ISLAMABAD: Islamabad High Court (IHC) Chief Justice Athar Minallah on Thursday stopped the government from importing elephants declaring it a violation of laws related to the protection of wildlife.

He was hearing a petition filed by Pakistan Animal Welfare Society.

The petitioner sought directions to the federal government to fulfil its obligations under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora and the Pakistan Trade Control of Wild Fauna and Flora Act 2012.

The counsel for the petitioner contended that the government had failed to make the Act of 2012 operational.

Because of the delay in making the law operational, he added, Pakistan’s international commitments under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora were likely to be breached.

Chief justice of IHC says move is in violation of laws related to protection of wildlife

He said it was not in public interest to allow import of endangered species of animals, particularly elephants, in violation of the international commitments of Pakistan.

The court sought a report from the relevant ministries for granting permission to import elephants as it was in violation of the Act of 2012 and the international commitments under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora.

The court asked the Ministry of Climate Change secretary and the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) chairman to nominate their respective authorised representatives to appear in the court on September 28.

“In the meantime, the Federal Board of Revenue is directed to ensure that import of elephants is not allowed in violation of the Act of 2012 read with the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora and the conditions prescribed under the Import Control Act 2020,” the court order said.

Justice Athar Minllah earlier handed down landmark judgments on animal rights and environmental issues.

Prime Minister Imran Khan during his recent speech appreciated Justice Minallah for his judgments on environmental issues.

In May last year, the IHC chief justice issued a judgment on a lonely elephant, Kaavan, at the Islamabad zoo that for the first time recognised legal rights of caged animals in Pakistan has and led to their freedom.

It also paved the way for the release of solitary confined non-humans.

On May 21, 2020, Justice Minallah issued a 67-page judgment which said animals in Marghazar Zoo of Islamabad had legal rights and should be moved to appropriate sanctuaries.

The IHC decision was welcomed by leading animal rights activists. US singer Cher also celebrated the release of Kaavan to a sanctuary abroad.

She had campaigned for animals and tweeted that the judgment was “one of the greatest moments” of her life.

The US-based Non Human Rights Project (NHRP) lauded the judgement and expressed the hope that it would strengthen their legal suits for the release of two solitary elephants in the New York and Connecticut states.

NHRP expressed the hope that since the IHC had acknowledged the legal rights of Kaavan and other animals, its judgment may be cited as a legal precedent in order to establish their legal suits seeking freedom of the lonely elephants in territorial jurisdictions across the globe.

Published in Dawn, September 10th, 2021

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