Timber Mafia in KP & AJK– Critical Analysis

  • The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Minister of Forests and Environment had out rightly shun the responsibility of checking the illegal timber business by giving the following statement for one of the daily news paper.

“Locals have 94 per cent of the share in forests and hence it is their responsibility to control illegal logging, while the government has only 6 per cent share.”. (Reporter 2012).

  • “Chairman of Heritage Environment Protection Society (HEPS) Chitral Rahmat Ali Jaffar while talking to Pakistan Observer said that there were 35 percent forests in Chitral as per a survey in the area had been conducted in British era 1930 which remained 4 percent in another survey made by ICUN in 2001. He said deforestation of the trees was being made in 32 areas in Chitral valley and illegal cutting of jungle was made sans any hesitation because some elders of the district, high ups of the department and ministers were allegedly involved in such illegal activities”.(beat 2012). In the same newspaper it is also reported that in Chitral the District Coordination Officer and the District Police Officer had been informed by the local community about the illegal activities of the Timber Mafia and were requested to take action against them but none paid any attention.
  • “Trees felled by so called illegal loggers – an infamous timber mafia that has representatives in the Pakistan Parliament in Islamabad and connections right to the top of government and the military – are stacked in the innumerable nullahs [steep narrow valleys], gorges and ravines leading into the main rivers. From there they are fed into the legal trade, earning the mafia billions of dollars yearly. Other than landslides, soil erosion and the occasional homes and crops being swept away, it [the forest denudation] was not considered a disaster and hence didn’t make the headlines.” . (Haq n.d.).
  1. As per a news item carried in daily The News International in its edition dated March 03, 2010 there was a ban in forests department Khyber Pakhtunkhwa to initiate a inquiry against timber mafia and the ban lasted for many years till when the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) was given the powers by the government to try the cases under the Amnesty Policy 2009.
  • In Azad Jammu and Kashmir when the government wanted to impose ban on cutting of the trees, the government owned Azad Kashmir Logging & Saw Mills (AKLAS) vehemently objected the government policy and succeeded in return of the announced policy.
  • Similarly government also tried imposing ban on illegal cutting of trees in 1997 but due to lack of political will and involvement of public functionaries with vested interests the ban was not implemented in letter and spirit.
  • In Azad Jammu & Kashmir and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa under the law only fallen or sick trees can be sold by the government but the timber mafia in connivance with the public officials cuts healthy trees in garb of fallen and sick trees and carry out their illegal business.
  • In Azad Jammu & Kashmir and specially in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, the mostly adopted modus operandi of Timber Mafia is to cut the trees and afterwards set the forest on fire with the help of forest department to wash the evidence. Let alone in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa about 5% of the forests have vanished during last 20 years in that way[20].
  1. The National Accountability Bureau has taken many cases against the forest department officials for their involvement in illegal cutting of the trees and for helping the timber mafia. 11 officials were awarded massive imprisonments and fines in the year 2011[21].

Failure of State machinery:

The State machinery if Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Azad Jammu & Kashmir have failed to enforce relevant laws to check the illegal logging. The increased trend of involvement of government functionaries, whether officials of forests department, police, revenue officials or chosen public representatives  in illegal timber business and collusion with the notorious dens of timber mafias are because of the following reasons;

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