ISLAMABAD – The federal government has issued special permits to three princes from Saudi Arabia to hunt the internationally protected migratory bird, houbara bustard, in Balochistan and Punjab during the hunting season.

Residents of colder Central Asian regions, houbara bustards migrate every year to spend winters in a relatively warmer environment like Pakistan.

According to sources, the hunting permit holders include the governor of Tabuk and two sons of the former King of Saudi Arabia, the late Saud bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud.

Sources said Prince Fahad bin Sultan bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud, the governor of Tabuk, was allocated Awaran district and Noshki (not Noshki city) and Chaghai district (excluding the northwest).

Prince Mansoor bin Saud bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud and his brother Prince Mishal bin Saud bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud were allocated Layyah district in Punjab.

The permit holders have been allowed to hunt 100 houbara bustards in 10 days during the hunting season which started on Nov 1 and will terminate on Jan 31, 2017.

The permits were dispatched through the Saudi Arabia’s embassy in Islamabad.

‘The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan presents its compliments to the Royal Embassy of Saudi Arabia in Islamabad and has the honour to state that the government of Pakistan has conveyed its recommendations to the authorities in the provinces concerned for allocation of following areas to the dignitaries of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia for houbara bustard for the season 2016-2017’ said the permit.

The code of conduct issued by the deputy chief of protocol of the foreign ministry was sent along with the permits. Copies of the code of conduct were also sent to, among others, the wildlife conservator at the Ministry of Climate Change to inform the provinces to facilitate the hunting, Dawn News reported.

On the other hand, The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government has imposed a ban on hunting of Houbara bustard in the province.

Following the directives of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf Chairman Imran Khan, KP Chief Minister Pervez Khattak issued directions to Wildlife Department for banning hunting of the precious migratory bird in the province.

Houbara bustards migrate in the thousands from Central Asia to Pakistan every winter, giving the Pakistani elite a chance to engage in “soft diplomacy”, as special permits are issued every year in order to allow wealthy sheikhs to hunt the bird. This is in spite of the fact that houbara bustard hunting is officially banned in Pakistan.