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KARACHI: The federal government has issued a number of special permits to hunt the internationally protected migratory bird houbara bustard in Punjab during the hunting season 2016-17, according to sources.

They said that Qatari prince Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim bin Jaber Al-Thani is among those in whose name the permits have been issued.

According to the sources, this is not the first time that a special hunting permit has been issued to the Qatari prince.

The prince has lately been in the news following the submission of his letter in the Supreme Court in connection with the Panamagate case.

In his letter he has described his father’s business relations with the family of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and his involvement in the London apartments that are at the centre of the Panama Papers controversy.

Qatari prince among those given special permits

The houbara bustard is not only protected under various international conventions and agreements signed by the country but its hunting is also banned under the local wildlife protection laws. Pakistanis are not allowed to hunt it but it is much sought after by Arab hunters.

According to the sources, the areas allocated for hunting to Prince Hamad are Punjab’s Bhakkar and Jhang districts. He has been allowed to hunt down 100 birds during a 10-day period.

The permit was sent to the prince through Qatar’s diplomatic mission in Islamabad.

The letter sent to the Qatari embassy (DCP (P&I)-19/6/2016-17 Allocation) says: “The ministry of foreign affairs of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan... has the honour to state that the Government of Pakistan has conveyed its recommendation to the authorities concerned in the province for the allocation of following areas — Bhakkar and Jhang districts in Punjab province — to Prince Hamad bin Jassim bin Jaber Al-Thani, former prime minister of Qatar, for hunting of houbara bustard for the season 2016-17.”

The code of conduct for hunting — sent along with the foreign ministry’s letter — said the three-month hunting season began on Nov 1 and would conclude on Jan 31, 2017.

The sources said that copies of the hunting permit had been sent to various government officers, including Umeed Khalid, the conservator for wildlife, Climate Change Division, Building No 144, F-8 Markaz, Islamabad, for information and appropriate action.

Published in Dawn November 20th, 2016