Nearly half of the sheep imported from Australia in the first week of September are either dead or missing, a headcount of the allegedly infected animals ordered by the Sindh High Court (SHC) revealed on Tuesday.
Sources said only 11,306 out of the 20,468 sheep that originally arrived in the country are alive. It was revealed that 7,667 animals were culled while the status of 1,495 remains “unknown”.
Speaking to The Express Tribune, PK Livestock and Meat Executive Director Saqib Butt said his company – which imported the sheep – could not be held responsible for the missing animals. “The sheep were initially in custody of the quarantine department. Then on September 16 provincial authorities trespassed my farm and started culling the animals,” he said. “How can they blame me for the missing animals?”
He accused provincial authorities of disposing off the animals without keeping any record of the culling following September 16. The culling stopped on September 21 on account of the national holiday announced by the federal government. On Saturday, September 22, the SHC constituted a five-member team to conduct tests to determine whether the sheep had anthrax.
On the following Monday, the committee submitted its test reports to the SHC, declaring the sheep free from anthrax.
Butt said the blame for the missing sheep lay with provincial authorities, as their officials and police guarded the premises post September 16. “The government hasn’t given us any documentary proof of the number of sheep they actually culled because they didn’t bother to maintain any record,” he said.
When contacted, Karachi Commissioner Roshan Ali Shaikh, Malir Deputy Commissioner Qazi Jan Muhammad and Sindh Livestock and Fisheries Secretary Syed Abid Ali Shah were not available to comment on the development.
When Daily Express reporter Kashif Hussain went to the PK Livestock and Meat farm on Tuesday to witness the culling of the sheep, the company’s executive director forced him to leave the premises.
The reporter claimed that Butt asked him to leave, saying the SHC did not permit the presence of journalists on the farm while the provincial authorities conducted the head count.
Speaking to The Express Tribune, Butt denied that he mishandled the reporter. “I could not speak to him because I was busy. So I asked him to leave and come back some other day,” he said.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 26th, 2012.