Forest in Chitral has always been in the news not for bad things
somehow but a range of issues. Itís the forest which makes the
district a unique one among KP area for holding endangered beings
including symbolic Markhor. The benefit of forest is not confined to
just its vast captivity but has a long history to feed some big
mouths in the valley. The forests within Chitral have also been a
huge reason of clash of interest of some influential people.
Common men played only a role of silent spectator or haplessness on
the tug of war being played among perpetrators for a long time but
when they began to sense the issue they had come to know that the
parameters have changed and the intellect behind the business has
got sophistication. Now the common man became merely tool in this
war and being used mercilessly for the interest of those who never
think of their benefit.
There are two types of benefits one can get from the forests in
Chitral. The first type is the one which comes out of the contracts
given out for cutting the wood and transportation. Obviously the job
is beyond the common man. The second one is arch royalty, associated
with the forest which does not need to be elaborated that who gets
the got-gifted wealth. Briefly in any case the common man, who even
cannot get a legal permit for his house, always walks out with
Talking about quarrel in lower Chitral we find two indigenous ethnic
groups, showing two different attitudes apparently as they claim
about their indigenous resources. Dameli group the protectionist and
Kalasha demanding repeal of bane on cutting of timber in their
Dameli group, living in the southern side, is holding protest and
press conferences in the provincial capital, Peshawar against the
deforestation justifying their move that excessive cutting of timber
forest causing heavy loss to their community. Interestingly this
group shows a blatant division in its own rank as the young folks of
the community seem to have lost their faith in their leadership.
They have also taken the issue to court accusing their elders who
lead the campaign against deforestation.
While the Kalasha fraternity has been active within Chitral saying
that forest cutting was the only source of income to their community
and restriction was tantamount to kill their golden hen. The
fascinating part of their movement is the same which is not new.
These people are led by the leaders who donít belong to their tribe.
Before forecasting about the action supposedly taken by the
provincial government in response to these varying movements one
cannot deny the importance of forests for the people in southern
Chitral. According to concerned people during the last four decades,
the huge amounts of trees were cut down and even young trees became
object. In reward locals were handed with meagre benefit and flocks
were rolled towards their original destination. Mafias arose in a
mushroom growth to convert the green hills into dry mountains within
a short span of time. They developed various ways to smuggle timber
woods from Chitral to the other part of the county. Nowadays river
is used to transport the wood from Chitral to Afghanistan.
Like the typical subjects Chitrali people never owned their
resources thanks to their own unawareness or ruthless cleverness of
their leadership which paved the way for vested interests to play
their dirty role resulting huge loss to their future generation.
Looking at the points being made by the group favouring
deforestation that the out-put will eradicate poverty in Kalasha,
one wonders that how could an entire community become so ignorant
and negligent in the hands of people who are just posing to be their
friends. Is the Kalasha tribe poorer than Dameli? Not at all. Damel
is one of the neglected areas of Chitral lacking basic needs for
life and totally relying on livestock for livelihood. Dameli youth
never thinks of selling their last wealth and invariably looks out
to down country for jobs, excelling in hotel management and others.
At the other hands Kalash valleys are of the most income generating
areas in Chitral receiving thousands of tourists every year together
with NGOs pouring funds for the betterment of life in the scenic
mountainous habitats. Frequent visits of tourists comprising local,
national and international travellers, the area has turned into
costliest market of the district where each and every item is sold
benefiting local people. Precisely speaking about the contrast of
both the areas that one can sell his mediocre sized goat for Rs.
10,000/- in Kalash area while the same animal will earn you merely
Rs. 1000/- in Damel.
But where there is devastation there must be a beacon of hope. To
ignite this optimism the Kalash youth has been cognizant of the fact
and poised to protect their culture, language, tradition and
religion, and understands the importance of forests for their future
as this is the community which gives most significance to forests in
their religion. They know that their culture will be nothing sans
The future belongs to the winners. There is no indifference on
saving the forest in Damel, and in the event the Kalasha young blood
over powers their ignorant elders, a brightened future is sure.
Together they, for the first time in their history, will defeat the
all-time-winner tribe of mafia, leadership or whatever you name it. --
Fakhruddin Akhunzada, Chitral 12