THIS is apropos of the letter ‘Sheep culling: official Australian view’(Nov 1) by Peter Heyward, the Australian High Commissioner.
The writer has rightly pointed out that the health status of the sheep was also verified by independent laboratory testing by the UK’s Pirbright Institute which even could not stop culling of the remaining 11,000 Australian sheep by the authorities of the Sindh Livestock Department.
This is the most unfortunate instance in the history of livestock export where healthy sheep were culled merely on suspicion of being diseased and unfit for human consumption.
On the one side of the coin, admittedly, during the whole unfortunate episode till the culling of 21,268 sheep, the incompetency at all levels of the livestock department concerned, as well as of laboratories, came to the surface as no concrete evidence was produced by the authorities before the Sindh High Court, the media and the people that the imported sheep were, in fact, diseased and infected.
But, on the other side of the coin, the missing link on the part of the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry (DAFF) of Australia, M/s Willard Rural (exporter), and PK Livestock and Meat Co (importer) also need to be reviewed as none of theme on 22.8.2012 at the time of seeking NOC from Ministry of National Food Security and Research (NFSR) had disclosed that the NOC is required for the sheep already deport for Bahrain on Aug 4 from La Bergerie Pre - Export Quarantine and Assembly Depot, Australia, through Ocean Drover Vessel, but was not allowed berth after the Bahrain officials found the scabby mouth disease in the sheep and required to be diverted to Karachi to avoid delays at sea and for sheep welfare reasons.
Instead of returning to Australia, the vessel sailed to its unscheduled destination, Port Qasim in Karachi, where the sheep were unloaded and handed over to importer, though on paper the sheep were provisionally released to the quarantine station on the Superhighway.
This is also worthwhile to mention that the NOC issued on Aug 24 by the Ministry of NFSR, Islamabad, clearly restricted that the sheep shall be deported direct from the Australian quarantine and inspection service approved premises and within 72 hours before export showing no clinical signs of contagious or infectious disease.
This vital missing link that caused the entire saga of ‘imported sheep’ confused the government functionaries and even millions of Pakistanis during September and October and finally led to the culling of 21,268 sheep. Of course, all that which happened is disappointing. However, instead of defending the lapses, it is time steps were taken to ensure that in future no such incident occurred.
Now as this issue is in the hands of the FIA, which has been given the task to investigate all the events and hopefully all responsible for creating an embarrassment within the country and abroad shall be taken into task.
DR ALAMDAR HUSSAIN MALIK Deputy Financial Adviser/Deputy Secretary Finance Division Pakistan Secretariat Islamabad