The star of Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz’s election campaigns – a white tigress –reportedly collapsed on Wednesday and is presumed to have died due to excessive heat during a rally in Lahore.
WWF officials suspect the rare White Siberian tigress died due to excessive heat and noise but, the owner of the tiger, Mian Zia, has rejected the reports, saying the animal is alive and healthy.
Zia, who is the nephew of Mian Marghoob, PML-N’s provincial assembly candidate from Lahore and owns nine tigers, claimed the tigress in question had been ill and was taken to the University of Veterinary Science in Lahore, where the doctors ‘mistakenly’ pronounced her dead. He added that the endangered animal was physically healthy now and had not died, and even offered to provide evidence.
Doctors at the UVS said that the young tigress was in a critical condition when she was taken back from the hospital by the owner.
WWF Biodiversity Director Uzma Khan said that the tigress brought to the hospital seemed to be “extremely weak and ill” in pictures. “Every tiger has a different pattern of stripes on it, just like humans have different fingerprints, so if that tigress is still well and alive, why don’t they bring it over or send fresh pictures to the WWF?” she asked.
The bigger issue highlighted by the incident, however, is the violation of treaties relating to animal welfare and protection of endangered species.
The White Siberian tiger is an endangered species, according to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora of 1973 (CITES) which was first acceded by the Government of Pakistan in 1976 and later ratified by Parliament through the “2012 Act”.
Actress, writer and rights activist Faryal Gauhar said, “We wrote to the election commission protesting the practice of exotic and endangered cats being brought to public gatherings.”
In the letter sent to the ECP two weeks ago, she stated, “I hold a valid and legitimate concern about the welfare of animals in custody of private individuals; and their inappropriate use for political purposes or ways in which the dignity of the animals itself as well as safety of the general public is threatened.”
In response to her letter, Gohar said, the ECP verbally stated it was the district government’s responsibility to stop such activities and not the ECP’s. However, she filed a petition in the Lahore High Court, which will be heard today.
When asked whether taking lions or tigers into public gatherings should be allowed, Punjab Election Commissioner Mehboob Anwer said, “The election commission only issues guidelines to ensure law and order in the country, though an animal like a lion can harm people, the matter lies in the district government’s purview.”
Displaying real versions of elections symbols at political rallies can create quite a buzz among supporters – especially if the symbol happens to be a lion or a tiger.
Muhammad Irshad owns six lions as pets at his Bedian farmhouse and rents them out to PML-N candidates for display during rallies. The rent for one of his lions is a whopping Rs200,000 per day.
“I spend as much as Rs15,000 on a lion each day, so I have the right to charge this much from anyone who wants to rent one,” said Irshad, who is a PML-N supporter himself.
Ali Shah, a well known political figure in Lahore, rented one of Irshad’s lions when Nawaz Sharif held a rally in Mandi Bahauddin. The ferocious feline became the centre of attention, drawing large crowds.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 9th, 2013.