Members of Qaumi Kohistan Jirga rejected the Forest Ordinance 2002 and demanded 80% royalty on the sale of timber.
They warned the jirga would not accept the government’s unilateral policy on forest cover in Kohistan. The speakers vowed to continue their agitation and resistance against the ordinance.
Addressing a news conference at Peshawar Press Club on Thursday, Hazrat Syed Gujr of Kohistan demanded that the government suspend the Forest Ordinance 2002 and devise a policy friendly to his region in consultation with locals. Khan Muhammad Roghani, Hazrat Bilal Kohistani, Malik Sher Azam Gujr, Khaista Muhammad Roghani, Bahadur Khan Afghani and Taj Muhammad, along with elders of Gujr tribe, were present at the press conference.
Syed Gujr added forest owners in Malakand Division were getting 80% royalty, but the same was only 60% for Kohistan. He said the government unlawfully seized forests and meadows owned by Kohistan residents and imposed the 2002 ordinance.
Syed Gujr said it was tantamount to exploiting the rights of the people of the district. He urged the provincial government to immediately withdraw the policy and increase royalty from 60% to 80%.
“Forest Ordinance 2002 is against the interests of Kohistanis. Under the order, 70% of our forests, meadows and valleys have been grabbed by the government. It deprives us of our livelihood,” Syed Gujr said.
Khan Muhammad Roghani said through the ordinance, authorities imposed a ban on the cutting of forests and this was making it difficult to fulfil daily household needs such as firewood.
He added residents of Kohistan had united to protect their rights. “The government is bound by law to grant due rights to the people, but our government is snatching them. We will go to every extreme against the ordinance,” he said.
He asked authorities to evaluate the gravity of the situation and immediately lift the ban. He echoed the demands of others that a policy should be evolved with the consultation of elders of the area.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 15th, 2016.
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