Timber Mafia in KP & AJK– Critical Analysis

Gap between supply and demand

There is a huge difference between the supply and demand of timber in Pakistan. As per the golden principle of Economics when the demand side is high, there would be increased profits in producing the required demand. This increased demand has been judged by the timber mafia and in order to gain huge monetary benefits they are involved in illegal logging of the trees.

Illegal Logging:

Illegal logging (illegal cutting of logs/timber) is defined as:

  1. “Illegal logging and forest crime are defined as the harvesting, transporting, processing, buying or selling of timber in violation of national laws. It lies within wider forest-related crime which includes both large- and small-scale theft of timber, breaking of license agreements and tax laws, as well as issues of access to and rights over forest resources, corruption, and poor management. Its impacts are also far-reaching and can lead to increased fragmentation and conversion of forests, illegal mining, poaching of forest wildlife, haphazard human settlement, and greater incidence of forest fires”. (WWF n.d.).
  1. “Cuttings without permits or unsanctioned cuts, cuttings carried out by local residents for personal needs, cuttings carried out by residents or mobile teams for subsequent sale, cuttings carried out by companies near officially developed sites or in the distant areas that are seldom visited by supervised agencies, felling on the places of officially completed selective felling, including officially discovered and aborted unsanctioned cuttings, felling caused by the unauthorized construction of non-forestry facilities. Licensed but illegal forest felling operations: issuing the permits for the cutting in the areas where cutting is not allowed or not seen in prevalent legislation, and issuing the permits for tree felling in violations of the procedures for the issuance of permit, or without assessing the capacity with out  the violation of prevalent laws, incorporating amendments in forestry documentations with vested interests, permitting logging otherwise not allowed, mistakes by will of the forest inventory, cutting of forests being  carried in violation of prevailing legislation”.  (Peace n.d.)

Reasons for Illegal Cutting of the Tree

There are number of reasons related to illegal cutting of the tree and then smuggling of the timber. Some of them are as under;

  1. Because of poor economic condition the locals play as tools in the hands of mafia. Illegal cutting of the trees and then selling it to the Timber smugglers (at very low rate) fetches some livelihood to them. There is a ban in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province since 1993 on commercial harvesting of Timber. Increased incidents of illegal logging are a reaction to this policy.
  2. In Protected forests the locals are entitled for royalty amounting to 60-80%. This royalty is not being paid. If it is paid then the locals would take personal some interest in safeguarding the forests from the illegal activities of the timber mafia.
  • The floods of 1992 opened doors to the persons involved in illegal timber business as majority of the live and green trees were felled by them in barge of trees destroyed by the floods.
  1. Frequent landslides also provide opportunities to the timber mafia to carry out their illegal activities as the live trees are declared as fallen trees because of the landslides.
  2. Frequent natural or manmade fire incidents in the forests also provide ways and means for illegal timber cutting.
  3. The low education level of the local population is also responsible for neglect on part of the local to safeguard such precious available commodities.
  • The rise of talibinization in the area has played havoc. In order to gather financial resources to carryout terrorist activities, the Talibans got involved in illegal timber business and the most of the deforestation occurred in their time (2002-2009).
  • It is also alleged that the military has also been involved in illegal cutting of the trees because of two main reasons firstly need of firewood and secondly some unscrupulous elements also had taken advantage of the protection availed by the Military of non checking of their vehicles at the check posts which had resulted in misusing the protection and has lead to involvement of junior ranking Non Commissioned Officers in to the timber business.
  1. The non provision of the gas in these areas and high price of kerosene or furnace oil is also a reason for illegal felling of the trees as wood is also used as fuel in most of the local households.

“Since people have no fuel for cooking and heating, they have to cut wood from the forests. Everyone in all the villages’ burns deodar, one of the rarest species of trees in the world, especially in winter seasons”. (Reporter 2012).

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