The blackbucks

November 09, 2019

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RECENTLY, the Lahore High Court directed the Punjab government to take precautionary measures in order to protect blackbucks.

These animals are a vulnerable species, as per the Punjab Preservation and Protection of Wildlife Act (included in the third schedule which lists animals declared as vulnerable according to the convention on international trade of endangered species).

I represented the petitioner before the court and argued that the blackbucks’ population was deteriorating owing to hunting permits granted and lack of safety measures taken by the Punjab government.

Therefore it was held by the court that the Punjab government had been negligent in performing its statutory obligations. As evidence, we had attached news clips to corroborate the fact that blackbuck population in the Cholistan desert and Lal Suhanra Park in Bahawalpur is declining. It is a worrisome situation. Therefore, hats off to the court for exercising its judicial review powers under Article 199 of the Constitution of Pakistan and upholding the principle that the right to life enshrined in Article 9 of the constitution includes the right to protect all living organisms, including birds, animals, air and soil.

It was really an uphill battle as it took more than three and a half years to prove the fact that the government does not bother to protect the animal rights as enshrined in the Punjab Protection and Preservation of Wildlife Act 1972 as well as in the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1890.

Instead, to the dismay of the court, the officers representing the government raised flimsy allegations that the petition had been filed to gain publicity.

The government and civil society should focus on animal welfare in educational institutes, inform functionaries, including the police, about animal rights, encourage media exposure, appoint animal health inspectors and celebrate International Animal Rights Day, World Animal Day, and World Wildlife Day to create awareness.

Sheraz Zaka

Lahore

Published in Dawn, November 9th, 2019