PESHAWAR: Several village committees tasked with protecting markhor and ibex in Chitral district have moved the Peshawar High Court against the start of inquiry by the anti-corruption establishment into the utilisation of their share in the revenue generated by the issuance of hunting permits for the two wild species.

The petition jointly filed by a dozen of village conservation committees (VCCs) has also challenged restriction placed on them by the wildlife department for the use of their share in community development projects.

The petitioners requested the court to ask the wildlife department to comply with its two relevant notifications and allow them to use their exclusive share of 80 per cent revenue generated by hunting permits for markhor and ibex for community development.

They requested the court to declare the government’s act of limiting them to use interest on the said 80 percent revenue (share of petitioners) against the scheme of management and conservation of wildlife through VCCs.

Move high court calling ACE’s step interference in their affairs

The petitioners termed the start of inquiry by the ACE interference in administrative and financial matters of privately established VCCs.

They have requested the court to restrain the ACE from creating any hurdle in carrying out community welfare works by conducting fabricated inquiries under pretext of restricting them to utilise only interest over the capital amount.

The petition said VCCs were local non-governmental and private committees of the 12 villages of markhor and ibex conservation area of Chitral comprising more than 200 square kilometres.

It said the government had established the wildlife division in 1975 to mitigate the extinction of wild species through proper scientific management principles.

The petition said community-based wildlife conservancy programme was later introduced, while the wildlife department issued a notification on Feb 22, 1997, agreeing to pay 75 per cent share of revenue generated by hunting permits for markhor and ibex in community development projects.

It said another notification as issued on Jan 12, 2002, increasing the share from 75 per cent to 80 per cent.

The petition said VCCs had been utilising that share for community uplift programmes, including establishment of vocational centres, education, electrification, supply of LPG cylinders on concessional rates, payment to watchers, and on irrigation channels, bridges and approach roads.

It claimed that VCCs had maintained proper books of accounts since their establishment to maintain transparency.

The petition said the ACE had begun illegal and mala fide inquiry against VCCs on the pretext that as per terms of partnership with the wildlife department, the capital money of the fund would not be utilised by the committees and that only interest accruing on the deposit would be utilised.

It said the two notifications issued by the wildlife department didn’t place any restriction on the utilisation of share by VCCs.

The petition said the committees determined the priorities of their communities and worked on socioeconomic development of the people through proper internal resolution.

Published in Dawn, July 6th, 2019