MINGORA: The members of forest protection committee and residents of Sulatanr area of Matta tehsil held a protest here the other day against the timber smugglers.

They said that a group of timber smugglers threatened them of grim consequences for protecting forest. They demanded of the law enforcement agencies to protect them from the timber smugglers.

The forest committee members said that they took action against the timber smugglers, who were illegally cutting trees in the forest of Sulatanr area and seized large number of timber from them.

“When we stopped them from cutting illegal trees and seized the timber, they started threatening us,” said the protesters. They added that the timber smugglers lived in Charma village where they blocked the road and did not allow vehicles to move to Sulatanr village.

The protesters said that the timber smugglers stopped every vehicle going to Sulatanr and did not allow them to go either down to Matta Bazaar or to their village Sulatanr.

“Today, they stopped all the vehicles going to or from our village. The timber smugglers also beat our people and warned them not to use the road otherwise they would be beaten and disgraced,” said Ihsanullah, a protester.

Members of the forest committee said that they would not allow anyone to cut forest illegally but the government must give them protection.

“We are assisting forest department and government in protecting the forest. It is the responsibility of the government to take action against the timber mafia and give us protection,” they said and demanded of the police to take immediate action against the timber smugglers for blocking the road.

Forest officials said that they received timber from the forest protection committee which they had seized and filed case against the timber smugglers. “We received about 29 wooden planks, which were illegally cut. We have also filed case against the timber mafia,” said SDFO Mohammad Waseem.

DPO Qasim Ali Khan said that police reached the spot timely and were investigating the matter “Proper legal action would be taken against the culprits after completion of investigation,” he said.

Published in Dawn, April 4th, 2020