Not content with harming the interest of Pakistan in any way it can — sometimes militarily but always culturally — India more recently tried to use an opportunity to lure the Arab Gulf royalty to make their land the going destination for houbara hunting expeditions at Pakistan’s expense. This opportunity was provided in the wake of the ill-conceived propaganda at home to have a ban imposed on hunting the specie in Pakistan over the mistaken view that the hunting had somehow contributed to a declining population of the bird and was detrimental to the ecological order. Nothing could be farther from the truth.

The predominant view of the ‘liberal’ armchair warriors was so bereft of the ground reality and logic that once the truth was exposed, it became untenable. Not that it has made any difference to the misguided proponent, but the Supreme Court verdict earlier this year to overturn a ban it had imposed, after due process of law and well thought out considerations, reflects well on the sagacity of the Honorable Judges of the Apex Court.

The facts on the ground are that the Arab Dignitaries who were wrongly accused of abusing their falconry passion have rather in fact long sustained well planned houbara breeding programs both in the UAE and their releases in the areas they frequented in Pakistan, thus religiously meeting the ends of ecological balance. But this was not all.

They have contributed to substantial development, including the provision of first class medical facilities, a network of roads, provisioning of water supply systems, installation of filtration plants, educational projects and most of all, engaging thousands in the care and nurturing of the birds by offering them livelihoods.

All this is no mean feat, when you consider that in some of these remote areas, men and animal had long drunk from the same muddied tobas with not a care in the world shown by powers-that-be at home, for this unforgivable failure but pursuing false assertion about “animal rights” just goes to show the banal side of the trigger-happy armchair warriors.

Since few things appeal to reason more than stats do, it might be worthwhile to glean some. All put together some 30 hospitals have been established; 18 highways constructed; six international airports built; 27 housing schemes built; 23 schools and colleges constructed; 40 projects developed for the provision of clean drinking water; another 40 mosques and seminaries built; 38 programs launched for the preservation of wild life and forestation and electrification of villages etc — all thanks to Arab benevolence.

Besides, they have enabled students to benefit from scholarships and pursue higher studies; distributed food items to the needy, more so during Ramzan and times of natural calamities, including floods and earthquakes. Needless to say, they have indulgently loosened their purses in areas engaged in the procreation and nurturing of houbara bustards as well as breeding of other animals elsewhere.

The fact is that these Arab Gulf countries have been at the forefront of aiding Pakistan throughout the history. Their sustainable hunting expeditions through falconry favor the interest of our own people, to oppose this will mean to become the masters of our own misfortune.

Talking of the houbara bustard, the notion that these are hunted by the Arab royalty for their meat is hogwash, if not outright hilarious. There is no dearth of resources if meat was all they were interested in, as they are producing up to 50,000 houbara in their own setup at home. So why would they come here for hunting bags of 100 each. In this context, it is important to point out the traditional approach to hunting here. First and foremost, there is an upper limit to the hunting of the birds, and this is done not by shooting the bird dead, but by using the age-old sport of falconry. The hunting is done far away from populated areas and wild life personnel diligently maintain records.

The hunting period is limited to 10 days within the three months: November to January, and any transfer of houbara eggs is strictly forbidden. According to an estimate, there are 99,000 houbara bustards in the world, 22000 of which migrate to Pakistan every year and UAE is producing up to 50,000 birds every year for release into the wild.

Some 206,238 such birds have been bred from 1996 to 2014 and, of these, 104,186 have been set free. Around 3,300 birds are hunted through in an average year and according to a PWRC survey the bird population has increased, not decreased, from 2009 to 2015. There is this other, more immediate, issue that is often lost in the din of the armchair “rights” activist. What about the rights of fellow human beings, our compatriots to be more precise? It is worth remembering that nearly 3.5 million of the Pakistani Expatriates lives in the Gulf.

These Arab states play host to them, enabling in the bargain, for them to send remittances that essentially keep Pakistan afloat. Perhaps, that’s the biggest clincher if we are really keen to unlearn the jigsaw puzzle. For a long time, Pakistan’s economy has been dependent on the generosity of its expatriate citizens working in these Gulf countries, which are top of the pile year after year after year.

It is a measure of how international diplomacy is intertwined that one country’s loss is often another’s gain. When Pakistan took a principled position not to send its forces to fight on the side of the Saudi-led Gulf force in the Yemen conflict, it led to fissures that, at the end of the day, Pakistan was only able to remove after painstaking reconciliation.

But when the apex court first banned the hunting of houbara bustard in Pakistan, it created just enough room for India to queer the pitch and offer its own hunting grounds to the Arab royalty in a fervent bid to tilt the scales.

Mercifully, for all parties concerned — the Arabs, Pakistanis at home and expats and all those associated with the breeding programs — the Supreme Court lifted the ban to set the ties free.

The Arabs never really aspired to embrace India given their fraternal ties with Pakistan spanning decades. It is just as well that expatriate Pakistanis are also no longer fretting over what was beginning to look like a storm and a catastrophe. Sustainable hunting shall continue for the protection of the species and for the benefit of the local communities.