IHC questions allowing Qatari, UAE royals to hunt rare birds

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The Islamabad High Court (IHC) has sought responses from the federal and Punjab governments for issuing permits to members of the United Arab Emirates and Qatari royal families to hunt the internationally protected migratory bird Houbara bustard, also known as tiloor.

Tiloor is a rare species of migratory birds, which come from Central Asia in the winter to the arid plains of Pakistan. The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has placed the bird on its ‘red list’ of threatened species. Its hunting is banned in Pakistan but the country issues special hunting permits to the dignitaries from the Middle East.

The notifications were issued during the hearing of a petition against permission granted to the foreign dignitaries for hunting of the protected bird in the province. The petitioner has named federation, foreign secretary and Punjab chief minister as respondents in the case.

During the hearing of the case, the petitioner argued that the Punjab government has violated the Birds and Animals Protection Act 1912 by allowing the UAE and Qatari princes to hunt the migratory bird.

The prince has lately been in the news following the submission of his letter in the Supreme Court in connection with the Panamagate case. Claiming that Qatari prince Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim bin Jaber Al-Thani was among those in whose name the permits have been issued, the petitioner said the same Qatari prince did not appear in the apex court despite several requests.

The petitioner requested the court to order the government to make public all the details pertaining to the agreements signed with both countries in regard to the hunting permits and the security expenses being incurred on the royal family members. The petition further requested the court to declare null and void a notification issued by the Punjab government on the matter.

The court has given 10 days to the respondents to submit their replies.