Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Sindh High Court Abolishes Hunting Licenses of Arab Dignitaries

Houbara bustard

The Sindh High Court (SHC) of Pakistan has recently abolished a federal government proclamation that permitted distribution of licenses to Arab dignitaries for hunting endangered species such as the houbara bustard in the country. The demand came on a petition registered by Lal Khan Chandio and Rahib Kalhoro. The claimants complied that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs had allotted districts of Baluchistan, Punjab, and Sindh to dignitaries from Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, and Qatar for hunting endangered animals. Their legal representative, Ghulam Hyder Sheikh, acknowledged that the federal government had allowed sixteen permits to Arab princes, sheikhs, and sovereigns to hunt the houbara bustard and granted them a limit of 100 birds per bag. He also complied that defendants Abdul Khaliq Al-Khoory, Mohammad Shahbaz Khan, Naseer Abdullah Hussain, Nawab Sardar Gaib Khan Chandio, and Nawabzada Burhan Khan Chandio were the agents and organizers of a private department belonging to Sheikh Nahyan bin Zayed Al Nahyan in the Sindh Province. The department is known to maintain illegal hunting on private lands of the claimants and villagers. He further asserted that the defendants, in connivance with bureaucrats, illegally seized the petitioners' and villagers' properties for hunting the bustard and other protected animals such as the chinkara, ibex, markhor, marsh crocodile, nilgai, urial, etc. They established hunting stations, cruised the area in their vehicles, and did not allow peasants, proprietors, residents, shepherds, and workers to come into the area to care for their cattle, crops, and land. The petitioners and villagers were said to be banned from farming on their lands from November 2014 to February 2015. Mr. Sheikh pointed out that the proclamation was illegal and violated court orders and international conventions. He also alleged that illegal acts had been conducted by other organizers, specifically Arbab Ghulam Rahim, Sardar Ali Gohar Khan Mahar, and Sardar Malik Asad Sikandar in Pakistan's national parks, protected areas, and wildlife sanctuaries. They were greatly reimbursed by Arab dignitaries.

It was a very bold and wonderful move the Sindhi High Court made in revoking hunting permits of Arab dignitaries. Not only has the distribution of hunting permits threatened Pakistan's endangered species, but it also negatively affected the local villagers. That is, organizers of private departments belonging to royal dignitaries had illegally seized land belonging to villagers in order to carry out hunting expeditions. This meant that villagers could not go about their duties of caring for their land which includes tending their crops, cattle, and other livestock. In other words, the issuance of hunting permits had been affecting their livelihood. But with this revocation of issuing hunting permits for Arab dignitaries, the local villagers can continue with their daily routine without any possible interference. In addition, Pakistan's endangered species are safe from poaching. Although Arab dignitaries cannot go on hunting expeditions, they can help in ensuring the survival and protection of endangered species in Pakistan, the Middle East, and North Africa. For example, in November 2014, it was announced that 500 scimitar-horned oryx will be steadily introduced to Ouadi Rime-Ouadi Achim Game Reserve in Chad marking the first ever plan of reintroducing this magnificent antelope which is currently extinct in the wild. The Environment Agency Abu Dhabi (EAD) is said to play a key role in conducting efforts to reintroduce the oryx to its former home range in collaboration with the government of Chad. If dignitaries from other Arab countries join forces with governments of Chad and other North African countries, it would further help in bringing the scimitar-horned oryx back from extinction and hopefully to other parts of its home range where it once thrived. The Arabian oryx successfully made a comeback from extinction after several years due to series of conservation efforts that are a result from a joint collaboration between Middle Eastern governments and international organizations like the World Wildlife Fund (WWF). Similar efforts should be implemented to return the scimitar-horned oryx to its former homeland in North Africa. 

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