The houbara bustard is classified as Vulnerable (VU) on the IUCN Red List and is listed on Appendix I of CITES . It is also listed on Appendix II of the Bern Convention on European Wildlife and Natural Habitats and on Annex I of the EC Birds Directive . The northwest population is listed on Appendix I of the Convention on Migratory Species (CMS).
This probably is not news to those of you who care about the environment and nature of Pakistan and Pakistan’s status as a sovereign nation: The Saudi princess are in Pakistan again this year to perpetrate their annual massacre of the endangered Houbara Bustard. It is the misfortune of this poor bird that its meat has been associated with, of all things, male libido. In other words, if you eat this bird, it, somehow, enhances your sexual prowess. Those of us who know our Saudi royals, understand how important “sexual bower” is to these ruthless, so-called princess.
As always, the Pakistani government officials are on their knees performing symbolic acts of worship for these princes and leading this collective act of genuflection is the brave government of Balochistan, a province that we otherwise associate with independence and freedom. But this time, despite the fact that the Balochistan High Court revoked the permits issued to the princes , the government of Balochistan has decided to set aside the court order and offered itself to become yet another symbolic concubine of these desert princes. And to further throw dust in our eyes, and to prove to us that our politicians think of us only as idiots and fools, the brave government of Balochistan is insisting that these princes are not in Balochistan to hunt but to look for developmental opportunities. If that is their intent, then why do they need hunting camps and their falcons, unless they need the falcons to look for oil!
Needless to say, these actions of the Balochistan government and the silence of the federal government are troubling and shameful at various levels:
First of all, as a signatory to international treaties on conservation, Pakistan is legally responsible to meet our treaty obligations. Furthermore, as a nation-state, Pakistan should be extra vigilant in protecting the nature and wild life of Pakistan. This is what all sovereign nations do. This indiscriminate killing of a life form, a bird, is also morally wrong and constitutes an extreme form of cruelty!
Secondly, it is extremely important for Pakistan to set strong standards about rule of law, for that is the major problem in Pakistan right now. By inviting these princess and by allowing them to trample our laws, the government is sending a message that, somehow, Pakistani laws are for sale and anyone with enough money and power can purchase a way around them. If this is our national stance on our own laws, then all claims to national sovereignty and being a an independent nation become useless and unsustainable.
While the Balochistan government has been offering varied rationalizations for the presence of Governor of Tabuk in their province, all refuted by the locals who confirm that hunting has already begun, the federal government has also not made any efforts to implement the court order. Neither have any of our stalwart politicians publicly condemned these acts of national humiliation. Furthermore, even the agencies that are constitutionally assigned to protect the symbolic and material boundaries of Pakistan–Frontier Corps, for example–are actively providing security to these princess and their hunting parties.
Overall, it seems that despite a court ban, despite Pakistan’s treaty obligations, and despite the public protests by the environmentalists, these Saudi princess go on with their annual massacre of the Houbara Bustard. As a nation currently pitted in a long war with the Taliban and other terroristic groups, if we do not even have the wherewithal to send these killers of birds back to where they came from, then there is no hope for us in our other fights, for all such fights need resolve on the part of the government.
So, as a concerned Pakistani citizen, I hope that the Federal government will revoke these permits and ban the hunting of the houbara and I certainly hope that the government of Balochistan will show us once and for all that Balochistan, in line with its great history of valor and courage, is not for sale!!