IHC bars FBR from allowing import of exotic animals

Published November 7, 2021
A lion and lioness are pictured in a cage at a private zoo in Karachi. — AFP/File
A lion and lioness are pictured in a cage at a private zoo in Karachi. — AFP/File

ISLAMABAD: The Islamabad High Court (IHC) has forbidden the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) from granting permission for import of exotic animals that contravenes the Pakistan Trade Control of Wild Fauna and Flora Act (PTCWFFA), 2012.

According to the PTCWFFA, exotic species means wild animal or plant species introduced to an area outside of their natural occurrence and thus face the threat of extinction because of its trade.

The IHC directive came on a petition instituted by the Pakistan Animal Welfare Society seeking a directive against the government permission for import of endangered species of animals.

The law prohibits the export or import of exotic species in contravention of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).

Authored by IHC Chief Justice Athar Minallah, the four-page order said that until the court comes up with a final decision, the FBR will ensure that no exotic animal species listed in the CITES are imported in violation of the PTCWFFA. The court will resume the hearing of the petition on Nov 19.

The order also recalls that the IHC held earlier that conservation and protection of animal species, particularly those listed in the CITES, are relatable to the right to life of humans guaranteed under Article 9 of the Constitution.

Trade of animals subjects them to pain & suffering which is punishable offence, court observes

The existence of human species on this planet depends on survival and conservation of animal species and their natural habitats, the order said, adding that the high court has also ruled earlier that it is against natural rights of the animal species to deprive them of their habitats merely for entertainment of human beings. The trade of animal species which involves the process of import or export subjects them to unnecessary pain and suffering, which is a punishable offence, the order pointed out.

The import and export of endangered animal species are governed under the FBR’s Import Policy Order but the conditions prescribed under the policy have to be in conformity with the CITES and the PTCWFFA, the order emphasised.

However, the import conditions read out by a FBR representative from the import policy, prima facie, are in conflict with the mandatory requirements prescribed under the PTCWFFA, the order noted, adding that the conditions prescribed under the policy, therefore, were ultra vires of the PTCWFFA and thus in conflict with the obligations of the State of Pakistan under the CITES.

The high court also directed the Ministry of Climate Change to place on record the notifications regarding constitution of the management authority and the scientific authority under sections 15 and 16 of the PTCWFFA, respectively. In case these statutory forums have not been constituted yet, then the process should be initiated forthwith and completed within 30 days.

The court asked the climate change secretary and the FBR chairman to furnish reports justifying the legality of the conditions for the import as prescribed under the Import Policy Order in the light of the CITES and the PTCWFFA.

Moved through Advocate Mohammad Ali Raza on behalf of the PAWS, the petition has sought a directive to the federal government to fulfil its obligations under the CITES and the PTCWFFA.

The petition pleads that the federal government has failed to make the PTCWFFA functional due to which the international commitments under the CITES are likely to be breached.

Therefore, it is not in the public interest to allow import of endangered species of animals in violation of the international commitments, particularly elephants, and confine them in places which are not their natural habitat, the petition argues.

In its order the IHC recalled that in response to a query, Deputy Conservator (Wildlife), Ministry of Climate Change, Zona Zaidi, conceded that endangered species have been imported in the past by private citizens and kept in private zoos or other premises.

Prima facie, it appears that allowing import of endangered species has been in violation of the CITES read with PTCWFFA, the order said.

Published in Dawn, November 7th, 2021

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