KARACHI: The federal government will be in for a bit of embarrassment when the Qatari royals go to hunt the houbara bustard in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) as hunting the internationally protected bird in the province is not allowed, it was learnt here on Saturday.

According to sources, the federal foreign ministry has issued a special hunting permit to a member of the Qatari royal family, Sheikh Abdullah bin Ali Al-Thani, to hunt the migratory bird in Dera Ismail Khan district of KP during the hunting season 2016-2017.

The federal government has permitted the Qatari sheikh to hunt 100 houbara bustards in 10 days during the season which started on Nov 1 and would conclude on Jan 31, 2017.

KP’s wildlife chief conservator, Mubarak Shah, told Dawn that since the houbara bustard was a protected bird in KP nobody — local or foreign — could hunt it. He did not comment any further except asking Dawn to contact MPA Ishtiaq Urmar, an advisor to CM Pervaiz Khattak for Environment, Forests and Wildlife, for details.

This reporter tried to contact the MPA for a comment but he was unavailable. His secretary said he was unwell and had been hospitalised.

When asked to comment on whether the Qatari prince would be able to hunt the endangered bird, Mr Shah said that it was a sensitive topic and he would need permission from high-ups before responding. He said he would call back but didn’t.

Sources said that while the other three provinces — Sindh, Punjab and Balochistan — allowed Arabs with permits to hunt the houbara bustards, KP did not. They added that a while ago, a Qatari who had been hunting in the province had been caught and fined.

A few days back, another Qatari royal, Sheikh Ali bin Abdullah Al-Thani, faced some resistance in hunting in the Hoshab and Balakatar areas of Kech district in Balochistan so he immediately called the prime minister on phone and things were sorted out.

Published in Dawn, December 11th, 2016

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