KARACHI: The federal government has issued special permits to three princes from Saudi Arabia to hunt the internationally protected migratory bird, houbara bustard, in Balochistan and Punjab during the hunting season, it was learnt on Thursday.

According to sources, the hunting permit holders include the governor of Tabuk and two sons of the former King of Saudi Arabia, the late Saud bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud. Residents of colder Central Asian regions, houbara bustards migrate every year to spend winters in a relatively warmer environment like Pakistan.

Sources said Prince Fahad bin Sultan bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud, the governor of Tabuk, was allocated Awaran district and Noshki (not Noshki city) and Chaghai district (excluding the northwest).

Prince Mansoor bin Saud bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud and his brother Prince Mishal bin Saud bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud were allocated Layyah district in Punjab.

The federal foreign ministry’s hunting permit, DCP (P&I) 19/6/2016/17 (Allocations/KSA), sent to the permit holders through the Saudi Arabia’s embassy in Islamabad, said: “The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan presents its compliments to the Royal Embassy of Saudi Arabia in Islamabad and has the honour to state that the government of Pakistan has conveyed its recommendations to the authorities in the provinces concerned for allocation of following areas to the dignitaries of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia for houbara bustard for the season 2016-2017.”

The code of conduct was sent along with the permits, issued by the deputy chief of protocol of the foreign ministry, and copies of which were sent to, among others, the wildlife conservator at the Ministry of Climate Change to inform the provinces to facilitate the hunting. The permit holders have been allowed to hunt 100 houbara bustards in 10 days during the hunting season which started on Nov 1 and will conclude on Jan 31, 2017.

Governor Fahad attracted attention when the media highlighted that he had hunted approximately 2,100 houbara bustards during his trip in Chaghai between 2014 and 2015.

After several protests and judicial intervention, the federal government did not issue any hunting permits to Arabs in the following hunting season. However, Prince Fahad visited Chaghai with many of his falcons in the 2015-16 hunting season. When the media questioned the government about this, it said the prince was in the area to visit and monitor development work.

The federal government usually issues hunting permits to Arabs in all four provinces, and the ruling elite, including politicians and bureaucrats from Sindh, Punjab and Balochistan, welcome them to their areas to hunt the protected bird.

Published in Dawn, December 16th, 2016

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