By Saleem Shahid
QUETTA: After promulgation of the Balochistan Wildlife Protection, Preservation, Conservation and Management Act 2014, the provincial government has been empowered to take measures to curb the poaching of endangered wildlife species. However, with poaching continuing, the measures to implement the law are yet to be seen.
The act also authorises the government to grant permission to Arab dignitaries for hunting houbara bustard. Earlier such permits were issued by the federal government.
A bill seeking the introduction of the law was unanimously passed by legislators in last month’s session of the Balochistan assembly and later it was signed by Governor Mohammad Khan Achakzai.
Clause 74 (1) of the act says: “Any officer or any other person, authorised by the government in this behalf, may search any person, premises, vessel, vehicle, wildlife animal package, receptacle or covering without warrant, so as to satisfy himself whether or not an offence under this Act has been committed and arrest the offender without warrant.”
Clause 79 (6) says: “The Forest and Wildlife Office may enter any premises, enclosure, or any building, to make a search and seizure of wild animal, kept illegally, or dead or any part thereof and arrest offender, or break the lock of any door, fixture or conveyance for purpose of search and seizure of wild animal living or dead or every part thereof or case property or arrest of offender.”
It has been learnt that poaching of rare animals and birds — including houbara bustard, Markhor and red-legged partridge — is continuing in some areas of the province without any check despite the introduction of the law.
“Government functionaries, senior bureaucrats, tribal chiefs and their guests from abroad are seen poaching houbara bustard in Chagai, Washak, Barkhan, Musakhel and other areas,” an official of the forests and wildlife department told Dawn. Similarly, he said, poachers hunt Markhor in Taktato and Chiltan mountain ranges and Qila Saifullah and Shirani forests. “They slaughter their prey, cook and eat its meat and stuff its head and skin which are later sold in Karachi and exported to the Gulf states and Europe from there.” The official said the department’s employees were involved in poaching of endangered species and their export via Karachi and Gwadar.
After covering long distances a large number of cranes reach Zhob river from Siberia every winter but most of them are killed by poachers.
Two kinds of houbara bustards are found in Balochistan. One of them comes from Siberia, lands in Balochistan in winter and returns after the arrival of summer.
The second is a local variety of the bird which inhibits Rakhshani Naag valley in southern Balochistan. Birds of both varieties fall prey to poaching. As a result, the number of the local species has declined to an alarmingly low level.
Poaching of another endangered species, Ibex, is reported from Hana valley and Zarghoon mountain ranges of Quetta where civil and army officials and influential politicians are allegedly involved in the illegal activity.
Meanwhile, several mistakes have been detected in the Urdu draft of the act, which may create confusion. It seems that neither the adviser to chief minister on forests and wildlife nor the secretary and other officials concerned have bothered to read the draft.
The draft appears to have been prepared by junior officials and moved in the assembly in haste. The lawmakers who approved the bill also failed to notice the mistakes.