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Pakistan issues permits for houbara bustard hunting to foreign dignitaries

Pakistan issues hunting permits for the endangered houbara bustard (Photo: Sahibzada Tariq Hameed/Wikimedia Commons)

Right in the middle of a raging controversy over the murder of citizen journalist Nazim Jokhio for taking up the cause of hunting, Pakistan has issued permits to Arab guests for the houbara bustard 'hunting season' that begins now.

Pakistan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs has reportedly passed on 14 names of Arab guests to the Sindh government for hunting the houbara bustard, an internationally protected bird species. The houbara is a migratory bird that visits Pakistan during November, kicking off the falconry season, says Pakistani television website Samaa.

Pakistan made changes to its hunting laws after severe condemnation for allowing the hunting of a bird that faces extinction. Earlier the federal government used to give hunting permits but now passes on the list of influential Arab visitors who like to hunt to the provincial governments. Earlier Islamabad gave out the hunting permits, now the provincial governments do it on the recommendation of the federal government.

Pakistani newspaper Dawn says that the change in the hunting laws is a mere formality.

This year the hunting season has started with a controversy over the murder of citizen journalist Nazim Jokhio who was allegedly killed by a member of the Sindh provincial assembly, Jam Owais, for putting up videos of hourbara hunting on the social media.

Last week Jokhio had stopped a vehicle with foreign registration number in the Sindh province which was allegedly hunting, and questioned the occupants of the vehicle. He uploaded the video of that conversation along with other videos of hunts of the houbara bird.

Owais, a powerful local politician, reportedly called Jokhio home and beat him to death for disturbing his foreign guests. The Pakistani social media has been buzzing over the murder of the citizen journalist. The police arrested the Sindh law-maker from the Pakistan Peoples' Party (PPP) after Jokhio's relatives blocked the Karachi highway and the news appeared in the mainstream media.

International organisations—International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) and Reporters Without Borders (RSF)—also jumped into the fray.

The IFJ condemned Jokhio's murder and asked the Pakistani government to deliver justice to Jokhio's family members. The IFJ said, “We strongly condemn the murder of Nazim Sajawal Jokhio and call on Pakistan authorities to investigate the crime swiftly and with due diligence”.

International non-profit organisation, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) too asked for an investigation into the murder of the video journalist.