LAHORE - The Royal families from the Arab world don’t need any licence to hunt Houbara Bustard in Pakistan, though this rare bird is at the risk of extinction.

The Arab Sheikhs hunt this endangered bird on the invitation of the Pakistan government for which no licence is required. Only areas are specified and this is the licence to kill the bird which the conservationists believe is among the endangered species.

These revealing facts were shared with Punjab lawmakers on Monday during the Assembly question hour.

Interestingly, Houbara’s meat is known for aphrodisiac properties, and this is perhaps the reason why the bird has already been wiped out from the Arabian Peninsula.

A Treasury member Sheikh Alauddin wanted to know if the authority to issue licence for hunting of Houbara Bustard lies with the Federal or the provincial governments after devolution of Wildlife Department to the provinces under the 18th Amendment.

He also asked about the people who had been issued licences to kill the bird in the last two years.

In a strange contradiction, on the one hand, the department of Forestry, Wildlife and Fisheries admitted that all matters concerning the wildlife fell within the purview of the provincial governments, while on the other, it also said that Ministry of Foreign Affairs was also in the practice of specifying hunting areas for the heads of states from the brotherly Islamic countries to come and enjoy hunting of Houbara Bustard here. 

One wonders if the subject of wildlife now falls within the jurisdiction of the provincial governments, under what law the Federal government would specify areas for hunting exclusively for the Arab Sheikhs.

Not satisfied with the written answer, Alauddin asked the chair to pend his question till Tuesday (today) implying thereby that he had supplementary questions to ask to ascertain the factual position on the subject. He told the House that he would come up with stunning revelations in this regard.

The PML-N lawmaker also informed his colleagues that hunting of Houbara Bustard was banned in neighbouring India.

Deputy Speaker Shair Ali Gorchani accepted his plea to pend the question till Tuesday for further discussion in the House.

In response to the same question, the Assembly members were also informed about some other facts regarding illegal hunting of this migratory bird which comes to Pakistan from central Asian States to spend winter here. They were told that during the last five years, 18,359 cases of illegal hunting were tried in the courts and a sum of Rs 41.80 million was recovered as fine from the violators.

The Guardian reported in February this year that while Houbara hunting has been banned in India for decades, Pakistan continues to give special licences to Arab rulers and senior officials. This year Pakistan issued 33 permits allowing dignitaries to kill up to 100 birds each, according to The Guardian story.

The Lahore High Court has already slapped an interim ban on hunting of Houbara Bustard in Punjab.

The provincial government has reportedly issued special hunting permits to Arab Sheikhs, unmindful of the fact that numbers of Houbara have fallen considerably in recent years. Convention on International Trade in endangered species also considers this bird to be at risk of extinction.