MANSEHRA: Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf Chairperson Imran Khan said a law protecting whistleblowers could assist the government in taking action against the timber mafia in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa.
He was speaking to journalists during his visit to nurseries in Parhina village in Mansehra on Monday.
According to Imran, once this legislation is introduced, those who help the government find the culprits will receive 30% of fines imposed on the latter. “The Ehtesab Commission will also take up cases involving the timber mafia,” he said. “The sole objective of the PTI-led government is to curb deforestation, timber smuggling and corruption in the province.”
In April, the K-P government approved the draft of the Whistleblowers Protection and Vigilance Act 2015. Under this draft, a commission would be established to protect the life and property of anyone providing information about corruption, illegal activity or any step that endangers the public.
Imran reiterated the provincial government’s commitment to curb deforestation and take action against those who are involved in felling trees across K-P. He vowed to take the culprits to task irrespective of their social and political standing.
“For little over a decade, lumberjacks have inflicted losses worth billions of rupees to the national exchequer by cutting down trees,” he said.
"We will try to stop them at all costs. However, the community has a pivotal role to play in creating awareness about the negative effects of this practice. If they don’t take a stand, lumberjacks will continue to wreak havoc on natural resources.”
Imran accused forest officials of being hand in glove with miscreant elements who are involved in felling trees. “These officials will not be spared,” he said. “We will ensure that they are put behind bars.”
The PTI chairperson also highlighted the community's role in curbing timber smuggling in the province.
“The community has an important part to play in preventing such activities,” he said. “I think people living near forests must assist the government in curbing this menace.”
Imran said concrete steps were under way to protect and conserve trees in the province. “Extra security guards have been hired.
He said, “In order to enhance the existing forest cover, the government has launched the Billion Tree Tsunami project. This scheme will help protect the environment from global warming and floods. The project will also help create new job opportunities for young people.”
Chief Minister Pervez Khatak, PTI provincial President Azam Khan Swati and various officials of the forest and environment department also attended the occasion.
Earlier this week, Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Parliamentary Secretary for Environment Fazal Elahi said the government has already planted as many as 18 million saplings across the province. The secretary said by the time its term ends, the PTI government will have over one billion new trees.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 14th, 2015.