Locals say Arab falconers have uplifted impoverished communities in Pakistani hunting towns

Wildlife officials release a falcon in Peshawar on Oct. 23, 2019. (AFP/File)
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Updated 25 January 2021

Locals say Arab falconers have uplifted impoverished communities in Pakistani hunting towns

  • Falconers from Saudi Arabia, UAE, Qatar and Bahrain arrive in Pakistan to hunt houbara bustard birds between December to February every year
  • World Wildlife Fund and other conservationists have raised alarm about continued hunting of the species in the absence of annual population surveys

LAHORE – Winter expeditions to Pakistan by Gulf falconers to hunt the rare houbara bustard every year have helped uplift impoverished hunting towns, some locals say, though conservationists have raised alarm about continued hunting in the absence of annual population surveys of the birds.
The International Union for Conservation of Nature lists the bustard — a shy, rare bird, the size of a chicken — as a vulnerable species with a global population of between 50,000 and 100,000. The bird has nearly vanished on the Arabian Peninsula.




A released houbara bustard bird is seen in this undated photo after being released from poachers. (Photo courtesy: Houbara Foundation International Pakistan)

The World Wildlife Fund has recommended that the Pakistan government stop issuing hunting permits for the bustard and completely ban hunting “with immediate effect,” saying controlled hunting should be allowed only after carrying out population surveys on an annual basis “with the involvement of relevant stakeholders to determine the population status and trends of the species in the country.”
For now, between the months of December and February, royals from Saudi Arabia, UAE, Qatar and Bahrain arrive in Pakistan and partake in falconry — the hunting of wild animals in their natural state and habitat by means of a trained bird of prey. Each hunting party pays $100,000 to be assigned a territory, another $100,000 for a ten-day permit to hunt 100 birds, and $1,000 for each falcon used in the hunt, according to a 2019 report published in The Economist.




In this undated photo, Mohamed Ahmed Al Bowardi, managing director of the Environment Agency in Abu Dhabi, and Pakistani Brigadier Mukhtar Ahmed, President of the Houbara Foundation International Pakistan, release houbara bustard birds. (Photo courtesy: Houbara Foundation International Pakistan)

Locals say the visitors have helped develop the remote towns across Pakistan where the hunts take place, setting up health, education, water supply and infrastructural projects worth millions of dollars. Officials at the Houbara Foundation International Pakistan (HFIP) argue sustainable hunting of the bustard is the best means of conservation.
“Not a single person from the last three generations of my family saw a school but my children are going to school. We spent our lives in mud huts, in the freezing cold and the blistering heat; now, we are living in a colony with all of life’s facilities,” Ali Ahmad, 32, who lives in Punjab’s Rahim Yar Khan, told Arab News.
He said this was because of “Sheikhs from the UAE” who had come to his hometown to hunt.
“They’ve done a lot of development projects here, and made our lives livable,” Ahmad added.
Another local, Nina Kumari, said her 12-year-old daughter was admitted at Sheikh Zayed Medical Complex Rahim Yar Khan, a facility built by the UAE government and named after the founder of the Emirates.
“Medicine is free and attendants get free meals,” Kumari said in a phone interview.
Other locals said hunting permit fees and jobs created around the hunting business had helped improve their lives.
In 2014, the government had imposed a “temporary moratorium” on hunting the bustard. In August 2015, the Supreme Court ordered a blanket ban, lifting it the following year after the government argued houbara hunting was a “cornerstone” of Pakistan’s relations with the Middle Eastern rulers and sustainable hunting was a means of conserving the vulnerable bird.
Officials at the Houbara Foundation International Pakistan (HFIP) concurred, telling Arab News the hunts by Arab dignitaries in designated areas had contributed toward the protection and conservation of the otherwise threatened species.




