Timber Mafia in KP & AJK– Critical Analysis

Review of the Literature

On the topic under discussion, no existing research work is available. Only limited research material is available with the concerned provincial departments or forestry departments of the universities but no access to the material is given on the internet. Due to that reason it was difficult to get access to the already available literature.

Method

Only limited methods of research such as telephonic interviews and references of newspapers available on internet were mostly used to conduct this research. The information gathered from such sources is thoroughly scrutinized and has been used with through caution and due care.

Organization of the paper.

In the introductory Section the brief of forestry in Pakistan as a whole would be discussed. This will be followed by the details of forests and its features of Khyber Pathkunkhwa and Azad Jammu and Kashmir. The illegal trade of Timber will then be discussed. It will be followed by the mentioning of the cases of involvement of public functionaries with timber mafia to establish a possible nexus between the both. In the end there will be conclusion of whole discussions followed by some concrete recommendations to check this illegal practice.

IMPORTANCE OF FORESTS AND THE STATUS IN PAKISTAN

Geographical Coverage:

Forests spread over an area of 4.2 million hectares in Pakistan which is about 4.8% of the total land area[6]. Major portion of the forests are in the Province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa which stands at 40% of total forest area of Pakistan and KP’s area under forestation is 16.6%. Punjab has only 2.9% forestation, Sindh 2.8%, Northern Areas 9.5%, Balochistan 1.7% and State of Azad Jammu and Kashmir[7] 20.7%. Table 1.1 gives information about forest area and its distribution across provinces in Pakistan.

                         Table 1.1: Forest Area of the Provinces (000 hectares)

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Forest Class         AJK      Balochistan           NA            KP          Punjab      Sindh            Total

Forest Area         275                   592               666        1684         608            399              4224

Total Area           1330             34719             7040        10174     20626         14091            87980

%Tree Cover       20.7                   1.7               9.5           16.6            2.9             2.8                 4.8

%Forest Area     6.5                    14               15.7             40          14.4            9.4               100

Source: Pakistan (1992) [Forestry Sector Master Plan]

Mainly forests in Pakistan are coniferous forests and  scrub-forests. Coniferous forests are economically most important as they provide major quantity of timber as nearly about sixty percent of total timber is produced by these forests. Moreover, these forests also serve the function as northern upland watersheds are protected by these. Scrub-forests mostly provide fuel-wood.

Administrative Set-up:

Forest Department is decentralized throughout Pakistan. As per the Pakistan’s Master Plan of Forests 1992, Provinces are responsible for the following “planning and implementation of forest and range management programmes” (Pakistan 1992). Long-term policy was Federal responsibility till the promulgation of 18th Constitutional amendment. Every province has its forest department which in fact is solely responsible for the administration of forestry related issues.

Forest Departments came into being during the colonial administration era as old as around 1870. Lubna Hasan in her book “An anatomy of State failure in management of forests in Pakistan” has commented on the issue as follows:-

“They had the mandate of demarcating and preserving the forests and of earning revenues for the state from the production of the timber. With the passage of time now the responsibilities are much changed. They are now responsible for wildlife and biodiversity protection as well, but for all practical purposes, their focus is still on forest protection, forest harvesting, revenue collection, reforestation, and soil and water conservation. Forest Department administers its daily affairs on the basis of forest working plans. These are medium term (10-20 years) planning documents”.  (Hasan n.d.).

These forests are explored on  sustained yield model basis. Mainly management systems of two types prevail. Forests which are located at higher-elevations (moist temperate forests) are managed under the selection system, based on long rotations of 100-120 years and regeneration periods of 20-30 years[8].

“Forests at lower elevations (sub-tropical forests) are managed under uniform shelter-wood system in which canopy is opened up uniformly over an area. Forest Department working plans prescribe the annual cut. In Khyber Pakhtunkhwa all harvesting and sale of wood is the responsibility of another public agency-Forest Development Corporation (FDC). FDC contracts out part of the operation to private contractors, which includes harvesting operations and transportation of timber to roadside”. (Hasan n.d.).

“The government relies on forest legislation to enact its policies. The principal legislation is the Forest Ordinance 2002[9]. The forest legislation in Pakistan is regulatory and punitive in nature. Its main function has been to prevent and punish abuse of public forests. Forest law is considered to be the main tool in the hands of the forest service to ensure rational behavior of people towards national forests” (Ashraf 1992)[10].

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