Up to 500 people, armed with AK-47 assault rifles, will form a ‘forest force’ to crack down on illegal logging by the timber mafia in Pakistan.

   The NWFP Forest Department is currently drawing up regulations to cut down on illegal cutting and smuggling of trees. The first phase will be the creation of the forest force, who will also be armed with communication tools and other equipment.

   The rifles had previously been confiscated by the police department in various encounters and recovered from smugglers.

   The force is expected to be strengthened in time, particularly as the NWFP Forest Department estimates that about 3,000 men are needed to properly manage the area.

   Chief conservator Ghazi Merjan said the new force was likely to be raised in the next three months as the government had agreed resources for the plan.