Stripping Away Beauty – By A. Bashir

Driving through that thick traffic on that congested road triggered my nostalgic journey through the memory lane. Looking back into the past not too long ago, I could see the same wide avenue bisecting the exuberant growth with fragrant breeze blowing across. Vibrant faces beaming in complacency peeped out of the road side wooden kiosks with sloping tin and asbestos roofs glistening in the sunlight. Brisk lean pedestrians roamed about and exchanged notes as they gathered in small candid groups. An occasional Suzuki passenger pick up or a vehicle would intrude the scene leaving the atmosphere utterly serene and peaceful otherwise. There was openness, greenery and originality all around. Nature and harmony prevailed everywhere as the valley glowed in its utter beauty and sheer calm. Population and occupancy was thin and the gaily coloured metallic roofs in distinctive colours and patterns clustered in undulating forms all along the valley and the adjoining hills and mountains that shimmered like pearls as if laid deftly on that natural fabric by some invisible hand. There was plenty of snow and rainfall and abundance of water resource that existed in the form of water falls, springs and natural water courses. A strong gust of rain would drain away in minutes wiping any clutter or sewage with it. There were lush green slopes, fields and orchards all round, and the air was always heavy, moist, refreshing and carried rich fragrance of pines and conifers. The place is none other than one of the most beautiful valleys of Pakistan named Abbottabad.

Located at a convenient distance from the federal capital on main Karakurum highway, the place could boast of so many distinctive features. Situated amidst high mountains with thick natural forests the place with its enchanting weather and landscape was chosen as one of the major centers for military training and activities by the British regime and thus the valley is host to a number of centers like Baluch, FF and piffers. The place was selected to establish the most prestigious military institution of Pakistan Military Academy, the principal institution that trains undergraduate military cadets and has rendered commission to tens of thousands of military officers. The valley is home to top of the line educational and boarding institutions like Army Burn Hall College, Abbottabad public school and Ayyub medical college. It is located at a stone’s throw from the stunning mountainous resorts like Nathiagali and Thandiani and not too far from Murree and at a reasonable access from Kaghan valley.

As the time goes by, the rustic beauty negotiates the rising tide of commercialization while its simplicity and natural aura is being swallowed by the mechanical intervention. There are more and better houses and wider roads but lesser pastures and more stinking water drains. There are vehicles, department stores, commercial offices and buildings, plazas, restaurants and massive concrete construction but they are wiping away the space, greenery, beauty and the calm that was once the essence of the city. The weather does not seem all that pleasant and the air is ridden with smoke and smog. Much lesser stars stud the sky and the air no longer carries the heaviness and the moisture that was its trademark. The slopes are eroding in stark contrast to the thick forest growth that existed on them only a few years ago.

While my car was stuck in a terrific block and the honks and panic filled the air, I could feel a melancholic sensation surge in me. As the lovely place is being stripped of its sublime beauty and charm, can I just sit back and wonder helplessly? Will we just let that place be taken away by that destructive tide or can we balance and harmonize the much needed developmental act with the naturally gifted environs of the valley. If we don’t plan or act now the rolling snow ball of development and commercialization will destroy the place of its amazing ecology, environment and atmosphere!

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