It is an initiative of Rawalpindi Police. “The government set up this office last year after the death of tourists stranded in the snow,” a policeman present at the office, who wished to remain anonymous, told The News on Sunday (TNS). He said that a few policemen and three vehicles had been provided for this unit. “During the season we receive as many as 100 complaints a day. Most of the complaints are about children separated from their families.”

It rains panic in Murree

He says that a high number of complaints are against the hotel mafia, about overcharging and misbehaving with tourists. The police take prompt action on these complaints which is why this menace has declined.

The Murree Cantt area has also been made more attractive for tourists. For children to have fun, hand-driven carts have been arranged. In addition, electric vehicles bring tourists from The Mall to the Pindi Point chairlift station.

Khalil Dogar, a project director for the SPARC, says that his children love running on this track. Car parking, however, remains a big problem. Admiring the environment, Malik Imran says, “We must not pollute this air with smoke. I live near Khanpur Dam and an emergency was imposed around it due to the rising level of water. But roads have been opened now.”

It rained on Saturday night. The rain continued till Sunday morning. Murree is a lot colder than the federal capital. Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif has announced the construction of an overhead bridge and a bypass at Bhara Kahu – the entrance to Islamabad. His elder brother Nawaz Sharif had made a similar announcement during his premiership, but no bridge has been built so far. As a result, tourists get stuck at Bhara Kahu, where a big station for public transport buses has been set up.

It rains panic in Murree

Murree does not have many road jams these days because few tourists are visiting. Even so, Rawalpindi Traffic Police is unable to maintain order on its roads. The Tehsil Headquarters Hospital on The Mall looks more like a parking plaza than a hospital.

There is a need for the Rawalpindi administration to take this tourist spot seriously. People of the area say that the assistant commissioner never visits the markets with full protocol. They say the deputy commissioner visits only when he has to accompany a minister. The city is largely neglected and its people and tourists have been left at the mercy of land grabbers and hotel mafia. The sooner it is freed from them, the better.

The writer teaches development support communication at the International Islamic University Islamabad. He tweets @HassanShehzadZand can be reached at  Hassan.shehzad

It rains panic in Murree