AS a nation we apparently love to hate all things beautiful created by Nature. We make toxins flow in our rivers and sea by discharging poisonous pollutants in them, and our timber mafia brings down tall trees to turn the majestic mountains naked. In keeping with this tragic ‘national code of conduct’, the common man, too, throws garbage on the road and chops down young and old trees.

The other day, my driver Huzoor Bux informed me that a team from Cantonment Board, Clifton (CBC) was chopping down trees using axes in front of our house on Saba Avenue in Karachi’s Defence Housing Authority (DHA) area.

I went out and asked them why they were doing that. Their reply was simple: ‘Sahib ka order hai,” (It’s the boss’s order). During the discussion, I came to know that the team was part of the CBC Tree Trimming Department. The team leader gave me the name of two officials, but I don’t wish to make the names public simply because they are not the exceptions in this context; this is what bosses do in this country.

The order had been issued on the basis of a complaint – true or false – by someone in the neighbourhood. But why were they cutting down so many trees that caused no problem to the complainant? Again, the reply was straight though courteous: “Janab, Sahib ka order hai.” (Sir, it’s the boss’s order). For good measure, they asked me to look around so that I may not doubt their intentions as they had come down trimming “all the trees on Saba Avenue”!

Anyway, I called a few of my neighbours and together we somehow stopped them from causing further damage to the trees and leave aside at least the ones in front of our houses.

Needless to say, trimming trees is a skill which is carried out and supervised by trained people with proper equipment, and an axe is not an ‘equipment’ in this context.

We, the ‘poor’ residents of DHA have watched the havoc the authorities created for our expensive four-wheelers on DHA roads in the middle of which they constructed miles and miles of drains to dispatch the sewage to the sea. Now they are after the trees. The banyan tree I had planted took 20 years to grow into a beauty.

And they wanted to chop it down in less than 20 minutes!

S.M. Shahid
Karachi

Published in Dawn, January 23rd, 2022

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