KARACHI: The federal government has issued special permits to the father of Qatar’s emir and eight other members of the royal family to hunt internationally protected houbara bustards in Pakistan, Dawn learnt from reliable sources on Tuesday.

Houbara bustards migrate southwards each year from Central Asian countries to avoid harsh winter conditions and after spending considerable time in warmer countries return to their habitat.

Due to its declining population, it is a protected bird under various local and international wildlife protection laws, and people are not allowed to hunt them.

However, the federal government regularly issues special permits to various heads of states and members of Gulf sheikhdoms to hunt the migratory bird considered an aphrodisiac by the Middle Eastern hunters.

Country in danger of losing GSP Plus status

The sources said that by giving the permits Pakistan risked losing the Generalised Scheme of Preferences (GSP) Plus status given to it under which its exports are given preference and easy access to highly lucrative markets of Europe.

They further said the European Union (EU) carries out periodical checks to ensure that the countries given the GSP Plus status observe various nature conservation laws, which Pakistan repeatedly violates by issuing houbara bustard hunting permits every year.

With the United States’ aid to Pakistan frozen recently by US President Donald Trump, the country’s economy would be affected severely in case it was stripped of the GSP Plus status by the EU.

The sources added that the special hunting permit No: DCP (P&I)-19/6/2017-18(Allocations/Qatar) was issued by the foreign ministry’s deputy chief of protocol, Naeem Iqbal Cheema, and sent to Qatar’s embassy in Islamabad to be forwarded to the hunter residing in the oil rich peninsula.

The permit says: “The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Pakistan presents its compliments to the embassy of Qatar in Islamabad and has the honour to state that the government of Pakistan has conveyed its recommendations to the authorities in the concerned province for allocation of following area to Sheikh Jassim bin Hamad at Thani, father of Qatar’s emir.

“The areas allocated are: Musakhel and Drug tehsils in Musakhel district, and Sani Shoran tehsil of Kachhi district in Balocistan.

“The respective provincial government has also been requested to issue the necessary permit in this regard. The code of conduct for hunting season 2017-18 is also attached.”

Names of the other royal family members and the districts allocated to them are as under:

Uncle of the emir and former prime minister Sheikh Mohammad bin Khalifa Al-Thani has been allocated Loralai district — less Duki area — in Balochistan; Qatar’s former prime minister’s brother Sheikh Falah Jassim bin Jabor Al-Thani (Jhal Magsi and Nasirabad districts — less Dera Murad Jamali — in Balochistan; Sheikh Ali bin Abdullah Thani Al-Thani (Kech district in Balochistan); Sheikh Mohammad bin Ali bin Abdullah bin Thani Al-Thani (Barkhan district in Balochistan); Sheikh Fasil bin Naseer bin Hammad Al-Thani (Qila Saifullah district including Kar Khurassan — less subdivision Muslim Bagh — in Balochistan and Jacobabad district in Sindh; Sheikh Thani bin Abdul Aziz Al-Thani (Kalat district and Surab tehsil in Balochistan); Sheikh Jassim bin Faisal bin Qasim Al-Thani (Kingri tehsil of Musakhel district in Balochistan); Sheikh Khalid bin Thani Al-Thani (Dadu city in Sindh).

Published in Dawn, January 10th, 2018

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