PM Imran Khan has said I want to start with a quote from Holy Prophet (PBUH), He made protecting the environment a spiritual duty. He said that live for the next world as if you’ll die tomorrow (so you have to do best deed) but for this world, live as if you will live for a thousand years.” So whatever you do today, you must understand the impact it will have on future generations. My love for environment started when I was in school. Our summer was spent in near Islamabad or in the foothills of Himalaya and winter was spent, most of the time, shooting partrage in various parts of Pakistan. So I was one of those fortunate Pakistanis who saw the diversity of the country, from east to west, north to south, it is a very diverse country. We have 12 ecological zones in Pakistan. So you have from alpine to tropical, from desert to Himalayan Forests. The Himalayan are probably rare in the world, you do not see forests like these. North from Islamabad, you see a 100 mile radius of forest, you don’t see this anywhere in the world because the height and monsoon hitting the forest hitting at that height. The ecology, the wildlife, the birdlife, you don’t see this anywhere else. But most Pakistanis never saw this. Most of people I grew up with, lived in cities and stayed in cities. They really didn’t understand the beauty of Pakistan.
Then I got involved in Professional sports so I was cut off for a while but when I wrote this book, 30 years back. It was when I cut down on my cricket and went back to the areas which are my favorite places in the whole world. I began to realize the disaster was taking place in Pakistan. When I was born, the population of Pakistan was just under 40 million. Today it’s 220 million so we could see, as the caption in the book “the dwindling wildlife and forests in Pakistan’ because when I went back after school and in this big period when I was playing professional sports, When I again went to the mountain & norther areas, that’s when I realized the devastation that has been caused by this population growth also no concern at all by our government for the environment in Pakistan. I repeat, the reason was all of the division makers were from cities and they did not really know what was happening outside the cities. So I pledge that whenever I will come to power, this will become my priority that we must protect this God given beauty.
I still think people in Pakistan still don’t understand the beauty and diversity of this country as most of them live in cities and don’t go out of cities. And I mean influential people, opinion and dicision makers. The people who live in cities don’t go out of cities. So we when our government came to power in Khayber Pakhtunkhaw in 2013, we started this billion tree tsunami and that was the first time when any govt did anything for the environment in Pakistan. People were skeptical, no one it would happen but we had a very dedicated team, passionate people. The magic formula of success, we involved local communities, young people and women, that’s the formula, when people living in those areas become stakeholders and when they see the benefits of protecting the environment,
When we won general election, we have this very ambitious plan of 10 billion tress. 10 billion trees means involving the whole country specially the young people. The first year has been just planning it. Our first year was basically of getting the infrastructure, nurseries, people involved and then start the plantation. So this year is the year when we will start a massive campaign all over Pakistan.
What is important, and I am talking about Pakistan of course, IUNC talks about Asia and whole world but our main concern is to make Pakistan a model. A country where we had no check on timber mafia. When we started the conservation plan of one billion trees in Kp, the biggest challenge was timber mafia. 10 of our forest guards were shot, killed by timber Mafia. In past, this timber mafia was protected by Politicians. So we managed to tackle the timber mafia and then succeed in the project. Now again, we hope to create enough awareness among our young people. The big advantage, if we can convert this into an advantage, is our young population. 60% of Pakistanis are below the age of 30 and we we find that when you inspire the young people. And actually all over the world it’s the young people who eventually will drive this movement to protect the environment.
I was reading a newspaper this morning and learned that US is pulling out from Paris accord which is a big shame because this constant battle between the material and the spiritual. Spiritual basically means the selflessness where you think of humanity. Now what matter is whatever make hay where the sun shines, opposite of what the Prophet said. What we hope to do is to inspire our youth, put it in the syllabus of children now that it is important to protect their environment for their future. We have already started another campaign. Our cities were just spreading rather than going up, they were eating up all green areas. Islamabad, if not checked, it would have gone all the way up in the mountains. So now we have started to plan to restricts cities and make the cities to go up and make people conscious. Previously, there was no concept of worrying about the Environment. Waste disposal, cleaning up our rivers, cleaning up air pollution. What we are seeing in New Dehli is frightening. I remember going to India in the 70s. Dehli was one of the cleanest cities and wow when I see watching on the TV what is happening there. Similar thing is happening in Lahore. Lahore is one of the most polluted cities.