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Arab hunters should be asked to contribute towards social development

ISLAMABAD: A Senate committee on Thursday proposed that the government bind the Arab royals coming to Pakistan to hunt the threatened houbara bustards to contribute some of the staggering amounts they spend on their pleasure sport towards community development in their hunting areas.

“Arab sheikhs should be asked to assist local governments in uplift schemes to provide clean drinking water to locals and build dispensaries in the areas allocated to them for hunting the harmless, vulnerable bird,” said chairman of the Standing Committee on Climate Change, Mir Mohammad Yousuf Badini.

Members of the committee argued that besides causing ecological destruction, indiscriminate hunting of the bird, listed as vulnerable by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and the Convention on Migratory Species, posed existential threat to the bird.
Senate committee suggests sheikhs fund drinking water and health projects in areas they hunt in

Officials of the ministries of climate change and foreign affairs attending the committee discussion could just squirm at the suggestion.

Like other migratory birds, houbara bustards arrive in Pakistan between Nov 1 and Jan 31 from Siberia to escape its harsh winters. They fly thousands of miles over Central Asia and Iran in search of the comparatively warmer climes of the south Asian subcontinent.

In Pakistan, they find resting places in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan before flying on to India to some natural habitats.

Arab princes and sheikhs lie in wait for them during their brief sojourn in Pakistan. They get 10 days to bag up to 100 houbara bustards during thse three months.

Foreign Ministry’s chief protocol officer Sahibzada Ahmed informed the committee that his office facilitated requests from 36 dignitaries from Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) for the 2016-17 hunting season.

However, the Foreign Office does not issue permits or allocates areas to the Arab guest hunters.

“In view of our bilateral relations with the Middle Eastern states, we facilitate the dignitaries by forwarding their requests to the provincial governments to consider the preferences of the hunting parties under local laws,” said the official, adding the provincial governments were not bound to entertain the requests.

Minister for Climate Change Zahid Hamid accepted that under the law of the land, trapping, netting and trading endangered species were not permitted.

Yet, the hunting parties are allowed to hunt “without damaging fauna and flora, setting camps on designated locations, watch vehicle speeds without disturbing animals and local communities.” He added: “Whether these rules are complied with is a separate matter.”

PTI Senator Samina Abid urged the government “to learn to say ‘No’ to the Arab princes and sheikhs, especially in the absence of schemes to rehabilitate natural environments of the migratory bird.”

She also wanted breeding programmes for the Houbara Bustard to ensure the survival of the species. “The KP government takes pride in declining Arab sheikhs permission to hunt the bird. The birds need some rest,” she said.

Inspector General Forest Ministry of Climate Change, Mahmood Nasir, told Dawn that it was not the meat of houbara bustard but the experience of their falcons hunting the bird that the Arabs enjoyed.

“Watching a falcon swooping upon a Bustard is the highest form of ecstasy for the Arabs who take a lot of pride in falconry, especially after Unesco declared falcon a cultural heritage,” he said.

Unlike the dove or a pigeon, the houbara bustard puts up a fight when a falcon attacks. “Falcon has a 50pc chance of failing, which makes hunting houbara bustard so exciting,” said Mr Nasir.

courtesy : dawn news

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