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August 9, 2020

Kaavan

Opinion

August 9, 2020

“A good deed done to an animal is as meritorious as a good deed done to a human being, while an act of cruelty to an animal is as bad as an act of cruelty to a human being.” …Prophet Muhammad (pbuh)

Justice Athar Minallah, chief justice of the Islamabad High Court (IHC), in a truly landmark, historic judgement, writes: “This court has been called upon to recognize that animals have rights which ought to be respected or, rather, it is the duty of the human species to protect these rights for its own survival.”

Kaavan, a male, extinct-breed Asiatic elephant born in 1985, has been in chains almost since birth.

Kaavan has been, and is being, “treated cruelly by subjecting him to unimaginable pain and suffering for the past three decades and his continued captivity in the circumstances would expose the authorities to criminal consequences under the Act of 1890. The pain and suffering of Kaavan must come to an end by relocating him to an appropriate elephant sanctuary.”

Laurence Tribe, world-renowned legal scholar and a professor at the Harvard Law School, referred to Justice Minallah’s judgement in his amicus brief submitted to the New York Supreme Court.

Kevin Schneider, executive director of the Nonhuman Rights Project (NhRP), said, “The bold step forward he [Justice Minallah] has taken on behalf of oppressed nonhuman being like Kaavan is laudable…We look forward to bring this decision to the attention of the New York and Connecticut courts….” Steven Wise, president NhRP, said, “We are thrilled for Kaavan and grateful to Justice Minallah for standing up for the rights of nonhuman animals…” adding that Justice Minallah’s decision is a “light gleaming out from the cracks in the legal wall that has long separated humans from all other animals.”

According to the Supreme Court of Canada, the judge is the “pillar of our entire justice system” and the public has a right to demand “virtually irreproachable conduct from anyone performing a judicial function.” Justice Minallah has taken that one small step for a judge, one giant leap for ‘living creatures called animals’.

Surat al-An’am 6:38: “There is no creature on the earth or bird that flies with its wings but they are communities like you.” Prophet Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him) often “exhorted Muslims to show kindness and compassion towards animals and birds, and repeatedly forbade cruelty towards animals.”

The Prophet (pbuh) said, “Whoever is merciful even to a sparrow, Allah will be merciful to him on the Day of Judgement.” The Messenger of Allah (pbuh) said, “Fear Allah in these beasts who cannot speak.” The Companions said, “O Allah’s Messenger! Is there a reward for us in serving the animals?” The Prophet (pbuh) replied, “There is a reward for serving any living being.”

Justice Minallah wrote that “the conditions of captivity of the Zoo definitely amount to the criminal treatment of living beings” and that Kaavan’s “continued captivity in the circumstances would expose the authorities to criminal consequences…” The historic decision was announced in the open court on May 21.

Kaavan is still in captivity. The ‘authorities exposed to criminal consequences’ are the Metropolitan Corporation Islamabad, Ministry of Climate Change and Islamabad Wildlife Management Board.

The writer is a columnist based in Islamabad.

Email: [email protected] Twitter: @saleemfarrukh