Rare trial: Customs asked to explain what action has been taken against turtle smugglers

Published: November 23, 2014
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Customs authorities
say proceedings have
already been initiated
against the suspected
traffickers under the
relevant act. PHOTO: AFP

Customs authorities say proceedings have already been initiated against the suspected traffickers under the relevant act. PHOTO: AFP

KARACHI: The Sindh High Court (SHC) has called a report on the proceedings initiated by the Customs authorities against the alleged traffickers of 218 rare, black-spotted turtles.

A division bench, headed by SHC Chief Justice Maqbool Baqar, also directed the deputy attorney general to file replies of the interior ministry and the climate change division on efforts to curb the smuggling of endangered species from Pakistan. The bench also issued a notice to the alleged trafficker through the Customs court to appear on December 12.

These directions came on a petition filed by the World Wide Fund for Nature-Pakistan, Pakistan Animal Welfare Society and others. The NGOs had sought a thorough probe into the smuggling of endangered species, including black-spotted turtles and tortoises, and the prosecution of smugglers under anti-smuggling and Customs laws.

The petitioners, who had approached the court after alleged turtle traffickers were arrested in Karachi last month, said the black-spotted turtles and tortoises are endangered species and protected under the Pakistan Trade Control of Wild Flora and Fauna Act 2012 and other related wildlife and anti-smuggling laws. The illegal trafficking of turtles mainly from South Asia has escalated in the past two years, the petition said, adding that these animals are collected from this region and then shipped to Thailand for sale.

Referring to a report on the smuggling of endangered wildlife, the petitioners said that over 1,960 turtles had been seized in 22 raids between January 2008 and March this year, with around 95 per cent of them confiscated in the past 15 months. “The black-spotted turtles are worth $1,780 in the black market and have frequently been smuggled from Pakistan to China and Thailand,” the petition said.

The petitioners disclosed that one of the traffickers, Sajid Cheema, was arrested with 218 blacks-potted turtles from Karachi on September 20. The suspect has, however, been handed over to the Sindh wildlife department instead of being booked under the Custom laws, the petitioners’ lawyer, Faisal Siddiqui pointed out. He argued that Cheema, who was freed from detention on bail, was being tried under the Sindh Wildlife Ordinance before a judicial magistrate in Malir district instead of being tried under the Customs Act.

The lawyer said that the alleged trafficker will be released after the imposition of a “minor penalty or lesser punishment”, as the Customs authorities were required to retain his travelling documents till the final disposal of the case under the Customs Act. “But, no proceedings have been initiated against the alleged traffickers,” he said, and pleaded the court stay the trial proceedings before the judicial magistrate till the transfer of the trial application is decided.

During Friday’s proceedings, the Customs authorities filed their comments, stating that proceedings have already been initiated against the suspected traffickers under the relevant act. Also, a show-cause notice has been issued to the trafficker.

Taking the Customs authorities on record, the two judges directed the Customs authorities to file a report on the proceedings initiated by them against the alleged smuggler.

Published in The Express Tribune, November 23rd, 2014.

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Reader Comments (4)

  • incognito
    Nov 23, 2014 - 9:53PM

    Thank you the editor Express Tribune for publishing this story please keep us informed about this case as this is history in the making with many heroes and heroines working on the scene and many more behind the scenes. From the devoted team of Sindh Wildlife including the new dynamic Secretary Ms Naila to the incorrigible Lawyer M/s MCAS and many many more May God bless you all for taking your time out for this noble case. And Yes the brave young ladies Mahira, Maheen and their Animal Welfare NGO you all are environmental heroes
    Many like me want to remain incognito

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  • Sheikh
    Nov 23, 2014 - 10:15PM

    This story reminds me Michael Jackson’s ‘What about us…” Editor Express deserves his share of appreciation as without this coverage one cannot link the whole picture. Recent stories of turtle smuggling via Lahore airport indicate that the smugglers are now using that route taking benefit of lacunae in law. Come what may the decision of Sindh High court it will not effect Punjab province unless Lahore High court makes a decision. But who will awaken the Punjab Wildlife Department who never care as the smuggling flourishes. Unless the subject of forests and wildlife are made federal subjects like in India good times for smugglers will be forever in Pakistan
    Ali

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  • Ali Jan
    Nov 23, 2014 - 10:28PM

    Why does it take the High court’s order for registering a case under Customs Act?
    Mr Fasial Siddiqi please go to Gilgit High Court to get a case registered for the recent seizure of turtles that were repatriated to Pakistan, then go to Lahore High court otherwise the customs staff will never register a case for th 42 turtles confiscated form a passenger’s hand luggage and wrapped in wet pampers. Then please go to Islamabad high court because scores of similar cases remain unattended.
    Then please go to Bangkok to repatriate the thousands of turtles seized by Thai Customs then go to Hong Kong then to Tokyo Oh my God how far you can go. Is there a way to make the innocent and / or corrupt wildlife officials to wake up

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  • Ameen Khan
    Nov 23, 2014 - 10:33PM

    WHy not send a delegation of turtle Lovers to PTI container or political gathering, this is one case no political party would oppose except honorable Senator Rabbani the architect of the 18th amendment

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