By Syed Ali Shah
QUETTA: The Balochistan High Court (BHC) on Friday ordered cancellation of areas alloted to Arabs and other foreigners hunting for the rare houbara bustard and other birds in the province.
It is illegal for Arab royal family members and other foreigners to hunt for the houbara bustard and other wild birds, said a divisional bench of the BHC in its order.
Justice Jamal Mandokhail and Justice Ejaz Swati issued the order over petitions filed by two citizens Muhammad Aslam Bhootani and Muhammad Saleem who had challenged houbara hunting carried out by Arab royals in Balochistan.
In 2012, the federal government had issued 29 special permits to the royal family and Arab high officials for hunting the internationally protected bird species houbara bustard.
"The hunting is illegal and violates the International Wild Life Conservation Convention," Justice Jamal Mandokhail remarked while hearing two separate petitions which challenged the hunting in Balochistan.
During the hunting season, royal families from Qatar, United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia come to Balochistan's Dalbandin, Chaghi and other areas for the purpose of hunting.
The royal family have cemented good ties with influential people in the areas for hunting houbara and other birds.
The BHC also issued notices to the Federal Interior Ministry, Chief Secretary of Balochistan Saifullah Chattha and the Wild Life department in this regard.
The court directed the concerned departments to apprise it regarding action for protection of houbara and other birds in Balochistan that covers half of the country in terms of area.
The provincial government of Balochistan provides tight security and protocol to Arab officials and royal family members during the hunting of houbara bustards.
Earlier this year, a Saudi prince poached over 2,100 internationally protected houbara bustards in a 21-day hunting safari in Chagai, Balochistan, during which the royal also indulged in illegal hunting in protected areas, says a report.
The report titled 'Visit of Prince Fahd bin Sultan bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud regarding hunting of houbara bustard' prepared by Jaffar Baloch, a divisional forest officer of the Balochistan forest and wildlife department in Dalbandin, says the prince, for 21 days (from Jan 11, 2014 to Jan 31) hunted 1,977 birds, while other members of his party hunted an additional 123 birds, bringing the total bustard toll to 2,100, sources said.