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LAHORE: The Lahore High Court on Thursday put an interim ban on hunting of internationality protec-ted houbara bustards by permit holders from Gulf region and directed the federal government to submit names of the permit holders.

Justice Syed Mansoor Ali Shah passed the order on petitions challenging hunting of the bird and hunting licences issued to dignitaries of Gulf states.

The petitioners submitted that 33 permits/licences had been issued by the federal government to dignitaries of five countries of Gulf region to hunt houbara bustards during the hunting season 2013-14.

They said the permits could not be issued by the government and were in violation of Punjab Wildlife (Protection, Preservation, Conservation and Management) (Amendment) Act, 2007.

They pointed out that according to an IUCN report, Pakistan is one of the 16 countries that are breeding places for houbara bustards.

Therefore, they said, hunting of the bird could not be allowed under the law.

An additional attorney general submitted that according to a newspaper clipping the government was observing moratorium on hunting of houbara bustards during the hunting season 2014-15.

However, the judge noted the press clipping reflected that the permits had been issued for the hunting season 2013-14.

The judge observed that no provision of law had been cited by the law officer to show that concession could be granted to foreign dignitaries to hunt the birds.

The issuance of permits to foreign dignitaries prima facie appeared to be without lawful authority, Justice Shah remarked.

After hearing both sides, the judge directed the government to ensure that permit holders were restrained from hunting houbara bustards in Punjab till next hearing of the case.

The law officer was also directed to place on record the names of all the 33 permit holders before the next date.

The judge directed the foreign affairs secretary to issue notices to all the 33 permit holders to arrange for representation in the case on Feb 10, next date of hearing.