National Assembly session: PML-N lawmakers urge top court to reconsider Houbara hunting ban

Published: December 14, 2015
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Claim the decision has adversely affected the local economy of their areas. PHOTO: AFP

Claim the decision has adversely affected the local economy of their areas. PHOTO: AFP

ISLAMABAD: Lawmakers from South Punjab and Balochistan have appealed to the apex court to reconsider one of its decisions regarding the imposition of a ban on the hunting of indigenous game bird tiloor also known as Houbara bustard.

The appeal was made during the current session of the National Assembly.

A three-judge bench of the Supreme Court imposed a ban on the hunting of the endangered bird in the third week of August. Former chief justice Jawwad S Khawaja led bench ordered the cancellation of all licences issued by the federal government to Arab royals for the Houbara hunting.

The Foreign Office has already requested the court to lift the ban, saying that the bird is the main pillar of the country’s foreign policy with Gulf States. Arabs travel to Balochistan every winter to hunt the tiloor using falcons – a practice that has sparked controversy in recent years because of the rare bird’s dwindling numbers.

The ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz’s (PML-N) lawmaker from Rahim Yar Khan, Mian Imtiaz Ahmad on Friday informed the lower house of parliament that work on welfare schemes had halted because of the ban on Houbara hunting.

He said that tiloor or Houbara is a migratory bird which comes from Central Asian returns at the culmination of the winter season. “The people of my constituency are staging a protest against this ban, as Houbara hunting is a source of income for them,” he said.

Ahmad said Arabs also launched development schemes in South Punjab, Sindh and Balochistan provinces where they do the hunting. “How will our areas develop if Arabs stop coming there?” he asked during his address.

Another PML-N MNA from Balochistan, Khalid Hussain Magsi, said he would request the apex court to reconsider its judgment on this issue as people are facing financial losses and are being deprived of their businesses because of this ban. “These three-four months are very crucial for the locals,” he said.

Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), however, has some a different stance on this issue.PTI lawmaker Shafqat Mehmood raised this issue in different context during the presence of Prime Minister’s Advisor on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz, who attended the Friday’s session to brief the house on the outcome of the recent Heart of Asia Conference and resumption of dialogue with India.

Referring to a review petition which the foreign ministry had filed in the Supreme Court against the ban on hunting of tiloor, Mehmood expressed surprise over the stance the ministry had taken in the court.

“What kind of stance is that hunting of Houbara bustard [tiloor] is the main pillar of country’s foreign policy with Gulf states. Don’t we have strong enough ties based on socio-economic and geostrategic grounds to steer foreign policy of the country with these states,” he asked.

Aziz said it was a sub judice matter and he would not comment on it.

Last week, the Supreme Court’s three-judge bench on last Thursday referred the case to Chief Justice Anwar Zaheer Jamali and requested the CJP to constitute a larger bench to decide the fate of federal and provincial governments’ review petitions against the apex court’s earlier judgment.

Published in The Express Tribune, December 14th,  2015.

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