Widespread speculations suggest that the Sindh government has been trying to look for an alternative for the Pakistan Forest Institute (PFI) in Peshawar.
The institute functions as the country’s sole academy for professional training in the forestry sector. Records show that it has been involved in training forestry candidates from all provinces for bachelor’s and master’s level qualifications in forestry for decades. However, citing strict institution policies, it appears that the Sindh government is planning to look for a replacement for the academy.
As per long-established practice, the Sindh government selects required candidates for the post of Ranger Forest Officer (BPS.16) through the Sindh Public Service Commission (SPSC) examinations.
Anyone with an Intermediate level qualification is eligible to appear in the competitive examination, while candidates are selected on a stipendiary basis for a further qualification of Bachelors of Science (BSc) in forestry from the PFI. Upon graduation, the candidates would be formally appointed as Ranger Forest Officers on Grade-16 level.
The significance of the institute can be gauged from the fact that it is part of the Sindh Forest Department’s official recruitment policy. The rules issued by the department explicitly notify that all candidates possessing an Intermediate in Science (FSc) or in Agriculture, between the ages of 18 to 26 shall be eligible for selection through the Sindh Public Service Commission as stipendiary candidates for a two-year BSc forestry course at PFI, Peshawar.
In addition, the forest department itself had been mentioning a BSc at PFI in its advertisements for the recruitment of Ranger Forest Officers in the past. However, this the first time the department has not mentioned the institute’s name in its latest advertisements.
According to a source at the Sindh Forest Department, the current management has decided against sending its candidates to the PFI. “The management wants more flexible rules and disciplinary actions for its candidates, but the PFI is very strict in this regard,” the source revealed.
Speaking to The Express Tribune on conditions of anonymity, an officer of the forest department, himself a PFI alumnus, said that the institute had maintained its high standards by ensuring discipline on its campus. “They have strict rules and the programme itself is quite rigorous. In fact, I believe that out of studying at PFI and studying for the SPSC exams, the former is far more difficult,” he remarked.
The Sindh government, however, still has no alternative for the PFI in its own province. As per Tando Jam Agriculture University’s Professor Ismail Kunbhar, forestry is part of a four-year BSc in Agriculture at the university. “However, no public sector institute offers a BSc in forestry in Sindh.”
Meanwhile, according to sources at the forest department, there are certain private institutions in and outside the province that offer education in forestry. But none of them compare to the quality of education and training provided at PFI.
Addressing the concern, renowned environmentalist Nasir Panwhar shared that forestry had always been a sector of great significance. “It [forestry] became a provincial subject after the 18th Amendment. Hence, the Sindh government should take immediate steps for setting up a forestry institute at the same level as PFI in the province,” he added.
When The Express Tribune tried contacting Sindh forest secretary Abdul Rahim Soomro, he was unavailable to comment on the matter.
Originally published at : tribune