In northern Pakistan, highest markhor trophy hunting permit fetches record $186,000

The photo posted on December 13, 2021, shows American hunter Bryan Kinsel Harlan posing with an Astore markhor after his hunt in Gilgit, Pakistan. (Photo courtesy: harlanhunts/Instagram)
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Updated 25 October 2023
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In northern Pakistan, highest markhor trophy hunting permit fetches record $186,000

  • Gilgit-Baltistan has auctioned hunting permits for 104 endangered animals, including markhors, blue sheep and ibexes
  • Conservationists argue trophy hunting program in Pakistan prevents poaching and empowers local communities

KHAPLU, Gilgit-Baltistan: The Gilgit-Baltistan (GB) government’s wildlife department on Tuesday auctioned trophy hunting permits for 104 endangered animals, with the highest permit to hunt the Astor markhor fetching a record $186,000, a wildlife department official confirmed.
The enormous license fee to kill the rare markhor, a long-horned goat native to Pakistan and found in its snowy northern mountains, is one of the highest in the world. The trophy hunting program was first introduced by the region’s administration in GB’s Nagar Valley in 1990, attracting international hunters who have since been paying hundreds of thousands of dollars to target a limited number of wild animals in the area. The program was later extended to different areas of GB.
Trophy hunting is viewed worldwide as a controversial practice as it involves hunting of rare animals for sport and displaying their parts as trophies. Conservationists argue the trophy hunting program in northern Pakistan prevents poaching and empowers local communities. Markhors are usually found at heights of 8,000-11,000 feet, but during the winter months descend to between 5,000-6,000 feet, which is when the hunting season kicks off.
“We had four permits of markhors and the highest permit was auctioned today in the Kargah-Napura-Basin area [of GB] for $186,000,” Khadim Abbas, a conservator for GB’s wildlife department, told Arab News over the phone.
Officials say 80 percent of the money received from the trophy hunting program goes to local communities, who spend it on education, health and development projects. The trophy hunting season commences on November 1 and ends on April 25. For the 2023-2024 season, the GB government auctioned hunting permits for four Astor markhors, 12 blue sheep and 88 ibexes.
Abbas said the second-highest permit for hunting a markhor sold for $181,000, followed by another one worth $177,000. The conservator said eight international permits for blue sheep were also auctioned.
“The base value for the blue sheep [permit] was $9,000. However, the price for a single blue sheep [permit] has been recorded between $26,000 and $35,000,” he said.
For Pakistani hunters, the highest price a blue sheep permit fetched was Rs 1,800,000 ($6,440), he continued, adding that the highest rate for hunting an ibex fetched Rs 1,100,000 ($3,935).
Abbas confirmed that 80 percent of the amount collected through the permits would go to the local communities while the rest would be deposited in the national exchequer.
“Local communities use the money in the health and development sector,” he said. “They also provide scholarships to students and loans for needy members of the community in case of emergency or to start small businesses.”
Tariq Hussain, another wildlife department official, said last year the highest price fetched by a markhor hunting license was $165,000. He said the trophy hunting program was proving to be beneficial for GB’s locals.
“The trophy hunting program is spreading awareness among locals and they are playing their best role to control illegal hunting of wild animals in their areas,” Dr. Salar Ali, head of the Department of Environmental Science at the University of Baltistan, told Arab News.
He said before the trophy hunting program was launched by the government, locals were not aware of the benefits that endangered animals provided, adding that poaching activities were also on the rise then.
“Now, once they [locals] started to get income from this program, they are playing their role to protect these animals,” Ali said.


Pakistan welcomes ICJ ruling on Gaza, reaffirms support to Palestinians

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Pakistan welcomes ICJ ruling on Gaza, reaffirms support to Palestinians

  • The ICJ decision added to the pressure on an increasingly isolated Israel, coming just days after Norway, Ireland and Spain announced they will recognize Palestine as a state
  • The case against Israel was initiated by South Africa in December 2023, where it labeled Israel’s actions in Gaza Strip as ‘genocidal’ and said they intended to destroy Palestinians

