Pakistani court summons Arab prince, members of entourage for hunting protected birds

11:55 PM | 25 Jan, 2022
Pakistani court summons Arab prince, members of entourage for hunting protected birds

A court in the Pakistani city of Khairpur in the Sindh province has summoned an Arab prince and his entourage for hunting protected species of the houbara bustard bird.

The move came after a Pakistani citizen filed petition against the hunting of the houbara bustard.

According to the reports surfacing in the Pakistani media, the Khairpur District & Sessions Court summoned the Saudi prince and members of his entourage on Raza Hussain's petition. The petitioner has accused an Arab prince, named only as Hamad Zaman, of having set up hunting camps in Acharo Thar located in Nara Town to hunt the internationally protected bird species.

According to Hussain, when local residents tried to stop the entourage from hunting the bustards, they were threatened with "dire consequences". The locals of Nara Town have previously protested against the illegal hunting expeditions.

The Arab prince, whose nationality has not yet been disclosed, was summoned along with his staff and the SHO of Sorah Police Station.

Separately, Khairpur police detained around 40 villagers who were protesting against the hunting of the rare bird by foreign guests, which not only threatens the biodiversity of the Thar Desert, but also impedes their movement and daily routines with the arrival of the foreign hunters.

In November last year, activist and amateur video reporter Nazim Jokhio was tortured to death at a farmhouse belonging to two lawmakers. He had been caught filming foreigners hunting the houbara bustard and uploading footage onto social media.

Civil society organisations yesterday accused the prosecution of delaying the murder case due to the accused being influential people.

In 2019, seven members of the Qatari royal family were arrested for poaching the same bird species without a permit.

Despite being a vulnerable species, the Pakistani government allows Arab royalty to hunt the houbara bustard. Special permits were issued to Dubai's ruler Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al-Maktoum and other members of the family during the 2020-21 hunting season.

The controversial expeditions span four decades as a form of soft diplomacy between Pakistan and Gulf states which has also brought investment for underdeveloped areas in the hunting fields and continued even after the Supreme Court imposed a blanket ban on hunting the bird in 2015, which was later reversed.