CJ asked to constitute larger bench for case on houbara bustard hunting ban
ISLAMABAD: Threat to vulnerable bird ‘houbara bustard’ from hunters, especially by foreign dignitaries, is serious enough for a larger bench of the Supreme Court to consider.
On Thursday a three-judge Supreme Court bench headed by Justice Mian Saqib Nisar referred the review petitions by federal, the Punjab, Sindh and Balochistan governments and by a number of politicians, including PML-Q Senator Chaudhry Shujat Hussain, back to Chief Justice Anwar Zaheer Jamali to consider constitution of a larger bench with an observation that the matter was very important. When constituted, the larger bench will resume the hearing in the last week of December.
The petitioners have sought reconsideration of apex court’s Aug 19 decree of banning hunting of migratory bird houbara Bustards by foreign dignitaries.
On Thursday the apex court also allowed senior counsel Farooq H. Naek to represent the Sindh government in the review petition in place of Additional Advocate General of Sindh Shahryar Qazi.
In its review petition the federal government on behalf of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs had pleaded that the hunting of the bird was a delicate matter that concerns the external affairs of Pakistan since hunting through falconry in the foreign policy of Pakistan had a great significance.
Now a number of parliamentarians, including Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain, Sardar Ahmed Khan Leghari, Mian Imtiaz Ahmed and Sheikh Fiazuddin who represents districts of Rahim Yar Khan, Khanpur and D. G. Khan where the hunting of the migratory birds was allowed before the imposition of the complete ban after the apex court order have submitted a fresh petition.
The petition has been instituted by President of Supreme Court Bar Association Ali Zafar on behalf of the parliamentarians.
The fresh petition has sought a declaration that houbara bustard is not an endangered bird that is on the verge of extinction and that the federal government as well as the Punjab government has the authority to grant licences and permits for the hunting of the bird strictly keeping in view of the concept of sustainable hunting.
The court should also order the governments to take measures for strengthening and implementing the process of sustainable hunting of houbara bustard, the petition said, emphasising that the petitioners, particularly millions of residents of Rahim Yar Khan, Khanpur and D.G. Khan and Rojhan districts, have a vital interest in the continuation of the programme of “sustainable hunting” of houbara bustard in their areas by Arab dignitaries in a regulated manner and in accordance with the law of the land.
The shutting down of the programme of sustainable hunting and the complete ban on hunting of all species, including houbara bustard, will threaten the very existence of the petitioners and millions of residents of the areas since it will take away from them their source of livelihood and employment, according to the petition.
This will also deprive them and the country of billions of rupees worth of development, infrastructure and welfare projects, existing and future, undertaken by these Arab dignitaries as a direct result of this programme and of the special relationships that have developed over four decades due to the sustainable hunting of boubara bustard carried out by Arab dignitaries.
The end result would be that illegal hunting and poaching would flourish and ultimately lead to the depletion of the species of houbara bustard, the petition argued.
The petition stated that the implementation of sustainable hunting programme has been duly incorporated in the Punjab Wildlife (Protection, Preservation, Conservation and Management) Act, 1974, as amended by the Punjab Wildlife (Protection, Preservation, Conservation and Management) (Amendment) Act, 2007, and the Code of Conduct for hunting and has been exercised in Pakistan for many years. Thus, the programme is crucial to ensure the safety, conservation and survival of houbara bustard.