Employees complain of atrocities by encroachers of forest lands

Dawn

HYDERABAD: Represen­ta­tives of lower employees in the forest department along with office-bearers of a non-govern­mental organisation working in forestry on Monday urged the chief justice of the Sindh High Court to get forest land vacated from occupation of political leaders, including lawmakers, and police officers and personnel.

Speaking at a press conference at the local press club, they said that the vigilance committees formed under sessions judges be activated in this regard.

They said that civil society representatives and journalists should be provided protection. They stated that out of 850,000 acres of forest land, 90pc had been under unlawful occupation of elected representatives, political leaders, police authorities and other influential personalities.

They said that civil society representatives and media person­nel who would highlight the issue of illegal occupation of forest lands often faced threats. They should be provided protection, they said. They said that lower cadre emplo­yees of forest depart­ment and civil society representatives had been implicated in false cases and harassment for raising their voice against the unlawful activities.

They said that only recently, a tractor driver of the department, Rehmatullah Brohi, was picked up by police at the instance of a DIG who had occupied forest land. The driver was got released by forest department officers and civil society representatives after 24 hours. They condemned that representatives of Indus Develop­ment Organisation (IDO) Bashir, Ameer Bux Khoso and others were booked in other false cases for their efforts towards the cause of conservation of Khybrani forest and they also came under attack on four occasions.

They said that a guard of forest department, Dodo Gopang, was issued threats of dire consequences for not separating himself from the team working for protection of forest land. When he did not come to the oppressors’ terms, he was attacked and critically injured. An FIR was lodged at the Saeedabad police station, they said.

They alleged that forest guard, Haji Junejo, was also booked at the behest of some persons occupying forest land in Khipro because he was part of a team that had taken action against the occupiers.

Similarly, they said, forest guard Gada Hussain Bhatti was implica­ted in a narcotics case by the Larkana police for being part of a team that had acted another occupier of forest land in Shikarpur.

Those who spoke at the press conference included IDO executive director Zain Daudpoto and Forest Workers Welfare Association president Mahmood Ghumro.

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