There is yet another assault on the country’s declining Houbara population- this time by the government of Sindh. It has informed the Supreme Court that its order of imposing a ban on the hunting of houbara bustard is not implementable. In the matter of the bird versus the state, monetary concerns are trumping concerns of animal rights and wildflife conservation.
The Supreme Court of Pakistan has reserved its verdict on review appeals against ban on Houbara bustard’s hunt, claiming it will be given at an appropriate time. Identical review petitions were also filed by the federal and provincial governments challenging the court’s ban on hunting of the endangered bird Houbara bustard-seeking permission for some sustainable form of hunting of the bird.
Houbara bustard is listed as a vulnerable species in the International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List and is protected under the provincial wildlife laws. Successive governments have granted special permits to Arab dignitaries to hunt the bird for decades on ‘diplomatic grounds’ as they bring ‘investment to the social sector’. Are we really in so much need of Arab money that this issue keeps cropping up to the extent that it has become a national issue? The Ministry of Foreign Affairs, insensitive as ever, has countless times invited Arab dignitaries to hunt in Pakistan, by saying that it was a “cornerstone of foreign policy”. They further argue that the bird was classified “vulnerable” rather than “endangered”; and the houbara population was stable. Data and research suggests that this is far from the truth.
These animals are for us to protect, and we must extend the same conversation to the rest of Pakistan’s endangered species: our snow leopards, our markhors, our hog deer. The SC should not lift the ban. This case must set precedence for other endangered animals. It is reported that in 21 days from January to February, 2014 a prince shot 2,100 houbara birds dead. It seems the state wants to fight for the rights of the royals instead of those who cannot speak for themselves.