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To please Arab royals, Imran Khan allows them to hunt endangered bustard

To keep the Arab royals happy, Pakistan has issued permits to them for hunting the endangered bustard and will rake in thousands of dollars in the process (Pic. Courtesy Twitter/@aminattock)

To keep the Arab royals happy, Pakistan has issued permits to them for hunting the endangered bustard and will rake in thousands of dollars in the process. 

The hunting of the bustard is a foreign policy tool of the Pakistan government, which allows influential Arab royals to hunt the bird for a price tag of $100,000. Pakistanis are not allowed to hunt this bird.

Although bustard hunting is banned in Pakistan but for wealthy Arabs everything is possible in the country. These birds have been hunted by Arab royals who prize its meat as an aphrodisiac.

For the Falconry Season 2021-2022 which starts from December, the Pakistani foreign office has issued 14 permits to Arab royals including the ruler of Qatar and the president of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) so far.

According to Pakistani daily Dawn, while the UAE President and ruler of Abu Dhabi Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al-Nahyan has been allowed to hunt in Sindh province, Emir of Qatar has been allocated Balochistan. King of Bahrain Hammad bin Isa bin Salman Al-Khalifa has been allotted areas in district Jamshoro, including tehsils Thana Bula Khan, Kotri Manjhand and Sehwan of Sindh.

Interestingly, granting the permits and allocation of hunting areas are done by a committee constituted by the prime minister of Pakistan.

“Before coming to power, Imran Khan had promised to ban bustard hunting. Now Imran  khan is issuing the permit,” says journalist Murtaza Solangi.

According to Pakistani experts, this time Pakistan has invited royals of UAE for ‘hunting” to sort out the “differences” on visa and other issues. In the last season, Imran Khan had sent “permission” to Saudi Arabian Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to restore ties between Saudi Arabia and Pakistan.

An inhabitant of the colder central Asian region, the Houbara bustard, migrates southwards every year to escape the harsh winter to spend time in a relatively warm environment in Sindh and Balochistan provinces of Pakistan.

The houbara species is officially known as MacQueen's bustard or Asian bustard. In the wake of its dwindling population, the migratory bird is protected under various international nature conservation treaties. It is classified as critically endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and has suffered a drastic drop in their numbers from hunting and loss of habitat.

In 2015, the Supreme Court of Pakistan had ordered a total ban on the hunting of the bird but the Pakistani government challenged the order and asked the court to review its decision, terming the invitations to Arabs for houbara hunting a “Cornerstone of Pakistan’s Foreign Policy.”  In the national parliament the Pakistan government defended the practice of issuing hunting licenses by saying that Pakistan highly values its diplomatic ties with the Gulf countries because hundreds of thousands of expatriate Pakistanis work there and send billions of dollars in remittances every year to help the cash-strapped national economy. The government argued that wealthy hunters from Gulf states bring investment to under-developed areas in the hunting fields.

Over the last few years, outrage in the media and agencies like WWF(Pakistan), over the hunting of the endangered bird has been louder than before.

In the last season, Prince Fahd Bin Sultan, a member of the House of Saud hunted 2,100 houbara bustards in Balochistan in an orgy of killing and one newspaper headline called it a “Bustard act”. To add insult to injury, the houbara bustard is officially the provincial bird of Balochistan.

Also Read: Supreme Court comes to the rescue of the majestic Great Indian Bustard