Deforestation is a global environment concern, but the underlying processes vary across regions and countries. In Pakistan the threat to forests and biodiversity does not come primarily from local farmers, but from unsustainable commercial logging. Employing an actor-oriented approach, the paper focuses on private timber merchants (forest contractors) acting as intermediaries between the provincial bureaucracy and local forest owners. Loopholes in the forest legislation, combined with weaknesses in the organization of forest harvesting, have enabled contractors to prosper. Forest contractors have detailed knowledge of weaknesses in the forest legislation and know the sentiments, needs and demands of local people. By combining such insights contractors turn their middleman position into a profitable enterprise, thereby contributing to increased pressure on remaining forest resources.