KARACHI: The federal government has issued at least 29 special permits to royal family members of the Gulf states — the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar and the Kingdom of Bahrain — for hunting the internationally protected houbara bustard in Pakistan, it emerged on Saturday.
Pakistan is a signatory to various international nature conservation agreements that call for protection of rare species and national laws also ban houbara bustard hunting, yet special permits are issued to foreigners in violation of local laws and international commitments.
Sources said the government went back on the commitment it made last year that “Pakistan will observe a moratorium on hunting during the 2014-15 season to replenish houbara bustard stocks”.
The permit holders had even been informed about it. But after the approval of prime minister Nawaz Sharif, deputy chief of protocol of the foreign office Muazzam Ali issued the permits for the year 2014-15 on Nov 1, 2014.
The sources said that at least one president, one king, one Emir and one ruler besides two crown princes, the father and an uncle of country heads concerned are among those allowed to hunt the internationally protected houbara bustard, meat of which is considered to have aphrodisiac qualities.
The dignitary who has been given the largest area in the three provinces — Sindh, Punjab and Balochistan — is UAE president and Abu Dhabi ruler Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al-Nahyan. As many as 11 permits — the largest number of permits issued to a Gulf state — have been given to members of Qatar’s royal family.
This is the first time that an area in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa has been allocated for houbara hunting.
The federal government has not sent a code of conduct — which mentions number of birds to be hunted, hunting method, whether permit is person specific or not — to provincial wildlife departments, giving a free hand to the Arab sheikhs to hunt as many birds as they can.
The move is perhaps aimed at avoiding an embarrassing situation like the one that happened last year when a Balochistan wildlife department report that Saudi prince Fahd had hunted 2,100 houbara bustards, violating the bag limit of 100 birds, created an international uproar after it had been highlighted in the media.
The countries and the names of hunters to whom the special permits have been issued are:
Crown prince Salman bin Abdul Aziz Al-Saud has been allocated districts Dera Bugti, Dera Murad Jamali, Nasirabad; and Jaffarabad and Duki areas in Loralai district in Balochistan. In Punjab, he has been allowed to hunt in Vehari, Multan (tehsil Shujaabad), Mianwali and Sargodha districts.
Governor of Tabuk Prince Fahd bin Sultan bin Abdul Aziz Al-Saud, has been given Awaran and Noshki districts (less Noshki city), Chaghai district (excluding area in the northwest corner of Balochistan located in district Chaghai).
UAE President and Abu Dhabi ruler Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al-Nahyan has been given Sukkur, Ghotki, Nawabshah and Sanghar districts in Sindh; Rahim Yar Khan, Rajanpur, Dera Ghazi Khan and Chakwal districts in Punjab; and Zhob, Ormara, Pasni, Gawadar, Kharan (excluding Naag Dara breeding area), Panjgur and Washuk districts in Balochistan.
Deputy supreme commander of the UAE armed forces and crown prince of Abu Dhabi Gen Sheikh Mohammad bin Zayed Al-Nahyan has been given Lehri tehsil in Sibi district (Domki area only).
Deputy prime minister of the UAE Sheikh Sultan bin Zayed Al-Nahyan has been given Khairpur district including Kot Diji (not across Nara Canal).
Ruler’s representative in the western region Sheikh Hamdan bin Zayed Al-Nahyan has been given Khairpur Nathanshah tehsil in Dadu district, Gaibi Dero in Larkana, Shahdad Kot district, Khairpur (area across Nara canal), Juhi tehsil and Fareedabad union council in Dadu district. Lehri tehsil of Sibi district (minus Domki area) and Old Katchi and Sani Shoran area in Bolan district in Balochistan.
A member of the ruling family, Sheikh Sultan bin Khalifa bin Zayed Al-Nahyan, has been given Qila Saifullah district including Kar Khurassan (less sub-division Muslim Bagh).
Vice president and prime minister of the UAE and Dubai ruler Sheikh Mohammad bin Rashid Al-Maktoum has been allocated Muzaffargarh district in Punjab; and Khuzdar and Lasbella districts and area in the northwest of Balochistan located in Chaghai district.
Deputy ruler of Dubai and finance minister Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid Al-Maktoum has been given Bahawalpur district and Fort Abbas tehsil of Bahawalnagar district in Punjab.
Deputy chief of police and general security Dubai and member of the ruling family Maj Gen Sheikh Ahmed bin Rashid Al-Maktoum has been given Umerkot district, Tharparkar district including Mithi and Nagarparkar (minus protected area) in Sindh.
A member of the ruling family, Sheikh Rashid bin Khalifa Al-Maktoum, has been allowed to hunt in Badin district, Jungshahi in Thatta district and Dhabeji in Malir district in Sindh.
Nasir Abdullah Lootah, an employee of the Dubai government, has been given Thatta district excluding Shah Bander and Jung Shahi tehsils in Sindh.
King of Bahrain Sheikh Hamad bin Isa bin Salman Al-Khalifa has been allowed to hunt birds in Jamshoro district (Thano Bula Khan, Kotri, Manjhand and Sehwan tehsils).
An uncle of the king, Sheikh Ebrahim bin Hamad bin Abdullah Al-Khalifa, has been given Mastung in Balochistan.
The king’s adviser on defence affairs Sheikh Abdullah bin Salman Al-Khalifa has been given Jati tehsil of Thatta district in Sindh.
Commander in chief of defence forces of Bahrain Marshal Sheikh Khalifa bin Ahmed Al-Khalifa has been given Toisar tehsil of Musakhel district in Balochistan.
A member of the ruling family, Sheikh Ahmed bin Ali Al-Khalifa, has been given Hyderabad district along with Matiari in Sindh. A member of the ruling family, Sheikh Mohammad bin Hamad Al-Khalifa, has been given Malir district excluding Malir cantonment and Dhabeji areas.
Emir of Qatar Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani has been given Jacobabad district in Sindh and Khushab district in Punjab.
His father, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Thani, has been allowed to hunt the protected houbara bustard in Bahawalnagar district excluding Fort Abbas tehsil in Punjab.
A brother of the Qatar Emir, Sheikh Jassim bin Hamad Al-Thani, has been given Musakhal and Drug tehsils of Musakhel district in Balochistan.
An uncle of the Qatar Emir, Sheikh Mohammad bin Khalifa Al-Thani, has been given Loralai district (less Duki area) in Balochistan.
Former prime minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim bin Jabr Al-Thani has been given Bhakkar and Jhang districts in Punjab.
Former prime minister’s brother Sheikh Falah bin Jassim bin Jabor Al-Thani has been given Jhal Magsi district in Balochistan.
A member of the supreme council of the royal family, Sheikh Ali bin Abdullah Al-Thani, has been given Turbat district in Balochistan.
Other royal family members Sheikh Khalid bin Thani Al-Thani has been given Layyah district in Punjab and Dadu city in Sindh; Sheikh Thani bin Abdul Aziz Al-Thani has been given Surab tehsil and Kalat district in Balochistan; Sheikh Mohammad bin Ali bin Abdullah Al-Thani has been given Kingri tehsil of Musakhel district and Barkhan district in Balochistan; and Sheikh Abdullah bin Ali Al-Thani has been given Dera Ismail Khan district in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
Published in Dawn, November 16th, 2014