KARACHI: Fourteen Arab dignitaries have been officially granted permits for hunting houbara bustard, an internationally protected bird species, in Sindh this year.
Sources told Dawn this year the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA) had forwarded “recommendations” to provincial governments for Falconry Season 2021-2022 (excluding protected areas) with a request to provinces to issue necessary permits in accordance with the wildlife law.
Prior to 2016-17, the federal government used to directly grant special permits to Arab dignitaries for hunting.
“The procedure of granting permission changed after the controversial subject was debated in court. Now, the power of granting permission for hunting lies with respective provincial governments,” said a wildlife expert, describing the change as just a formality as no Pakistani government had ever questioned this hunting.
The UAE president, king of Bahrain are among the foreign hunters
The sources said this year the federal government had sent a list of 14 Arab dignitaries including the prime minister of Qatar and the president of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) for Falconry Season 2021-2022 to the Sindh government, which approved it during a meeting of provincial cabinet two weeks back.
According to the sources, UAE President and ruler of Abu Dhabi Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al-Nahyan has been allowed to hunt in districts Sukkur, Ghotki, Sanghar, Nawabshah and Khairpur districts (excluding Sindh desert safari and the area across Nara Canal).
Sheikh Hamdan bin Zayed bin Sultan Al-Nahyan, the representative of the UAE president in Western Region and member of the UAE ruling family, has been allocated areas in Khairpur, Larkana, Qambar-Shahdadkot and Dadu districts.
Major General Sheikh Ahmed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the head of Central Military Command /Deputy Chairman of Dubai Police and Public Security and member of the ruling family of the UAE, is allowed to hunt in Umerkot, Tharparkar and Nagarparkar districts excluding protected areas.
Sheikh Sultan Bin Tharon Al Nahyan, Member of the Executive Council of Abu Dhabi and member of the ruling family of the UAE, is allowed to hunt in district Mirupurkhas.
Sheikh Rashid bin Khalifa Al Maktoum, member of the ruling family of the UAE, has been allocated areas in district Badin, Jungshahi in district Thatta and Dhabeji, Makli including the union council Chato Chand.
Emir of Qatar Sheikh Tamim Bin Hammad Al-Thani is allotted the areas of Diplo and Islamkot of Tharparkar district.
Sheikh Khalid bin Khalifa bin Abdul Aziz Al-Thani, the prime minister of Qatar who also holds the charge of interior minister, is allowed to hunt in district Jacobabad.
Sheikh Fahad bin Abdul Rahman bin Hammad Al-Thani, a member of the royal family of Qatar, is allocated areas of Chachro and Dahli in district Tharparkar.
King of Bahrain Hammad bin Isa bin Salman Al-Khalifa has been allotted areas in district Jamshoro, including tehsils Thana Bula Khan, Kotri Manjhand and Sehwan.
Sheikh Ebrahim bin Hamad bin Abdullah Al-Khalifa, senior member of the ruling family and uncle of the king of Bahrain, is allowed to hunt in tehsil Shah Bandar of district Sujawal.
Lt Gen Sheikh Rashid bin Abdullah Al-Khalifa, the minister of interior and first cousin of the king of Bahrain, is allowed to hunt in district Naushahro Feroze.
Sheikh Abdullah bin Salman Al-Khalifa, adviser to the king of Bahrain for Defence Affairs, is allocated tehsil Jati of district Sujawal.
Sheikh Ahmed bin Ali Al-Khalifa, member of the ruling family of the kingdom of Bahrain and the first cousin of the king of Bahrain, is allocated areas in districts of Hyderabad and Malir (excluding the Malir Cantonment and Dhabeji areas).
Sheikh Khalid bin Rashid bin Abdullah Al-Khalifa, member of the ruling family and the first cousin of the king of Bahrain, is allowed to hunt in district Tando Mohammad Khan.
It may be noted that a case challenging the controversial hunting of houbara bustards has been pending in court for some years.
The World Wide Fund for Nature-Pakistan (WWF) in a position statement released in 2020 has called for an immediate ban on the birds’ hunting keeping in view its vulnerable IUCN Red List status and the threats the species faced in its entire range in general and in Pakistan in particular.
Published in Dawn, November 8th, 2021