Kavaan at his enclosure in Marghazar Zoo. — Online
Kavaan at his enclosure in Marghazar Zoo. — Online

ISLAMABAD: A parliamentary committee on Monday expressed dissatisfaction over CDA’s handling of Kavaan, the lone elephant in the Marghazar Zoo, and recommended the animal’s repatriation to an international sanctuary.

Kavaan remained chained for years and was unchained last year after protest demonstrations by animal lovers across the world and on the intervention of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. Recently, music icon Cher also showed concerns over the condition of the 32-year-old captive Asian elephant.

The Senate standing committee on cabinet secretariat, which met at Parliament Lodges with Senator Talha Mehmood in the chair, said the Capital Development Authority (CDA) should shift the elephant to an international sanctuary. The committee also came down hard on the CDA for the poor condition of the zoo. The members recommend to the civic agency to explore opportunities to add a pair of young elephants to the zoo in place of Kavaan.

MQM Senator Syed Tahir Hussain Mashhadi said Kavaan was forced to live in a difficult condition and because of its captivity in a small shabby structure animal rights defenders around the world had been criticising the zoo administration. He said Myanmar was ready to repatriate the elephant at its own expenses.

Senate body says CDA should arrange pair of young elephants for Marghazar Zoo

He said after the death of Saheli, the partner of Kavaan, in 2012 due to the alleged negligence of the zoo staff, life became harder for Kavaan.

His views were seconded by Senators Khushbakht Shujaat, Kalsoom Parveen, Samina Abid and Yousuf Badini.

Mr Badini said the CDA should repatriate the elephant to a sanctuary and bring a pair of young elephants. His suggestion was supported by the committee chairman.

During the meeting, Advocate Anis Jillani and animal rights defenders Sunny Jamil and Faryal Gohar, who have been running a campaign for the last one year to press the CDA to send Kavaan to an animal sanctuary, requested the senators to pass an order in this regard.

Presenting CDA’s viewpoint, member environment Sanaullah Aman said the authority had no objection to the repatriation of the elephant to any international animal sanctuary if veterinary doctors suggested so.

The official said as per CDA reports the elephant was fully fit and efforts were being made to bring a female partner for it.

“We are also planning to expand the existing enclosure towards Margalla Hills to facilitate the elephant,” he said.

After hearing the member environment, the committee chairman said: “The elephant should be repatriated.” But Minister of State for Capital Administration and Development Division (CADD) Dr Tariq Fazal Chaudhry opposed the ruling of the chairman.

“Are you recommending the repatriation of the elephant to an international sanctuary on the basis of comments and observations made by the committee members,” he asked. In reply, the chairman said the recommendation had come from Senator Mashhadi and others.

“Senator Mashhadi is a member of the MQM and does not know anything about animals,” the minister remarked.

However, Senator Khushbakht Shujaat of the MQM intervened and referring to the prime minister’s treatment in the UK said: “If human being can go abroad for medical treatment why not an elephant.”

The minister, however, said the civic agency was going to expand the zoo from its existing 25 acres to over 70 acres with addition of a number of new animals.

Issues at Pims and Polyclinic

The committee also discussed healthcare issues at Pims and Polyclinic and expressed its displeasure over the administrations of both the hospitals. The chairman of the committee said despite the presence of five officers of grade 20 at the Polyclinic, an officer of grade 19, who was facing an inquiry, had been appointed as the executive director of the hospital. “Blood is being sold in the hospital whereas young doctors get house jobs after paying bribes,” he said.

Senator Chaudhry Tanveer Khan expressed concerns over the lack of cleanliness at Pims. He said the chiller plant of the hospital was not functional while kittens were seen in the duct of the cooling system in the VIP rooms.

But the minister for CADD said a number of initiatives were being taken to improve the healthcare facilities in the hospitals.

Published in Dawn, July 26th, 2016