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August 12, 2016

Timber mafia hinders to PTI’s billion tree campaign in Hazara


August 12, 2016

ABBOTTABAD: Despite the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan’s passion for the billion tree plantation campaign, timber mafia in various parts of Hazara, particularly in Abbottabad, is getting stronger with each passing day.

Personnel of the Forest Department, no matter how dedicated they are, feel discouraged and dejected at the hands of police department and lower courts.

During the last 12 months, the Forest Department officials have been attacked by members of timber mafia at least five times in different forest ranges of Abbottabad but none of the attackers is behind bars.

Either the police, due to connivance with the timber smugglers, show lethargy in arresting the accused, or they build weak case and culprits succeed in obtaining transit and pre-arrest bails. Later lower courts extend their bails due to legal lacuna or inappropriate investigation into the case.

On August 10, three forest officials, including two forest guards, Saeed and Adeel, and a watchman Yasir were shot and injured in Guldaniya area of Thandiyani Forest Range by three timber smugglers. These officials were injured and admitted to Ayub Medical Complex with bullet wounds.

Divisional Forest Officer Sardar Muhammad Saleem told The News that forest officials had identified the alleged attackers as Asif Shah, Saifullah Shah and Shahid Shah. He said they were confronted by the staff of the Forest Department while they were smuggling illegally cut wood. The accused fired and injured the staff, the DFO alleged.

Sardar Saleem claimed the same people had attacked forest officials a month ago and were on transit bail, which was extended once. He complained how forest officials can protect forests if they are attacked by timber mafia in broad daylight and culprits get scot free.

The forest cutting or timber smuggling is not considered a big crime in the forested areas of the province. The timber smugglers, if caught, are fined and let go.

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