Army being engaged to stop illegal forest harvesting: CM KPK

PESHAWAR: Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Chief Minister Pervez Khattak on Thursday said his government was engaging the Pakistan Army to check the illegal harvesting of natural forests in the province and act against culprits.

Giving a policy statement in the provincial assembly, the CM said political elites and lawmakers had facilitated the ‘timber mafia’ in the past by approving forest policies in the name of windfall trees.

“The timber mafia had harvested green trees worth Rs200 billion during the last 10 years but the present government has scrapped the windfall trees and other ill-planned policies to ensure the protection of natural forests vanishing rapidly,” he said.

Mr Khattak said mountains in Malakand and Hazara regions had denuded due to the ruthless harvesting of green trees.

He said around 700 million trees had been planted in the province during the last 70 years.

“Now, we are engaging the (Pakistan) Army to stop illegal harvesting and transportation of timber from the forest covered areas,” he said, adding that the ban had been imposed on the movement of timber.

The CM said the ongoing billion trees tsunami afforestation project in the province was very successful.

The Pakistan Army has been on the ground in the province since 2007 to assist the civil administration in eliminating militancy.

Mr Khattak claimed that the World Wildlife Fund had reported that the success rate of plantation carried out the tsunami afforestation project was 80 per cent.

He added that the initiative had received recognition abroad.

In his hour-long speech, the CM announced that the government would regularise the services of adhoc and contractual employees, while the upgradation of all employees would be announced simultaneously.

He highlighted the achievements of his government and insisted that the province was on the path to progress after landmark reforms in different sectors, especially health, education, police and industry.

Mr Khattak said industrialists and investors were fleeing the province in 2013 due to lawlessness, extortion and kidnapping for ransom.

He said the situation was serious when the PTI formed government in the province in 2013 as the system wasn’t delivering.

“However, the God helped us. Now, the situation has largely improved,” he said, adding that extortion and kidnapping had been controlled to a great extent, while investors had returned. The CM gave its credit to the Pakistan Army, police and other law-enforcement agencies for improving the law and order situation in the province.

He said the Zarb-i-Azb military operation and border management had put positive impact on the law and order situation in the province.

“The province is now moving forward after improvement in law and order situation and reforms,” he claimed, adding that that political interference in the affairs of police and other departments had come to an end.

Mr Khattak said his government had done tremendous service for the Islamisation of society. He said the government had declared Nazra-i-Quran compulsory from grade one to grade five in schools and translation of the Holy Quran from grade five to grade 12.

The CM said interest on private loans had been banned, while dowry system would be declared illegal through legislation.

He said the government had appointed 35,000 teachers, while 10,000 more were being recruited.

“All recruitments have been made through the National Testing Service,” he said.

Mr Khattak said the shortage of doctors and allied staff members at health facilities had ended and that qualified doctors were available across the province.

He said 1.4 million health insurance cards had been distributed to the people and the issuance of one million more was in the pipeline.

The CM said the repairs of damaged equipment and machines in public sector hospitals required Rs14 billion and the government had allocated Rs1 billion for it.

The house after completing discussion on supplementary budget approved 10 demands for grants.

The opposition members criticised the government’s energy policy, planning and development.

Speaker Asad Qaisar adjourned the sitting until 2pm on Friday.