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CHITRAL: The timber mafia is said to be making all-out efforts to bring one of their blue-eyed officials as the deputy commissioner (DC) of Lower Chitral.
Sources told ChitralToday that resourceful people associated with the timber business were lobbying to post a PMS (Provincial Management Service) officer as the deputy commissioner in place of the incumbent Naveed Ahmed, who is from the Pakistan Administrative Service (PAS) group.
It is learned that millions of rupees pertaining to the timber business are pending with the government for release to the royalty holders.
Some years back, a ranker officer was posted as the DC Chitral who happened to be a favourite of the timber businessmen and was also a close relative of one of the persons associated with the timber business.
That DC reportedly released a huge amount to the timber businessmen but before he could conclude the task for which he was brought to Chitral due to strong lobbying of the timber mafia, he was posted out from the district.
In his place, PAS officer Osama Ahmad Warraich was posted as the DC Chitral. Mr Warraich upheld the official protocol and SOPs for the release of the timber/forest royalty amount that was unacceptable to the mafia.
File picture courtesy: Shahzada Siraj UlMulk
Mr Warraich believed that the royalty amount being released by the government should go directly to the royalty holders of the particular area. But the timber businessmen had objections over this approach claiming that the amount should be given to them so that they would distribute it among the royalty holders.
Mr Warraich had very serious observations and concerns over the Joint Forest Management Committees (JFMCs). From that time, the timber businessmen have been facing impediments in release of a huge chunk of the royalty amount.
It is pertinent to mention that local circles have serious and genuine reservations over JFMCs.
Now it has been learnt that once again the timber mafia is trying its best by using every possible means to post its favorable PMS officer as DC Lower Chitral even for shorter period of time so that their stuck-up amount amounting to millions of rupees could easily be released.
It is also learned that the prospective PMS officer happens to be a brother of the the DC who had facilitated the timber business in Chitral.
But in collusion with the government officials, the timber mafia also cut green trees in the forest and taking benefit/cover of the official permits smuggle the timber to the open market in Timargarah and make millions of rupees.
On the other hand, the resourceful people in the business get their own men inducted in the JFMCs and pass on only a small fraction of the amount from the government to the actual royalty holders.
The late DC Warraich had decided to allocate a share for women in the forest royalty and was making other measures to ensure the amount went to the rightful royalty holders directly.