[Chitral Anti-Deforestation Protests] Curfew imposed in Ayun Valley, dozens arrested, one feared dead

Gul Hamaad Farooqi/Chitral News/Chitral Times 

CHITRAL, December 26: The district administration reacted with violence in order to disperse angry protesters in Ayun Valley, who had come on the roads to protest chopping down of forests. There are reports that one of the protesters was killed while many more were injured. The police has arrested several dozens of people imposed a curfewin the valley.

According to details, residents of Ayun Valley had arranged a protest demo against cutting down of forest in the valley. The protesters were chanting slogans against the the timber mafia for destroying the forests and supplying Deodar wood outside the region. According to some sources the protesters also tried to forcefully transfer a “Forest Check Post” out of the village.

The local administration reacted very strongly, as the protesters were tear-gassed and baton charged mercilessly. Local people informed that several protesters were injured as a result of the police violence. They also accused the local administration of opening aerial firing to disperse the ‘peaceful protesters’. Chitral News reports the death of one person.

Former Nazim off Ayun Union Council, Rahmat Elahi, told this scribe on telephone that they have been besieged and confined inside their houses. He said that the resident of Ayun had time and again requested the forest department and local administration to stop marking of further forest areas for cutting and instead distribute trunks destroyed by snowfall and wind among the local people at a feasible rate. He further said that the residnets of Ayun want to sell their firewood on equal rates across Chitral. He accused the ‘timber mafia’ of constantly chopping down trees and selling, instead of allowing the local communities to take benefit.

He further said that the protest demonstration was peaceful and they wanted to register a complaint to the authorities, who resorted to violence and baton-charged the people. He said that around one dozen of people have been injured due to indiscriminate shelling and baton-charge by the police.

Later, the local administration imposed a curfew in Ayun village and the residents were barred from coming outside their houses. School going children, women and elderly were facing a lot of difficulties, the former Union Council Nazim told this scribe.

An elder of Ayun told this scribe on phone that while the local people were required to get permits from the authorities for getting wood, some influential people were free to chop trees and supply the timber across KPK.

It is pertinent to note that due to massive cutting down of trees in the Ayun and Kalash Valleys has led to deforestation, as a result of which the region has been facing an increase in the frequency of natural disasters. The local people have demanded that the merciless chopping of trees should be ended by the government.

An official of the local administration denied the allegations levelled by the people of Ayun. He, instead, said that the protesters had blocked a road that connects to the Kalash valley and were not ready to open the road. He maintained that the administration was forced to react and the curfew has been imposed to stop further deterioration of the law and order situation.

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