Saturday, February 7, 2015

Arabs visiting 'development sites' not hunting Houbaras: Govt official

Syed Ali Shah
The endangered houbara bustard

QUETTA: Adviser to the Chief Minister Balochistan on Forest and Wild Life, Obaidullah Jan Babat on Friday claimed that members of Arab royal families were visiting the province to review development projects, and not to hunt the endangered houbara bustard.

"They are visiting development sites in Dalbandin, they are not hunting," the adviser claimed when asked about the arrival of Governor Tabuk, Prince Fahad Bin Sultan Bin Abdul Aziz.

"We will never violate the court's order," Babat said, referring to an earlier decision by a division bench of the Balochistan High Court that had banned the hunting of houbara bustards in the province and ordered the cancellation of all permits issued for the purpose.

A local resident who declined to be named refuted the adviser's claims, stating that the Arab royal family members has gone straight to a location 35km outside of Dalbandin to hunt the endangered birds.

“It is Houbara hunting season," the resident said, adding that the Arabs were not visiting development sites.

Dawn had earlier uncovered that the Balochistan government has issued 28 allotments to Arab royal families and ministers across the province for hunting of endangered Houbara species. However, the BHC had cancelled all allotments made by the provincial government to royal Arab families last year on Nov 23.

"We have challenged the BHC's order for cancellation of allotments," a senior officer of the Balochistan government, who requested anonymity, had told Dawn.

Read more: Saudi governor arrives on hunting trip

Arab royal family members had arrived in Dalbandin on Wednesday. Provincial ministers and senior bureaucrats received the Arab prince at Dalbandin Airport.

The Arab prince and his convoy had been escorted under tight security by frontier corps, police and levies force.

Read also: Balochistan govt approaches SC to challenge houbara bustard ban

Babat has stated that under Wild Life Act Balochistan, 2014, the provincial government had the power to allot specific areas to foreigners for a limited period.

"We have constitutional power of allotment," the adviser said.

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