Viral video of mob uprooting saplings falsely deemed as religiously motivated

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Claim: An angry mob motivated by religion and ignorance uprooted freshly planted saplings in Mandi Kas.

Fact: A mob uprooted fresh saplings because the plantation drive was carried out by the government without permission from both parties involved in a dispute over that land.

On July 28, Prime Minister Imran Khan announced that the federal government will celebrate ‘Tiger Force Day’ on August 9. To commemorate the day, a tree plantation drive was held across Pakistan. As per the Prime Minister’s announcement this campaign was led by the Tiger Force, who he says have already planted 1 million trees across the country. Furthermore, the drive was supposed to be a part of the ‘Billion Tree Tsunami’ program; an afforestation drive launched by Prime Minister Imran Khan as a response to global warming.

On August 9, a video went viral on social media, showing a number of young men and boys in the region of Mandi Kas in the Bara area of Khyber Agency protesting and uprooting saplings that were freshly planted by the Forest Department. This video was uploaded to Facebook by the official page of the Corona Relief Tiger Force, condemning the act of removing newly planted trees and calling those who were involved in the activity ‘a hindrance to the country’s success’. Another post, deeming the protestors ‘ignorant’ can be found here. Soon after, the incident acquired a communal streak when a right-wing Indian-based author Renee Lynn posted a tweet claiming that locals were uprooting trees in Pakistan because they considered tree plantation un-Islamic. This tweet has gained 15K retweets and 21K likes as of August 17. Another post on Indian social media claimed that ‘namazi’ [Muslim] people were against the plantation because it goes against their faith.

Soch Fact Check found these claims to be false. According to an article by the Tribal News Network, the protest erupted because the plantation campaign was carried out on disputed land and locals were not taken into confidence before it had begun. The participants of the protests claimed that ownership of that land was disputed between two tribes called the Sepah and Malikdinkhel, and carrying out a plantation campaign without the approval of both parties amounts to usurpation.The Deputy Commissioner Khyber Mahmood Aslam said also stated that there was a dispute between two tribes over land, and permission was taken from only one tribe to carry out the drive.

PTI MNA Iqbal Afridi admitted to The News, PTI MNA Iqbal Afridi that the plantation campaign had been carried out on private property. He was further reported to have said that the locals were “angry over the unauthorised tree plantation campaign” and that the government was trying to negotiate with them.

The Tribal News Network reported that negotiations were held with elders of the area by the district administration later in the day after which they agreed to plant saplings on the disputed land. A tweet in response to right-wing author Renee Lynn stated that the dispute was over and that those who uprooted the saplings had apologised and were involved in re-planting the trees.

Research Associate: Ammar Zardari 

Summary: Fresh saplings planted by the Tiger Force were uprooted by a mob because the plantation drive was carried out by the government without permission from both parties involved in a dispute over that land. The mob was not motivated by religion. 

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