A resident of colder central Asian region, the houbara avoiding the harsh weather conditions back home migrates southwards every year to spend its winters in a relatively warmer environment here.
Owing to its dwindling population globally the migratory bird is protected under various international conservation conventions and its hunting is banned under national as well as local wildlife laws.
The federal government, however, issues special permits to kings, rulers, crown princes, princes and other members of ruling families of various Arab states of the Persian Gulf, including Saudi Arabia, to hunt the bird.
The sources said that by issuing the special houbara hunting permits, the government was risking to lose the Generalised Scheme of Preferences (GSP) Plus status given to it by the European Union under which its exports were given preference and an easy access to the highly lucrative European markets.
They said that the countries given the GSP Plus status had to observe numerous international agreements dealing with nature conservation, wildlife protection, human rights, labour rights, etc, and the EU carried out periodical checks to monitor and ensure that the countries given the GSP Plus status were following these conventions.
The sources said that losing the GSP Plus status in the present situation, particularly when the United States had suspended the monetary assistance, could prove to be financially lethal.
The sources said that the special permit No: DCP (P&I) – 19 / 6 / 2017 – 18 (Allocation/KSA – Kingdom of Saudi Arabia) had been issued by the foreign ministry’s deputy chief of protocol and had been sent to the Islamabad based embassy of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia so that it could be sent to the Tabuk (Saudi Arabia) based hunter.
The permit says that “the ministry of foreign affairs of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan presents its compliments to the Embassy of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in Islamabad and has the honour to state that the Government of Pakistan has conveyed its recommendation to the authorities in the province concerned for allocation of following areas to Royal Highness Prince Fahd bin Sultan Abdul Aziz Al- Saud, Governor of Tabuk, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia for hunting of houbara bustards for the season 2017-18.
“The areas allocated for the season 2017-18 are District Awaran and Noshki (less Noshki city) and District Chagai excluding area in the Northwest corner of Balochistan located in District Chagai (Nok Kindi).
“The respective provincial government has also been requested to issue necessary permit in this regard. Code of Conduct for hunting season 2017-18 is also attached.
“The ministry of foreign affairs of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan avails itself of this opportunity to renew to the esteemed Embassy of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia the assurances of its highest consideration,” adds the Pakistan foreign ministry’s letter.
The sources said that earlier, the entire Chagai district used to be allocated to Prince Fahd, but when the news regarding his poaching over 2,100 houbara bustard was highlighted by the media, Ruler of Dubai (UAE) Sheikh Mohammad bin Rashid Al-Maktoum approached Pakistan government for allocation of the Chagai district area.
The Pakistan government carved out a piece in the Northwest corner of Balochistan located in Chagai district (Nok Kundi) and allocated it to the Dubai ruler, while rest of the district remained with Saudi Arabian Prince Fahd.