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Houbara bustard removed from the list of protected birds: Punjab Govt

11 February, 2017

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LAHORE: The provincial government on Friday told the Lahore High Court that houbara bustard had been removed from the list of protected birds.

A report submitted by the Wildlife Department stated that a survey conducted in December last showed a reasonable increase in the number of houbara bustard.

Chief Justice Syed Mansoor Ali Shah expressed concern over the move and asked the department’s counsel about the criteria adopted in the survey to know the population of the bird. The chief justice was hearing identical petitions challenging hunting permits issued to the Qatari royal family members.

The chief justice observed it appeared that the government had a dream at night and it removed the houbara bustard from the list of protected birds next morning. He said the survey conducted by the wildlife department hardly seemed reliable.

Representing a petitioner, Advocate Sheraz Zaka alleged that houbara bustard was fast becoming endangered species and there was no department that could furnish statistics of the bird. Referring to a book “Confessions of an Economic Hit Man”, the lawyer said multinational corporations and rich people obtained licences to explore oil, gas and hunting protected birds in developing countries. However, undertakings of carrying out economic development projects in the hunting areas were never fulfilled, he added.

Advocate Kaleem Ilyas, through another petition, argued that houbara bustard was a protected bird across the world and it should not be excluded from the list of protected species here.

Assistant Advocate General Anwaar Hussain told the court that reports of international organisations on houbara bustard were not reliable. He was of the view that the international organisations outsourced their reports and they were based on assumptions. The law officer argued that only the reports of the government could be considered credible.

Justice Shah adjourned hearing till March 3 and directed the government to submit reasons and grounds the government relied upon to remove houbara bustard from the list of protected birds.

The Lahore High Court on Friday summoned Gujranwala Deputy Commissioner Amir Jan in a contempt petition regarding sale of a historical residential building in Wazirabad despite a stay order.

Representing the petitioner, Advocate Taffazul Haider Rizvi argued that despite status quo maintained by the court, regrettably, revenue officials along with police facilitated the illegal sale and also helped them obtain illegal possession after breaking open the locks.

Justice Muhammad Ameer Bhatti directed the deputy commissioner to appear in person on Feb 13 and explain his position in the case.

The judge had on Jan 25 stayed the sale of the “Musamman Burj” on the petition of Raja Jalilullah Khan and others. Mussamman Burj measuring 53-kanal-14-marla built in 1632 during the rule of Emperor Shahjahan was designed by architect Hakim Ilumud Din Wazir Khan (of Lahore’s Wazir Khan Masjid fame) after whom the city of Wazirabad was named. During the reign of Maharaja Ranjit Singh it was utilised as residence of French General Avitable who was one of the main commanders of Ranjit Singh.

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