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Senators call for two-year ban on hunting birds

Updated February 08, 2018

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ISLAMABAD: A number of senators and representatives of Sindh and Balochistan on Wednesday called for a complete ban on hunting in the country for at least two years in order to carry out a census of birds and animals.

The lawmakers also criticised the role of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for issuing Arab princes permits to hunt birds, and demanded that the right to issue permits to foreign dignitaries be handed over to provincial governments.

The demands were made during a meeting of the Senate’s Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, chaired by its chairperson Nuzhat Sadiq, during which the participants discussed the issue of Arab princes hunting birds in Sindh and Balochistan. Dr Karim Khawaja of the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) raised the issue and was joined by Jehanzeb Jamaldini of the Balochistan National Party-Mengal (BNP-M).

Foreign Secretary Tehmina Janjua and the forests and wildlife secretaries of the governments of Balochistan and Sindh presented comprehensive briefings on the matter.

The committee was told that a number of SOPs (Standard Operating Procedures) had been prepared time and again but their implementation remained the main issue.

The representatives of Sindh and Balochistan governments were of the opinion that number of birds in the country was declining fast due to unaccounted hunting as well as environmental depredation.

Dr Khawaja suggested a complete ban on hunting for two years, and a census of birds and animals in the country. The PPP senator’s proposal was endorsed by officials of Sindh and Balochistan governments as well.

The officials of the provincial governments said the Ministry of Foreign Affairs should convey requests from foreign dignitaries to them and all terms and conditions should be identified and finalised by provincial governments. They suggested compulsory conditions for issuing hunting licences including the payment of a fixed amount of money as fees and the deputation of a wildlife officer at the campsite.

The provincial officials said even the deputy commissioners did not have access to areas where the Arab princes stayed for hunting.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs was of the opinion that under the 18th Constitutional Amendment, decision making powers lay with the provincial governments while the Foreign Office merely had a recommendatory role. The committee was informed that the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government had already rejected its recommendations and no hunting had taken place there for the last two years.

KHOKHRAPAR: During the meeting, Senator Khawaja demanded frequent train rides across the Khokhrapar border, in view of the relatives of Pakistan’s large Hindu population living across the border. He suggested that the border be used for trade purposes along the lines of Wagah border.

The foreign secretary told committee members that the Khokhrapar agreement between Pakistan and India was renewed regularly and the railway service was operational. The agreement was renewed every three years.

NA COMMITTEE: The National Assembly Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs on Wednesday rejected the Ratification of International Treaties Bill 2013 with a majority vote.

The private member bill had been introduced in the National Assembly by Dr Shireen Mazari of the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) seeking ratification of all international treaties and MoUs signed by Pakistan’s government with other countries. However, government members of the committee, headed by Makhdoom Khusro Bakhtiyar, opposed the bill.

When it was put to vote, most of the members rejected it. It is interesting to note that PPP lawmakers were not present at the meeting, whereas JUI-F’s Naeema Kishwar abstained from voting.

Later, Dr Mazari criticised the government members for opposing her bill after delaying it for over four years. “It seems that the parliamentarians are undermining the role of the parliament themselves under pressure from civil-military bureaucracy,” she said.

Published in Dawn, February 8th, 2018