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan on Saturday welcomed additional provisional measures by the International Court of Justice (ICJ) ordering Israel to immediately halt its military offensive in the southern Gaza city of Rafah, reaffirming its support for the Palestinians’ right to self-determination.
The ICJ decision on Friday added to the pressure on an increasingly isolated Israel, coming just days after Norway, Ireland and Spain said they would recognize a Palestinian state, and the chief prosecutor of a separate international court sought arrest warrants for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
The case against Israel was initiated by South Africa in December 2023, where it labeled Israel’s actions in the Gaza Strip as “genocidal,” asserting that they intended to destroy the Palestinian people in ways specified under the 1948 Genocide Convention.
On Saturday, Pakistan’s foreign office said Islamabad supported the application filed by South Africa before the ICJ against Israel under the 1948 Genocide Convention, in follow up to which the ICJ announced additional provisional measures for Rafah.
“Pakistan demands immediate and unconditional implementation of the latest orders of the ICJ... We call on the UN Security Council to play its role in ending Israel’s ongoing brutal military campaign across Gaza; allowing unhindered flow of humanitarian assistance; taking effective measures to protect civilians in Gaza; and holding Israel accountable for its crimes,” the foreign office said in a statement.
“Pakistan reaffirms its unwavering support for the inalienable right to self-determination of the Palestinians for a viable, secure, contiguous and sovereign State of Palestine on the basis of the pre-1967 borders and with Al-Quds Al-Sharif as its capital.”
Israel besieged the Gaza Strip and launched airstrikes following a surprise attack by Hamas on October 7, prompted by the deteriorating conditions of the Palestinian people living under the Israeli occupation.
To date, the Palestinian death toll has reached about 36,000, predominantly women and children, as Netanyahu’s administration continues its military campaign that has demolished hundreds of residential neighborhoods along with hospitals and educational institutions.
Pakistan does not recognize the state of Israel and calls for an independent Palestinian state based on “internationally agreed parameters” and the pre-1967 borders with Al-Quds Al-Sharif as its capital.
In recent months, the South Asian country has repeatedly raised the issue of Israel’s war on Gaza, launched last October, at the United Nations through its permanent representative, Ambassador Munir Akram.
“As required by the latest ruling of ICJ, Israeli occupation authorities should keep the Rafah crossing open for unhindered provision of humanitarian assistance, and ensure unimpeded access to the Gaza Strip of any commission of inquiry, fact-finding mission or other investigative body mandated by the United Nations to investigate allegations of genocide,” the foreign office added.


Pakistani star Sajal Aly wants latest drama to raise awareness on family planning, women’s health

Updated 34 min 14 sec ago
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Pakistani star Sajal Aly wants latest drama to raise awareness on family planning, women’s health

  • ‘Zard Patton Ka Bunn’ revolves around the themes of population control, women education and health
  • The drama went on air this month, stars Aly alongside Hamza Sohail, Samiya Mumtaz and Rehan Sheikh

LAHORE: Pakistani actor Sajal Aly, who is currently starring in drama serial ‘Zard Patton Ka Bunn,’ has said that it is important to talk about population growth, need for family planning, and women’s education and health in Pakistan, hoping that the audiences would understand the “message” in her latest television show.
Set against a rural background, the first episode of the drama, which highlights the significance of family planning and its impact on women and their health, went on air on May 12. It is a co-production of Pakistani entertainment channel Hum TV and Kashf Foundation, a Pakistani microfinance company that provides financial services to women from low-income areas.
Apart from Aly, Zard Patton Ka Bunn stars Hamza Sohail, Samiya Mumtaz and Rehan Sheikh in key roles. Two episodes into it, the drama, which airs every Sunday at 8pm, has hinted at multiple story tracks that will be unfolding in the upcoming episodes. It was written by Mustafa Afridi and directed by Saife Hasan.
Aly plays the role of Meenu in the drama who tries to challenge the status quo in a rather conservative society she is part of. Meenu, an advocate for women’s education, has a supportive father, while most men around her wish to cut her feathers.
“In our project [Zard Patton Ka Bunn], there are such heavy scenes, but the way in which Saife Hasan had me play those, it is very simple. And those day-to-day talks should take place because we [as a society] do not touch upon them,” Aly told Arab News at the official launch of the drama in Lahore on Friday.
“When we do [talk about such issues], it hurts people’s ego. I hope people like it and also understand the solution we have tried to provide through this story.”
Aly, along with the rest of the cast, attended the event in Lahore to raise awareness around women’s education, empowerment and maternal health as well as population growth and control.
“There is a dire need to shed light on these issues,” she said. “There is nothing better if we can talk about such issues, besides entertainment, and get to perform in such stories.”
Roshaneh Zafar, founder and managing director of Kashf Foundation, said media had a “huge” role in highlighting such issues.
“Media has a huge reach. If you want to bring change in the society, your reach will come from drawing rooms or the households,” Zafar said. “Our purpose really was to bring real-life stories of women on to the screen. A lot of research goes into every script that we develop.”
This is the foundation’s sixth TV project that strives for a “social change,” according to Zafar. Their previous projects have tackled themes of child abuse and human trafficking that rarely feature on screen.
“Zard Patton Ka Bunn is about the growing population, its impact on women and children, and the impact it has on people’s future. This is how it starts off but you have to make the story interesting at the same time too,” Zafar told Arab News.
“On one end, you want to educate [viewers] while on the other hand, you want to entertain them. There are other tracks too [in the drama].”
Speaking of the potential of such narratives and their impact on audiences, Zafar said the society did not talk much about these things. “When you bring them to the screen, it initiates a dialogue,” she explained.
Highlighting the role of men in empowering such narratives, Hamza Sohail, who plays the male lead in the drama, shared that he signed the project without “thinking twice.”
“I said yes to it with my eyes closed because I feel, being a man in our society, there is a huge responsibility on us in current times to advocate for such topics,” Sohail told Arab News on Saturday.
“Being a media person and being an artist where I have a platform where I can create awareness in my humble way, I think it’s very vital to make whatever contribution I can [make].”
Sohail plays the role of Dr. Naufil who, according to the actor, is a “man of principles.”
“He is someone who stands up for injustice and speaks against it. He speaks up against any wrongdoing or anything illicit. Eventually, you will see how his and Meenu’s paths meet and how they come across each other,” the actor said.
“Then, the real story begins. Then is when they come together to serve something that is being promoted in Zard Patton Ka Bunn.”