Officials from the International Fund for Houbara Conservation (IFHC) UAE, along with the Houbara Foundation International Pakistan release 250 houbara bustard birds in Kot Digi, Sindh, Pakistan on October 21, 2020. (Photo courtesy: Houbara Foundation International Pakistan)

“The Arab dignitaries release houbara in the deserts of Pakistan in the month of February and March every year,” an official at the Lahore-based HFIP, who declined to be named, said. “Last year, 3,200 houbara were released. The number of released houbara is bigger than the number hunted.”
He said Arab hunters had also initiated several projects to develop areas marked as protected for the houbara.
“Several health, educational, water supply and infrastructural projects worth millions of dollars have been completed with the financial help of UAE governments,” the HFIP official said. “The UAE government also provides funds for the protection and conservation of houbara on Pakistani soil.”


Nearly 90% Pakistanis in favor of compulsory Arabic classes — Gallup survey  

Updated 1 min 18 sec ago

Nearly 90% Pakistanis in favor of compulsory Arabic classes — Gallup survey  

  • Senate approved Compulsory Teaching of the Arabic Language Bill 2020 on Feb. 1
  • The bill makes Arabic classes mandatory at all primary and secondary schools in the federal capital

ISLAMABAD: Nearly 90 percent of Pakistanis are in favor of a senate bill that makes Arabic classes compulsory at school, a recent survey shows.

Pakistan’s upper house of parliament last month approved the Compulsory Teaching of the Arabic Language Bill 2020 which makes Arabic classes mandatory at all primary and secondary schools in the capital, Islamabad.

“Eighty-nine percent Pakistanis said that they are in favor of the approval of a Senate bill that calls for Arabic to be a mandatory part of the syllabus in educational institutions,” Gallup & Gilani Pakistan said in the study released on Friday.

The study was carried out on a sample of 1,503 men and women in urban and rural areas of 100 districts of all four provinces of Pakistan between Feb. 6 and Feb. 27.

To become law, the senate bill on Arabic teaching now requires approval by the National Assembly.

The lawmaker who presented the bill, opposition senator Javed Abbasi, argued that a command of Arabic, the official language of over 25 countries, would open up more job opportunities for Pakistanis in the Middle East, leading to lower unemployment and increased remittances.


Pakistan Air Force offers support, training to Sri Lankan military

Updated 51 min 20 sec ago

Pakistan Air Force offers support, training to Sri Lankan military

  • Chief Marshal Mujahid Anwar Khan earlier this week met Sri Lankan PM Mahinda Rajapaksa and top military officials in Colombo
  • Pakistan last month offered a $50 million credit line to Sri Lanka for cooperation in the field of defense and security  

ISLAMABAD: The Pakistan Air Force (PAF) chief has offered support to and agreed to strengthen cooperation with the Sri Lankan military, PAF said on Saturday.

Air Chief Marshal Mujahid Anwar Khan arrived in Colombo on Thursday, where he met with Sri Lankan Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa and top military officials.

As Marshal Khan lauded the efforts of Sri Lankan Armed Forces in their fight against terrorism during a meeting with Defense Secretary Gen. Kamal Gunaratne, he offered Pakistan's support and cooperation, PAF said in a statement.


In this photo released by Pakistan Air Force (PAF) on March 6, 2021, Pakistan Air Chief Marshal Mujahid Anwar Khan meets Sri Lanka Defense Secretary Gen. Kamal Gunaratne in Colombo. (Photo courtesy: PAF)

"The leaders agreed to further enhance bilateral cooperation especially in training and professional enhancement programs," PAF said, adding that Gen. Gunaratne welcomed the Pakistani air chief's visit as "manifestation of the strong bond between the Armed Forces of both the countries, especially the two Air Forces."

The Pakistani air chief's visit follows Prime Minister Imran Khan's official visit in late February, during which Pakistan offered a $50 million new credit line to Sri Lanka for cooperation in the field of defense and security.


