SC lifts ban on houbara bustard hunting


ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court on Friday lifted the ban on hunting of tiloor, an indigenous game bird also known as houbara bustard.

While reviewing its last year’s judgement, a five-judge bench of the apex court headed by Chief Justice Anwar Zaheer Jamali announced its judgment over the federal and provincial governments review petitions against the court’s verdict on the ban on houbara bustard hunting.

However, one of the judges Justice Qazi Faez Isa while writing a dissenting note opposed the court’s decision to conditionally allow   hunting of houbara bustard.

But the federal and provincial governments asked the court to review the decision, claiming that controlled hunting was a tool for preservation and should be allowed.

Wealthy hunting parties from the Gulf travel to Pakistan’s southwestern Balochistan province every winter to kill the houbara bustard using hunting falcons.

The International Union for Conservation of Nature includes the bird on its “red list” of threatened species, estimating there are fewer than 97,000 left globally.

The issue has also cast a spotlight on traditionally close ties between Pakistan and its allies in the Arab world, particularly Saudi Arabia.

Balochistan High Court in November 2014 cancelled all permits for hunting in the province, but the federal government headed by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif — a close ally of Saudi Arabia — continued to issue licenses.

In a judgement issued Friday, the court said it had set aside its original decision to ban hunting of the bird and that petitions on the issue would be listed for fresh hearings.

Sharif, along with powerful military chief General Raheel Sharif, visited Riyadh earlier this week in what his office said was an effort to ease tensions between Saudi Arabia and Iran.

Pakistan has deep military connections with Saudi Arabia and it has long benefited from the oil-rich kingdom’s largesse.

The prime minister has close personal ties with the Saudi royal family, who sheltered him during years in exile.

Justice Mian Saqib Nisar has authored the main judgment wherein he set aside the three judge bench’s August 19 verdict regarding the ban on hunting. Three judges, including the chief justice, endorsed his judgment.

In August, the court imposed a ban on the hunting of endangered birds and ordered the cancelation of all existing permits issued by the government.

By removing the ban on hunting, SC upheld the government’s request to lift the ban, while quashing Balochistan High Court’s decision.

Earlier this month, the top court reserved its judgment over the federal and three provincial governments’ review petitions against the ban on hunting of tiloor.

The Supreme Court’s three-judge bench, headed by former chief justice Justice Jawad S Khawaja on August 19, put a complete ban on the hunting of the bird. Later, several petitioners – including federal, Punjab, Sindh and Balochistan governments – filed review petitions in the apex court.

On January 5, Chief Justice Jamali formed a five-judge larger bench also including Justice Mian Saqib Nisar, Justice Iqbal Hameed Ur Rehman, Justice Umar Ata Bandial and Justice Qazi Faez Isa to hear the review petitions.

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