A court in the Pakistani city of Khairpur in the Sindh province has summoned an Arab prince and his entourage in relation to hunting a protected species of the houbara bustard bird, after a petition was filed by a local resident.
According to Pakistan's the News, Khairpur's District & Sessions Court summoned them after the petitioner Raza Hussain accused an Arab prince, only named as Hamad Zaman, as having set up hunting camps in Acharo Thar, located in Nara Town to hunt the internationally protected bird species.
Hussain claimed that when local residents tried to stop the entourage from hunting the bustards, they were threatened with "dire consequences", the report says. The locals of Nara Town have previously protested against the illegal hunting expeditions.
The Arab prince, whose nationality has not yet been disclosed, was summoned along with his staff and the SHO of Sorah Police Station.
Seperately, Khairpur police detained around 40 villagers who were protesting against the hunting of the rare bird by foreign guests, which not only threatens the biodiversity of the Thar Desert, but also impedes their movement and daily routines with the arrival of the foreign hunters.
In November, activist and amateur video reporter Nazim Jokhio was tortured to death at a farmhouse belonging to two lawmakers. He had been caught filming foreigners hunting the houbara bustard and uploading footage onto social media. Civil society organisations yesterday accused the prosecution of delaying the murder case due to the accused being influential people.
In 2019, seven members of the Qatari royal family were arrested for poaching the same bird species without a permit.
Despite being a vulnerable species, the Pakistani government allows Arab royalty to hunt the houbara bustard. Special permits were issued to Dubai's ruler Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al-Maktoum and other members of the family during the 2020-21 hunting season. The controversial expeditions span four decades as a form of soft diplomacy between Pakistan and Gulf states which has also brought investment for under-developed areas in the hunting fields and continued even after the Supreme Court imposed a blanket ban on hunting the bird in 2015, which was later reversed.