ISLAMABAD - The Supreme Court on Wednesday said dismissed the appeals of the federation and the Balochistan government and ruled poaching of globally protected bird, houbara bustard , could not be allowed in Pakistan.

The court, however, allowed the application of Aamir Zahoorul Haq, an individual, who had requested the bench to cancel all the licences for hunting of houbara bustard and prevent the Foreign Office from issuing such permits to foreigners. He had claimed that despite a ban on the hunting of the rare bird in Pakistan, the government had issued permits in violation of the law.

The bench heard the case against illegal issuance of licences to some dignitaries from Gulf countries for hunting of endangered species. “These birds are our assets,” Chief Justice Jawwad S Khawaja remarked, while heading a three-judge bench.

During the hearing, Justice Dost Muhammad again questioned under what law the federal government had allowed the hunting as after the 18th Amendment various ministries, including wild life, had been devolved to the provinces.

The judge said if the federation received such requests, it should seek permission from the provinces because under the law only the provincial governments were authorised to issue permits for the hunting of the protected birds.

Attorney General for Pakistan Salman Butt, appearing before the bench, admitted that, according to the law, only the respective provincial governments could issue licences for hunting the protected bird. He said: “In future, it will be done in accordance with law.”

However, Additional Attorney General Amir Rehman who had argued the case on behalf of the federation was of the view that licences had been issued to the dignitaries from the Gulf states because of foreign relations with them. He contended houbara bustard was a vulnerable bird, but not an endangered species according to the international reports.

Justice Jawwad asked him if a dignitary was above the law. He said there had been dignitaries in England for 800 years, but in 1911 no person was dignitary in that country. He questioned why the Arab royals were violating the law in Pakistan.

Justice Qazi Faez Isa said even the foreign guests must respect Pakistani laws. He said the licences were issued to the princes from Arab countries not only against the Pakistani laws but also against the two international treaties to which Pakistan was signatory.

The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government has refused to allow VIP dignitaries from Gulf states to hunt globally protected Houbara bustard in the province, but the Punjab, Sindh and Balochistan permitted them for hunting houbara in their provinces in violation of the law.

The Balochistan government had requested the court to allow hunting of endangered species under strict codes of conduct. In its reply filed before the court, the provincial government stated they had allowed hunting in view of the Economic Coordination Committee’s May 2014 decision, adding the hunting of 100 birds had been allowed from November 15 to February 15 by charging Rs10 million.

The Sindh and the Punjab replied they allowed Arab visitors to hunt the protected birds in their provinces in view of the FO permission.

In November 2014, Balochistan High Court, cancelled the permits granted to foreigners, including Arab royals, for hunting rare birds. The court also cancelled all allotments of areas to the royal families for hunting.

The federal and the provincial governments, in February this year, filed the appeals against the Balochistan High Court. In September 2014, Haq also approached the Supreme Court against the issuance of illegal hunting permits to royal visitors from Gulf countries for hunting houbara bustard , locally known as Tiloor. The court, therefore, clubbed all the petitions, heard together and announced the decision on Wednesday.