The Sindh High Court (SHC) on Monday suspended the culling of imported Australian sheep till September 27 and directed the livestock department and other authorities concerned to take measures to prevent the outbreak of any new infection or the spread of any disease.
A division bench, headed by Justice Maqbool Baqar, issued the suspension order in light of two provisional reports submitted by a team of five health experts headed by a professor of the Dow University of Health Sciences, which did not find any clinical signs of the anthrax disease
in samples taken from 50 sheep.
The bench was hearing an application of the importer, who had sought stay of a government’s order for culling the 21,000 sheep.
After the director of the livestock department suspected that the animals might be infected with anthrax, the court had ordered the health experts at the previous hearing to obtain samples from the herd to ascertain whether or not the animals were infected with the fatal disease.
The importer, Tariq Mehmood Butt, who purchased the sheep for slaughter purpose that were later found infected with highly contagious diseases, had challenged the capability of the Sindh Poultry Vaccine Centre and its report on basis of which the livestock department had ordered the disposal of the animals.
Butt, who purchased the consignment after it was refused by an importer in Bahrain in August, sought the issuance of an injunction against the disposal of the sheep, contending that the animals were not infected or having any disease.
He also prayed to court to restrain the government functionaries from harassing or arresting him in the case.
The livestock department had ordered the disposal of the sheep after its officials claimed to have found them infected and unfit for human consumption.
The experts’ team, headed by Prof Mohammad Rafique Khanani, submitted two reports regarding their visit to the sheep farm in the Razzaqabad area in compliance with a court order.
The bench was informed that the culling was stopped as the team did not find any sheep with clinical signs of anthrax. Prof Khanani submitted that the team surveyed the farm and examined more than 50 sheep and obtained samples for tests. He said that according to the provisional microscopic examination none of the collected samples showed any organisms morphologically resembling bacillus anthracis.
Justice Maqbool Baqar adjourned the matter till September 27 and directed the authorities to take all possible measures for the health of the sheep and block the outbreak of any new infection or disease and or the spread of any present disease or infection.
The bench directed that all possible measures be taken for the welfare of designated staff working at the farm and they be given proper and professional guidelines and assistance in this regard.
On the request of the petitioner’s counsel, the court directed the livestock department to count the imported sheep carefully and maintain a proper counting record.
It also ordered all relevant record pertaining to the import of the sheep be placed before it, and also sought material to show what transpired in Bahrain which caused the diversion of the consignment to Pakistan.
It also sought documents if any which may conclusively show that no disease, infection, contamination and bacteria or virus was found in the sheep by the time it reached Bahrain and during the time it remained there.