HYDERABAD/ LAHORE: The Qatari royals currently visiting Tharparkar district of Sindh for falconry have been denied permission to hunt Houbara bustard, a migratory bird also known as tiloor.
Shaikh Fahad Abdul Rahman al Thani reportedly arrived in Tharparkar on Feb 5. He had plans to stay in the district till Feb 28, according to a letter of the Foreign Office which was addressed to Sindh’s director general protocol and Rangers director general.
"The guests were not officially allowed to hunt. The Foreign Office had only requested for security during their visit," District Wildlife Officer Ashfaque Memon told The Express Tribune over the phone.
According to him, wild animals are protected in Tharparkar. "The local people have great affection for these animals. They don't like anyone killing them," he said.
Another wildlife official said the royals pitched five to seven tents in Jat Tarai village in Diplo on Feb 5. He said 15 to 20 people were accompanying the Qatari guests, who had arrived in over half a dozen vehicles.
"They spent the whole day and night in the camps. We saw they had seven to eight falcons," the official claimed. The wildlife official claimed that al Thani did not provide any permit. "We told them that if you want to stay here from Feb 5 to Feb 28 you may stay. But we will not allow you to hunt," Memon said.
The game warden, Tilook Chand Valassi, said the Qatari royals did not even submit an application to the wildlife department for assistance. However, he confirmed the provincial government did forward the Foreign Office's letter to the wildlife department.
"It is requested to make necessary arrangements for provision of strict security [Rangers’ security] to the dignitary, as requested by the Consulate General of Qatar, Karachi," read the letter written by the foreign ministry’s deputy chief of protocol.
The letter neither made any mention of the Tharparkar sojourn of the Qatari guests nor did it carry any request for assistance from the Wildlife Department. The warden said that during the stay of the Qatari royals the Rangers provided security to them.
LHC seeks explanation from govt
Separately, Lahore High Court Chief Justice Syed Mansoor Ali Shah on Friday directed the Punjab Wildlife Department and the federal government to explain with records what criteria had been invoked for removing tiloor from the list of protected animals.
The CJ asked the Punjab government whether the hunting of the migratory bird had contributed to the economic development of Bhakkar and Jhang – where hunting takes place.
Appearing before the court, Advocate Sheraz Zaka referred to a recently published book – Confessions of an Economic Hit Man – which explained how developed countries and multinational corporations plundered the resources of developing countries.
He said corporations and rich people obtain licences to explore oil and gas as well as hunting permits while giving undertaking to the governments that economic development would take place in areas where licences for exploration of resources or permits for hunting are granted.
“However, it is unfortunate that no economic development is taking place in Bhakkar and Jhang, despite the fact that the Supreme Court has already issued directions that hunting permits be given only if it contributes to the economic development of those areas.”
In another petition, Advocate Kalim Ilyas said all across the world tiloor is a protected animal and it should not be excluded from the list of protected species. The CJ adjourned the hearing till March 3.
Tiloor is a rare species of migratory birds, which come from Central Asia in the winter to the arid plains of Pakistan. The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has placed the bird on its 'red list' of threatened species. Its hunting is banned in Pakistan but the country issues special hunting permits to the dignitaries from the Middle East.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 11th, 2017.
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