Forest department in Pakistan needs structural reforms

Zain Raza Baloch

Forests are important because they create oxygen and are home to many animals, birds and other countless species. They also preserve the biodiversity. They provide ecosystem services that are critical to human welfare such as absorbing harmful greenhouse gases, providing clean drinking water, protecting watersheds and reducing or slowing erosion.

The nations understand the worth of tree cover and thus, have been preserving their national forests through their respective Forests departments. The rank and file of these departments are tasked to strictly execute rules regarding the protection of tree cover, besides working for afforestation. Hence, Forest Services of any state play an important role in increasing the area covered by forests.  Let’s take a deep-dive into the Forest Services of different countries.

  1. India

The Indian Forest Services (IFS) is one of the three All India Services along with Indian Administrative Service (IAS) and Indian Police Services (IPS). The main mandate of IFS service is the implementation of the National Forest Policy which aims to ensure environmental stability and maintenance of ecological balance. An IFS officer is largely independent of district administration and exercises administrative, judicial and financial powers in their own domain. All top positions in the state forest department are held by IFS officers.

Nearly 23 percent of India’s land is controlled by IFS officers. An IFS officer has a “quasi-judicial” responsibility. He acts as a collector and holds court as well. Under Wildlife Protection Act and Indian Forest Act, they can register FIR for the offences related to forest and wildlife.

The scope and importance of the IFS can be judged from the provision, which says that IFS Officer can be deputed to Indian Administrative Service (IAS). This shows how IFS officers are administratively efficient and smart.     

  1. Bangladesh

 Forest department in Bangladesh is headed by Chief Conservator of Forests. Then, there is a hierarchy of wings such as Forest Management Wing, Social Wing, Training Wing; all these are headed by Deputy Chief Conservator of Forests. The most important is Legal Wing that is responsible for legal matters associated with forest land and law enforcement.   

  1. The United States

The department head seat is at Washington DC and is purely responsible for enforcement of federal laws and regulations governing forest land. It comes under United States Department of Agriculture and is divided into two branches:

(a) Law enforcement which is responsible for enforcement of laws related to forests.

(b) Investigations; there are Special Agents who investigated crime against visitors, employees.

  1. Forest Department in Pakistan

It is very disappointing that, in Pakistan, forest department has never been prioritized by lawmakers. Political leaders neither mention forest-related plans in their respective manifestoes nor do they discuss issues related to it during assembly sessions.

In Pakistan, forestry is a provincial subject unlike India, Bangladesh and USA, where forests service is a central subject.


There are different issues faced by the Forests Department.

Firstly, the department has no legal wing and the officers have no “quasi-judicial” powers.  Many times, other departments allot forest land(s) , by forgery, to their blue-eyed persons, darling officers and even to themselves. When forest officers file cases in the competent court of law through public prosecutors, they usually fail to achieve the objectives. It is an admitted fact and an unfortunate reality that without a dedicated legal wing and depending only on public prosecutor such results are obvious.

In most countries, forest officers have their “service gun/weapon” owing to the nature of the job. But, the forest officers in Pakistan have no such legal provision. They are dependent on local police, if by chance, they conduct operations (anti-encroachment) in forests.Pic_2

Forest department is the only department with huge land of its own. The harsh reality is most of the officers (Divisional Forest Officers & Range Forest Offices) have no government vehicle. In some cases, the Range Forest Officers have two-wheeler motorcycles. On the contrary, Indian Forest Service Officers have 4×4 vehicle (Mahindra Scorpion Jeep).

In each forest, there is a “block” which is an area of about 10,000 acres. These blocks are monitored by three or four guards (Foresters). How it is possible for few guards to look after such huge area without any weapon?  Resultantly, money-minters and the influential cut the trees, and it ultimately leads to deforestation.  

No concrete efforts have been made to increase the forest cover in Pakistan. Some reports even suggest that natural forest cover has reduced from 3.59 million hectares to 3.32 million hectares. On the contrary, in July 2020, Global Forest Resource Assessment Report ranked India 3rd among the top 10 countries that have gained in forest area –India has increased 5,188 sq km of Forest Cover.           

Forests formally contribute 1.7 percent and 2.32 percent in GDP of India and Bangladesh, respectively. They contribute only 0.43 percent in Pakistan. 

On account of all these assertions, it is necessary to bring about structural changes in forest department. It is true that “Where there is a will, there is a way”, hence sincere political will is needed to deal with the issues related to the department. Proper legislation is required for reformation of the department and for this, sincere, truly and capable political leadership is like a sine qua non.030a7bd2-b546-46b1-b109-47942c9d893f-TimberSale_07242019_094

Like Pakistan Administrative Service (PAS) and Police Service of Pakistan (PSP), induction of forest officers should be made through Central Superior Services (CSS) examination. Moreover, since forest department is a technical department, all posts should be reserved for forest officers, including that of the Secretary.

Moreover, forest department shall me made a federal subject and declared as “Force”. Adding more to it, a separate survey wing should be constituted for proper conduct of forest land survey.  

Last but not least, a separate legal wing and dedicated forest courts should be constituted to deal with the legal issues.

The author is a law graduate and researcher on international relations and Pakistan’s strategic culture.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.