Published On: Thu, Jan 22nd, 2015

WWF-Pakistan concerned over chief conservator forests Sindh’s arrest

PRESS RELEASE
KARACHI

WWF-Pakistan has shown concerns over the recent arrest of Chief Conservator Forests (CCF) Sindh, Riaz Ahmed Wagan who was taken in custody by Anti-corruption police Karachi on 15 January. During his two years tenure as CCF, he had been under immense pressure by the few powerful individuals for two reasons – firstly he was forced to cancel previously leased forestlands and transfer them in their favour and secondly not to comply with Sindh High Court orders to retrieve 80 thousand acres forestlands illegally leased to influential people. He has proven himself a devoted officer who has always strived to recover forestlands across the province and during the last six months has retrieved 15 thousand acres of forestlands. It has been observed that during his tenure cases of illegal forestlands leases have reduced largely. Therefore, his arrest triggered widespread protests across Sindh.

According to WWF-Pakistan’s press statement, Mr. Wagan has worked with great dedication and utmost candour for environmental conservation in general and forest protection in particular. Earlier, some other officers were also removed from this post for not meeting similar demands.

Commenting on his arrest, Rab Nawaz, Director WWF-Pakistan said that grabbing of forest land has been on rise in Sindh and many powerful individuals are involved in those grabs. He said that it is likely the Mr. Wagan is wrongly implicated in the case because he had always worked for the recovery of forest land and progress of his department. Mr. Wagan, with his upstanding personality is looked upon as role model who has been perturbed over deforestation in Sindh. He further said that ‘His arrest seems an unjust which would ultimately damage the cause of forest conservation in the province, he added.

While, Altaf Hussain, Manager Conservation Sindh, WWF-Pakistan said that there are multiple threats to forests in Sindh and the major among them is the pressure on department officials to covert forest cover to agriculture lands or use it for other purposes. He said that if any officer resists such pressures then he or she is removed from his position. He further said that though Mr. Wagan is released on bail but such cases should not be repeated in future.

WWF-Pakistan has also requested the authorities an independent inquiry into this matter.

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