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To appease Arab dignitaries, wildlife department allows hunting of bustard

By Hafeez Tunio

KARACHI: Sindh wildlife department has come clean on its stance on the permission given to Arab dignitaries for the hunting of houbara bustard – a migratory bird facing extinction – by saying that the permission had been granted to appease the royal families and not to generate revenue.

This was officially stated by the department during a question-answers session at Sindh Assembly on Friday.

The wildlife department’s minister, Gayan Chan, was no show but on his behalf the parliamentary secretary of the department, MPA Nasir Shah, said the hunting of bustard is protected under national and international law but permits are given to only Arab Sheikhs in order to develop good relations. The Arab dignitaries of UAE, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Bahrain and members of ruling families come to Pakistan for the hunting of this bird, he added.

“Most of the Arab families prefer Sindh because of the deteriorating law and order situation in other provinces. The federal government has issued around 50 special permits between 2009 and 2013 and the highest number is given to families belonging to the UAE,” he said.

The parliamentary secretary was not aware of the exact amount of the fee for the special permit, saying that the federal government retains the entire amount. “After the 18th Amendment, government departments were supposed to be devolved to the provinces but the federal government is unwilling to do so,” he added.

The MPA said, “It is a policy of the federal government. It is a token of respect for Arab families to develop better ties with them. We have no authority to interfere but facilitate the hunters,” he said, adding that hunting is completely banned in Pakistan but there was no law for taking any action against the violators. “We can only impose a fine ranging from Rs5,000 to Rs25,000 but we cannot arrest them and put them behind bars,” he maintained. During the session, the wildlife department official said that Sukkur, Ghotki, Badin, Tharparkar, Dadu, Khairpur and Qamber-Shahdadkot are among other areas of Sindh where Arabs had set-up their tents.

Gorakh Hill Development Authority

Opposition parties were united in their stance against the provincial government plans to put Gorakh Hill Development Authority under the care of a sitting Pakistan Peoples’ Party MNA. The assembly session started with acting speaker Shehla Raza in chair and the minister for parliamentary affairs, Dr Sikandar Mandhro, moving the bill to nominate MNA Rafique Jamali as chairperson of the authority. Meanwhile, the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz MPA Irfanuallah Marwat and Pakistan Muslim League-Functional MPA Imitiaz Shaikh put up resistance. “The PPP has always struggled for the provincial autonomy so why are they now violating the law by trying to hand over the authority to the MNA of the area, said Marwat, adding that they would support if a provincial minister or any member of this august house was nominated. Shaikh said the project was in doldrums for years because of the five kilometers road, adding that it would be a blunder if an MNA is appointed. Information Minister Sharjeel Memon said, “If the appointment of the MNA and the interference in provincial affairs is illegal then why Shaikh has been appointed the special assistant to the prime minister.”

Shaikh responded by saying that it was according to the law. Countering his argument, Memon said they were also going to make a law for the appointment of a MNA as a chairperson and for which the government has moved a bill. MQM senior leader Syed Sardar Ahmed seconded that the decision was against the spirit of the 18th Amendment. During the discussion, MNA Jamali – the aspiring candidate for the chairperson – was also present in the visitors’ gallery. Senior Minister Nisar Ahmed Khuhro said that most of the MPAs wanted to speak on this issue and suggested the legislation be deferred till Monday.

Published in The Express Tribune, November 2nd, 2013.