The Sindh High Court revoked a federal government notification on Friday that allowed issuance of permits to Arab dignitaries for hunting endangered species including houbara bustard, locally known as Tiloor, in the country.
The short order came on a petition filed by Lal Khan Chandio and Rahib Kalhoro. The petitioners had submitted that the foreign affairs ministry had allocated different districts of Sindh, Punjab and Balochistan to dignitaries of the UAE, Bahrain and Qatar for hunting protected animals.
Their counsel, Ghulam Hyder Sheikh, submitted that the federal government had granted 16 licences to Arab monarchs, princes and sheikhs to hunt the endangered houbara bustard and allowed them a 100-birds-per-bag limit.
The houbara bustard was declared an endangered species in 1912 and a permanent ban on hunting the bird was imposed in 1972. The Sindh High Court, on August 16, 1992, had struck down the temporary licences for Arab royals, but the practice continued unabated. Foreign hunters bring falcons with them to hunt the endangered bird for which special hunting permits are issued by the government for the temporary import of falcons and then their re-export.
Despite the restraining orders of the Balochistan High Court as well as the SHC’s, hunting is still being carried out in violation of their orders and no action has being taken.
The counsel submitted that respondents Naseer Abdullah Hussain, Abdul Khaliq Al-Khoory, Mohammad Shahbaz Khan, Nawab Sardar Gaib Khan Chandio, Nawabzada Burhan Khan Chandio were directors and agents of the private department of Sheikh Nahyan bin Zayed Al Nahyan in the province. The department organises illegal hunting on private lands of the petitioners and villagers.
He alleged that the respondents, in connivance with officials, illegally took over the properties of the petitioners spread over thousands of areas as well as that of poor villagers for hunting protected animals including houbara bustard, ibex, markhor, chinkara, crocodile, bluebull (nilgai), urial (blanfordi sheep) etc.
They set up hunting posts and patrolled the area in their vehicles and do not allow land owners, peasants, workers, tenants and shepherds to enter the area and look after their land, crops and cattle.
The counsel said the petitioners and villagers were prohibited from farming from November 2014 to February 2015 on their lands.
He said the impugned notification on the issuance of permits was illegal and in violation of international conventions and courts orders.
The counsel alleged that illegal acts had been carried out by other agents too namely Sardar Malik Asad Sikandar, Sardar Ali Gohar Khan Mahar and Arbab Ghulam Rahim in national parks, wildlife sanctuaries and protected areas.
These people, he added, were heavily monetarily compensated by Arab dignitaries.
The court was prayed to declare the allotments of the area for hunting illegal as they violated Article 5(2) of the constitution as Section 7 of the Sindh Wildlife Protection Ordinance, 1972.
The petitioner also requested the court to cancel all the permits issued to Arab dignitaries.
The federal attorney submitted that the government under the Sindh Wildlife Protection Ordinance 1972 could declare any area as game reserve where hunting and shooting of wildlife were permitted with special permits specifying the maximum number of animals or birds that could be killed or captured. The federal government, he added, could issue special permits to foreign dignitaries, heads of Gulf countries and members of royal families eligible.
An SHC division bench headed by Justice Sajjad Ali Shah observed that the high court already passed judgements in the matter and allowed the petition through a short order, setting aside the notification regarding the issuance of permits.