Train derails killing 1, injuring 40 in southern Pakistan

Updated 34 min 44 sec ago

Train derails killing 1, injuring 40 in southern Pakistan

  • Accident took place between the Rohri and Sangi stations in southern Sindh province
  • Eight cars of the 18-car train from Karachi to Lahore derailed and six fell into a shallow ditch

MULTAN: Eight cars of a Lahore-bound train derailed in southern Pakistan early Sunday, killing at least one passenger and injuring 40 others, officials said.

The accident took place between the Rohri and Sangi stations in southern Sindh province and caused a temporary suspension of railway traffic in both directions, said Kamran Lashari, a railway official.

It wasn’t immediately clear what caused the derailment. Train accidents are common in Pakistan, where successive governments have paid little attention to improving the poorly maintained signal system and aging tracks.

Lashari said eight cars of the 18-car train that departed from Karachi for the eastern city of Lahore derailed and six fell into a shallow ditch.

Rescue official Muhammad Arshad said darkness and the remote location of the derailment hampered rescue efforts. He said the body of the woman who died and 40 injured passengers were taken to hospitals in nearby towns. It wasn’t immediately clear how many passengers were on the train.

Railway Minister Azam Sawati told a local television station that the accident was being investigated and the government would provide financial compensation to the heirs of deceased woman and all the injured.


Pakistan’s security forces kill eight militants in North Waziristan — ISPR

Updated 31 min 17 sec ago

Pakistan’s security forces kill eight militants in North Waziristan — ISPR

  • The tribal district bordering Afghanistan remained a militant stronghold for many years until authorities launched military operations in the area
  • The militants killed in the recent attacks were involved in terrorist activities against security forces and locals since 2009

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s security forces conducted two separate intelligence-based operations in North Waziristan district, said the military’s media wing, ISPR, in an official statement on Saturday, adding that eight militants were killed in the ensuing battles. 

The tribal district bordering Afghanistan remained a militant stronghold until Pakistani authorities launched clear-and-hold military operations to destroy the hideouts and communication centers of various proscribed groups. 

The recent operations in the territory were launched against Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) militants in which three senior commanders of the outfit were also killed, the ISPR statement informed. 

It added that these people were “involved in terrorist activities against security forces, law enforcement agencies and locals of the area since 2009.” 

The militants used improvised explosive devices and indulged in target killings, kidnapping for ransom and extortion. 

The statement continued that the TTP members were also involved in recruiting young and impressionable minds, adding that security personnel recovered huge caches of arms from their hideouts. 


PM Khan asks Hafeez Shaikh to continue as finance minister after Senate defeat

Updated 06 March 2021

PM Khan asks Hafeez Shaikh to continue as finance minister after Senate defeat

  • The prime minister expresses his faith in Shaikh's professional abilities while praising him for shoring up the national economy
  • Shaikh can work in his current capacity until June, though the government may try again to get him elected to parliament

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan has told his close aide Abdul Hafeez Shaikh to continue working as finance minister after Shaikh lost a general seat from the federal capital to a joint opposition candidate in the recent Senate elections, local media reported on Saturday.
In a one-on-one meeting after securing the vote of confidence from parliament earlier in the day, Khan said he had complete faith in Shaikh's professional abilities and applauded him for shoring up the ailing national economy.
The ruling Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) administration relied heavily on its finance minister to bring down the current account deficit and keep the financial system on track during the coronavirus pandemic.
After the Islamabad High Court ruled in a case in December that no special assistant or advisor to prime minister could chair or participate in cabinet committee meetings, Khan exercised his constitutional authority to elevate Shaikh as a federal minister for a period of six months.
According to Article 91 (9) of the Constitution, the finance minister cannot be reappointed to the same position as an unelected individual, and his defeat in the Senate election implies he may only be able to serve in his current capacity until June.
According to The Express Tribune, however, the government is likely to make one more effort to get him elected to the upper house of parliament by de-seating an opposition member, Ishaq Dar, who was elected to the Senate from Punjab in 2018 but did not take oath to the office.