The Balochistan government has claimed that they earn approximately 2 billion rupees every hunting season and appealed to the Supreme Court to allow Houbara hunting to continue. However, hunting the Houbara Bustard is not an issue of economic profiteering but of environmental protection.

In response to the petition by an elder from Balochistan, Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-Fazl provincial deputy chief Senator Maulana Attaur Rehman, the Supreme Court upheld the ban on the issuance of permits and licenses for the hunting of endangered birds and also ordered the cancellation of all existing permits. Justice Jawwad Khawaja stated that these birds are the country’s assets but ‘we are dolling them out to foreign dignitaries and princes’. He went further to declare these acts as being similar to people selling their souls and bodies.

With this dispute between both opposing parties, it is hard to see whether either one has the best interests at heart- to preserve these birds. For the Supreme Court, hunting amounts to the surrendering of our sovereignty. The Baloch already feel that they do not have sovereignty over their own province. The decision of the Supreme Court to not let the government issue hunting licenses will only reinforce the sentiment. However, the issue is a simpler one and must be framed as such: Pakistani wildlife is endangered and must be protected. Arab princes hunting in Pakistan is not a matter of sovereignty, but of civic responsibility. Licenses must not be issued for the hunting, for the protection of Pakistani and Balochi wildlife, not to scorn rich Arabs.

The Balochi senator was of the view that permitting foreign dignitaries to hunt the bird brought prosperity and welfare not only to the people, but also the province. The dignitaries who come to hunt the bird have not only established certain projects but are also paying Rs 10 million for hunting 50 birds per season. Looking at these figures, it would have been strange if the Supreme Court verdict was not challenged. The economic argument is sound: should we protect animals or should we use the money to protect people? However, hunting is not a sustainable solution to the Balochi welfare problem, and there is no real evidence that the money is doing wonders for the region. The hunting is seasonal and risking losing a species to sport is ethically and morally wrong.

These birds are “vulnerable” according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of threatened species. Pakistan is signatory to the conventions. With their rapid decline in population, protecting them is a priority of the provincial government, along with the federal- by law. It is, once again, not a case of what belongs to whom, rather of preserving natural diversity.