PESHAWAR -  Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government on Sunday imposed a complete ban on hunting of houbara bustard in the province, as some Qatari royals are already engaged in hunting in Punjab.

Following the directives of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf Chairman Imran Khan, KP Chief Minister Pervez Khattak issued directions to Wildlife Department for banning hunting of the precious migratory bird in the province.

Houbara bustard or the North African houbara (Chlamydotis undulata) are a shy, rare bird breed having the size of a chicken. Hunting them is officially banned in Pakistan but it is no holds barred when Arab royals begin their hunting trips.

A 12-memebr delegation of Qarari royals arrived in Pakistan on Dec 3 and hunting rare birds in southern Punjab. They have been issued special permits for the controversial hunting by the federal government despite widespread criticism.

The ban by the PTI-led government in KP would cause embarrassment to the PML-N government which has reportedly also issued a special permit to at least one royal, Sheikh Abdullah bin Ali Al-Thani, for hunting houbara bustard in Dera Ismail Khan district of KP.

The central government has permitted the Qatari sheikh to hunt 100 houbara bustards in 10 days during the 2016-2017 season, which started on Nov 1 and would conclude on Jan 31, 2017.

The Qatari royals visiting Pakistan include Prince Hamad Bin Jassim bin Jaber Al-Thani, who wrote a letter for the PM’s family to justify their stance on London flats purchase in Panama leaks case.

They were received at the airport by Hasan Nawaz, son of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, and taken to the Sharifs’ Jati Umra residence at Raiwind where the premier hosted a luncheon for them. From there they went on the hunting spree for rare birds in Bhakkar district of Punjab the same day, hours after their arrival in Lahore.

PML-N leader Talal Chaudhry had earlier defended the hunting expedition, saying there was nothing wrong in it. "The hunting of houbara bustard is in practice in Pakistan for decades," he was quoted as saying. Adviser to the KP Chief Minister on Forests Ishtiaq Urmar yesterday confirmed the ban imposed by KP government. “No one would be allowed to violate the law,” he warned. The adviser said after the 18th amendment, every province has the right to protect its wildlife.

He added that houbara bustard had been declared a protected bird in the province therefore no one local or foreigner will be allowed to hunt the bird, saying that any one violating the law will be punished.

Ishtiaq said PTI chairman had sought the government to take every possible step to ensure protection of the rare species of birds. Imran Khan earlier tweeted: “I am going to speak to the KP CM not to allow anyone to hunt Houbara Bustards in KP as it is a protected bird and hunting them is illegal.”

Royals from UAE and Saudi Arabia, and their wealthy friends like to hunt houbara bustards both as a sport and because the meat is considered an aphrodisiac.

The birds migrate in the thousands from Central Asia to Pakistan every winter - giving the Pakistani elite a chance to engage in "soft diplomacy".

Despite the hunting ban, the government issues between 25 and 35 special permits annually to wealthy sheikhs, allowing them to hunt the bird in its winter habitat.