In bizarre news, it was reported that local farmers in Bhakkar district clashed with police as they were protesting over damages to their crops by members of Qatari royal family hunting houbara bustard. Protesters refused to end protest and were demanding foreigner hunters should leave because they were destroying their only crop of the entire season. Police baton-charged protesters when they were marching towards camps of hunters. Later, protest was ended on the insurance that a delegation of protesters would meet the royal hunters to find out whether or not the problem could be solved through compensation.
The area is favourite hunting ground for the Arab dignitaries from almost last one decade. Local farmers were of the view that hunters from UAE caused less damage to their crops and compensate better, but Qataris pay less in compensation for destroying crops and cause more damages to their crops. On the other side, it was condemnable behavior of government officials, who termed demonstration of local farmers as a mere drama in order to get maximum compensation from the royal hunters.
Hunting houbara bustard is officially banned in Pakistan but it is no holds barred when Arab royals begin their hunting trips. Last year, after ban was imposed on the hunting of endangered species ‘houbara bustards’, government filed a review petition in Supreme Court to reverse the decision. Government maintained that allowing hunting to royal families of Middle East is one of the important elements of country’s foreign policy with some Arab countries.
Despite the constant warnings by some international NGOs working for the safety of rare birds, Pakistani government has continued to brush aside their recommendations and allowing hunting of the endangered species. It can be said in the argument of government’s decision that hunters of royal families have invested handsomely to provide social facilities to the locals living in the area. But it is irony that these social facilities are attached with the condition of permitting hunting.
Government needs to show will to protect rare species, it has been reported that in just couple of weeks hundreds of houbara bustards were hunted. Government should also show its commitment to avoid any untoward situation along with arranging appropriate compensation to the local farmers whose crops have been damaged by the visiting hunters. It is pleasing to know that KPK government has banned the hunting of Houbara bustards after the federal government contacted the KP government for allowing the Qatari Princes hunt the Houbara bustard bird in KP.
Government should also establish foreign policies on mutual interests, on the basis of trade and economy and not on the expense of allowing killing spree of precious migratory bird. We have witnessed recently, just to please President of Turkey Recep Tayyip Ergodan, government in a humiliating manner asked Turkish staff of Pak-Turk schools and colleges working in Pakistan to leave country within three days, who were teaching our students for years.
Pakistan foreign policy makers need to learn art of balancing demands of ally countries and own interests.
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