LAHORE - The Lahore High Court on Saturday constituted a Wildlife Commission to look into the issues of wild animals and to formulate a code of conduct for political parties and their candidates that use any wild animal as electoral symbol during election campaigns/public rallies.

Justice Syed Mansoor Ali Shah constituted the commission while hearing a writ petition moved by Faryal Ali Gohar, seeking protection of wild animals. Justice Shah named it as ‘Wildlife Commission’ with directions to submit detailed report along with its recommendations regarding the compliance of laws concerning to wildlife before next hearing on September 19.

Brigadier (retd) Mukhtar Ahmad will head the Commission while the secretary Wildlife and Forest Department, representative of Climate Change Division Islamabad, representative of the Customs Department, FBR, Islamabad, representative of the Punjab’s Local Government Department, technical member Rina Saeed Khan, technical member Uzma Khan, civil rights activist Faryal Ali Gohar, Assistant Advocate General Punjab Anwaar Hussain, IUCN country representative of Pakistan, Director General of WWF Pakistan, representative of Private Wildlife Breeding Farms Advocates Co-Secretaries to the Commission Syed Ali Raza and Waqas Ahmad Mir, will be its members.

The purpose is to ensure full compliance of Punjab Wildlife (Protection, Preservation, Conservation and Management) Act, 1974 and other relevant laws.

The terms of references (ToRs) of wildlife commission are (i) To evaluate existing practices and examine procedures adopted by concerned Federal and Provincial Government Agencies relating to issuance of import permits for bringing wild exotic and other globally endangered species in Pakistan.

(ii) To assess the level of compliance with requirements and conditions laid down in the Pakistan Trade Control of Wild Flora and Fauna Act, 2012 and other relevant frameworks in regards to the import of exotic and endangered species, and take into account measures adopted by the competent state functionaries to ensure well-being, adequate housing and care of such animals, in particular big cats, within Pakistan.

(iii) To determine the annual scale of such imports of wild exotic species and ascertain the purposes for which their recipients have acquired them.

(iv) What are the general conditions in which the big cats are being housed by private individuals? To what extent are the GAMFC, 2001 being followed?

(v) If the Punjab Government takes the position that exotic big cats do not fall within purview of the Punjab Wildlife Act, 1974 then under what power are these big cats being housed at the Wildlife Breeding Farms under the Wildlife Breeding Farms Rules, 2008 flowing from the Punjab Wildlife Act, 1974? (vi) How and to what extent is the Punjab Government ensuring that big cats are not being kept by private individuals in their homes or on private property other than a licensed facility? (vii) What actions, if any, has the local government in Lahore taken to curb the practice of exhibitions of big cats in public places? (viii) What mechanisms could be put in place or what guidelines could be followed, moving forward, to ensure the well-being of big cats in Pakistan and ensure public safety? (ix) To analyse the type, manner and frequency of inspections, if at all, carried out by relevant state functionaries to facilities and breeding farms that house big cats and other exotic species, and generally evaluate the level of adherence of owners to licensing requirements. (x) Propose restrictions to be imposed upon owners of Private Wildlife Breeding Farms to allow use of any wild animal for displaying as a political/ social symbol. (xi) To carry out visits to the selective breeding farms or facilities, if need arise, to observe the keeping and overall conditions in which the big felids and other exotic animals are housed. (xii) To fully take into account all ‘uses’ of exotic species, in particular big felids for purpose other than breeding or licensing requirements, and evaluate their sale/purchase arrangements or of their offspring, and ascertain the responsibility of their housing and trading within Pakistan. (xiii) To facilitate profiling of all such individuals keeping exotic wild felids at homes or other private property other than a licensed facility. (xiv) To evaluate the public safety role of local government if any exotic wild felid is openly exhibited and paraded at on open place. (xv) To call, receive and evaluate proposals, suggestions and opinions from local and international professionals, specialized firms and public at large in regards to the improvement of care and custody of wild exotic and endangered species, and other animals in possession of private individuals. (xvi)    To carry out all such activities and endeavors that may be needful, and call upon expert(s) or competent official(s) to meaningfully examine the existing state of affairs of exotic and other wild animals in private possessions and propose a viable prognosis to the Court in regards to issues at hand. (xvii) Formulate a Code of Conduct for political parties and candidates to be adopted by Election Commission of Pakistan that display/exhibition of any wild animal as electoral symbol will be prohibited during Election Campaign/Public Rallies and in case of any violation thereof, penalty may be proposed.

 FIDA HUSSNAIN-12-07-2014