Saving the houbara

Published August 21, 2015

THE Supreme Court’s decision to ban hunting of the houbara bustard is the right step which should ideally have come much earlier, and without opposition from any quarters in the country.

In a ruling on Wednesday the court cancelled all hunting permits, fulfilling a long-voiced demand that has been calling for saving the bird whose numbers have by some recent counts decreased to less than 100,000 globally.

The endangered species was left without protection and at the mercy of visiting royalty from the Gulf states in defiance of good sense and knowledge.

Also read: SC upholds petition seeking ban on houbara hunting, issuance of permits, licences

Some, like the Balochistan government and an individual petitioner, still felt the need to oppose a ban on hunting the houbara.

However, in a way these anti-prohibition petitions that the top court in Pakistan dismissed were not without a purpose: they brought into sharp focus the cheap interests that often hold sway and helped set an example about how not everything can be dictated by ready money and patronage.

The ruling has come, and hopefully this time it is going to be accepted in spirit and essence by the authorities all over Pakistan.

Similar directions set by courts earlier, like a ruling by the Balochistan High Court earlier this year, have been countered by arguments stressing upon the need to please the friends, at legal and other forums.

The governments, federal and provincial, would be better advised to work towards evolving a code that aims to save the endangered species. They would be doing everyone and themselves a favour by ridding themselves of the mindset that compels them to robotically bow to the wishes of their esteemed guests.

There is a difference between hospitality and appeasement, and even if such a task is to be pursued, it is not these birds that should be paying for it – in the process risking extinction. If self-esteem is not a big enough motivator to be in control of their own resources, it is nature which demands that governments here behave much more responsibly.

Published in Dawn, August 21st, 2015

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