Falconer Saeed Ahmed can breathe a sigh of relief. For now, his 10 prized birds of prey are safe. The Customs authorities have been stopped from setting free the rare falcons seized from the trainer.
On Saturday, Sindh High Court directed the federal environment ministry, the superintendent of preventive service anti-smuggling organisation of the customs department and Sindh wildlife department’s chief conservator, to file their replies by 12 December. The falcon trainer has taken them to court.
A team of customs officials “unlawfully” raided Ahmed’s house on November 21 and seized 10 falcons. Besides, they also took away a Toyota Land Cruiser (BF-5200), suspecting the vehicle was smuggled without paying the customs duty, the petitioner alleges.
For many years, Saeed Ahmed has been in the business of falconry – a popular sport among the Arab dignitaries who throng to Pakistan every winter to hunt migratory birds. He even has a valid licence issued by the Sindh wild department to possess and train falcons. He is also the authorised falconer of the Consulate General of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) in Karachi, according to the petitioner’s lawyer, Atiqur Rehman.
The falconer even showed his licence to possess rare birds and the documents showing the jeep was purchased at an auction but the officials were not satisfied. Since November 21, the birds and the vehicle seized have been kept at the customs office along with an employee of the petitioner, he stated.
On November 7, the customs deputy collector called Ahmed to explain as to why the birds should not be confiscated and set free. The falcons may be released in the wild on December 10, which will result in a huge loss to the petitioner. Rehman contended his client was legally authorised to keep the falcons; therefore, the action against him was illegal. He appealed to the court to declare the customs raid unlawful and stop the authorities from setting the falcons free.
Justice Aqeel Ahmed Abbasi, who headed the bench, on Saturday issued notices to the authorities listed in the petition for December 12. The deputy attorney general was also directed to file the replies of the officials by the next date.
Published in The Express Tribune, December 9th, 2012.