Our land is an unsafe place for the thousands of birds which migrate to it during the winter months. The official desire to appease our Arab friends means that too often permission is given to hunt down rare species such as the Houbara Bustard, which is on the list of endangered species and deserves our protection when it flies into our land on its annual migratory visit. Instead, it is awaited with guns. This year, as in those that came before, permits have been given to important Arab guests to hunt the birds.
Most recently, Prince Fahad bin Sultan bin Abdul Aziz was welcomed into Balochistan by a panel of dignitaries that included the Minister for Petroleum as well as other representatives of government to embark on a hunting trip in the Chagai area of the province. His target will be the Houbara Bustard, a highly desired variety of game in the Gulf states. In the past, rules that state hunting must be restricted to 10 days and bags kept to a maximum of a hundred birds have been openly violated. Just months ago, permits were given to 33 important ‘guests’ from five Gulf states to hunt in Pakistan. These hunters have also acquired large tracts of land in Balochistan and along with the unfortunate Houbara, shoot partridge, deer and other game in areas such as Tharparkar. Their presence has been protested by local people, who claim harassment and also object to the ruthless destruction of wildlife in exchange for the rewards these visitors can offer.
We need to rethink quite what we are doing. We may be pleasing our Arab guests, but we are allowing our own ecology and wildlife to be ravaged ruthlessly by them. This is nothing short of a crime. As a responsible nation, we need to do more to protect the species which visit our land and prevent hunting on this scale both by powerful Arabs and those at home who are also guilty of ignoring the law and gunning down animals at will.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 17th, 2014.
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