The Sindh High Court has summoned the chief game warden of Sindh in a case pertaining to the issuance of a licence for falcon trade to Bashir Gabol, who was accused of illegally dealing in the bird of prey after Customs officials carried out raids in Gizri in October last year and confiscated 75 falcons and a houbara bustard.
Gabol had knocked the Sindh High Court's (SHC's) doors, maintaining that he had been issued a licence for falcon trade and had valid documents issued by the government to prove it. He has sought the repossession of the birds confiscated from him by Customs officials.
At the hearing of Gabol's plea on Wednesday, the court summoned the chief game warden of Sindh, who was also the chairperson of the defunct Sindh wildlife management board, directing him to personally appear before the court.
Earlier, Customs officials told the court that falcons were being traded via a fake company.
The court adjourned the hearing until February 23.
The question of licence
A licence, said to be issued for the trade, has been submitted to the court in the case.
The licence was issued by the Sindh wildlife management board, which became defunct following the promulgation of the Sindh Wildlife Protection, Preservation, Conservation and Management Act, 2020, in July last year.
Speaking on the matter, a senior SWD official, who requested anonymity, told The Express Tribune that while the SWD had not and does not issue licences for falcon trade, the licence in question was issued by the Sindh Wildlife Management Board.
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The SWD not issuing the licence was confirmed by another official of department, who also asked not to be named.
"The department cannot issue any such licence," he asserted, reasoning that why would the SWD issue the licences when there were no falcon breeding centres in the entire country, let alone Sindh.
He was of the view that falcons found in possession of citizens were of wild origin and should be released into the wild.
Other sources in the department also stated that the court had summoned the Sindh wildlife management board chairperson and not any official of the SWD, which explained that that board had issued the licence and not the SWD.
"But since the board has become defunct, the licence presented to the court in the case is no longer valid," said an official.
Sources informed The Express Tribune that the licens was issued from the chairman who was not part of the SWD. "The board doesn't exist now," the official said. "The license is illegal," he added.
The birds in question were confiscated in the third week of October last year, when Customs officials carried out raids in Gizri over a period of two days, claiming to have foiled a smuggling bid.
At the time, Customs officials estimated the net worth of the 75 falcons and a houbara bustard at around Rs200 million in the international market.
A video of one of the raids, during which the officials had fired gunshots into the air, had gone viral on social media.
Interestingly, the raids were carried out in the absence of Sindh Wildlife Department (SWD) officials, contrary to what has been the norm.
The birds have been in the custody of the Customs department since then.
According to sources privy to the development, a Customs court had ordered the handing over of the birds to the SWD, but the directives were not followed and instead, Customs officials filed a review petition in the SHC.