Local elder allowed to become party in houbara bustard case

Published August 12, 2015
The elder is said to be of the view that by permitting foreign dignitaries to hunt the bird brought prosperity, welfare.—AP/File
The elder is said to be of the view that by permitting foreign dignitaries to hunt the bird brought prosperity, welfare.—AP/File

ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court (SC) allowed an elder from Balochistan on Tuesday to become a party in a case relating to hunting the endangered houbara bustard. The elder is said to be of the view that by permitting foreign dignitaries to hunt the bird brought prosperity and welfare not only to the people, but also the province.

“The dignitaries who come to hunt the bird have not only established certain projects but are also paying Rs10 million for hunting 50 birds in season,” said petitioner Attaur Rehman through his counsel advocate Adnan Bhasharatullah, adding that the province earned approximately Rs2 billion every hunting season.

A three-judge Supreme Court bench headed by Justice Jawwad S. Khawaja was hearing a petition moved by advocate Raja Mohammad Farooq on behalf of Aamir Zahoorul Haq. They are urging the SC to order the constitution of an independent commission to look into the extreme apathy, inactivity and deliberate skipping of the statutory duty devolved upon the federal and provincial governments in allowing permits and licences to dignitaries which were often misused and violated. As a result, they believe birds like the endangered houbara bustard might become extinct.

Take a look: BHC orders protection of the houbara bustard

At the last hearing on July 29, the apex court said that it appeared that the federal government prima facie had no authority to issue permission to foreign dignitaries for hunting the houbara bustard in the four provinces.

The petition filed by Mr Rehman is in fact an appeal against the Nov 27, 2014 verdict of the Balochistan High Court (BHC) in which the high court held as illegal the decision of the foreign office to allocate certain areas in Balochistan for the 2014 hunting season.

The allocated areas in Balochistan are District Zhob, Ormara and Pasni of district Gwadar, Kharan (excluding Nag Dera breeding area), Panjgur, Washuk, Khuzdar, Lasbela, Lehri tehsil of district Sibi, Old Katchi and Sani Shoram of district Bolan and district Qila Saifullah, including Kar Khurasan.

The high court had also ordered the provincial government to perform its duties and ensure protection, preservation and conservation of the endangered species. The BHC also observed that issuing licences to foreigners for hunting the endangered species amounted to compromising the country’s security of environment.

Through the new petition, Mr Rehman is trying to portray a different picture by highlighting that treaties on the subject relied upon by the high court were misinterpreted. The petitioner argued that hunting the houbara bustard was a traditional sport practised for centuries by foreign dignitaries as well as locals.

The petition highlighted that by not allowing the dignitaries to hunt the bird, a large number of welfare projects aimed at upgrading the lives of the locals might be shut down.These include 26 hospitals, healthcare units and dispensaries, 26 housing projects, 22 schools and colleges, 32 water supply projects, 41 tube wells, open wells, windmills, reservoir and canals, 43 mosques, 16 projects for preserving the environment and wildlife, four Islamic cultural centres and five projects to provide electricity to villages and towns.

The petition stated that the high court’s judgment was contrary to the facts, law and equity and, therefore, should be set aside. The case will be heard again on Wednesday (today).

Published in Dawn, August 12th, 2015

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