India’s massive election faces heatwave challenge in penultimate phase

Updated 25 May 2024
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India’s massive election faces heatwave challenge in penultimate phase

  • The Election Commission has deployed paramedics with medicines and oral hydration salts at polling stations in Delhi
  • In Haryana, people residing near polling booths pitched in to help voters, handing out cold drinks, dry fruits and milk

NEW DELHI: The world’s largest election may become the hottest on Saturday, as Indians participate in the next-to-last phase of voting with temperatures forecast to surge to 47 degrees Celsius (117 degrees Fahrenheit) in the capital New Delhi.
More than 111 million people in 58 constituencies across eight states and federal territories are eligible to vote in the general election’s sixth phase, which recorded a turnout of 10.82 percent in the first two hours of the 11-hour poll.
The overall turnout in the same phase of the last elections in 2019 was about 63 percent.
“There is a concern, but we hope that people will overcome the fear of the heatwave and come and vote,” Delhi Chief Electoral Officer P. Krishnamurthy told Reuters.
Voting in the elections began on April 19 and will conclude on June 1, with counting set for June 4.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, leader of the Hindu-nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), who is favored to win a third consecutive term, also asked people to “vote in large numbers” in a message on social media platform X on Saturday.
The Election Commission has deployed paramedics with medicines and oral hydration salts at polling stations in Delhi, which have additionally been equipped with mist machines, shaded waiting areas and cold water dispensers for voters.
In some parts of the northern state of Haryana, people residing near polling booths also pitched in to help voters beat the heat, handing out cold drinks, dry fruits and milk free of cost.
Among those who cast their ballot early in Delhi were Rahul Gandhi, leader of the main opposition Congress party and Modi’s main rival, his mother Sonia Gandhi and sister Priyanka Vadra.
“We are keeping all our grievances aside and casting our vote for our constitution and democracy,” Vadra told reporters.
Opposition leader and Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, whose bail after pre-trial detention of nearly two months in a graft case has given fresh impetus to the opposition campaign, also voted in the capital.
Price rise and unemployment were two of the major issues mentioned by voters to Reuters when asked about the factors that determined their ballot.
“The government boasts about fast economic growth but the reality on the ground is very different,” said Delhi voter Fazal, 46, who only gave his first name and works at a multinational corporation, adding he also voted to “save democracy.”
Ashok Ghana, a plumber in the eastern state of Odisha, who said he voted for the BJP, added that “price rise and the non-availability of jobs” were the issues he considered.
Among those who voted based on the situation in their region was property dealer Praveen Chauhan, 43, in Delhi.
“My main issues are clean water, electricity, access to good health care and education,” he said, adding that the Kejriwal-led Delhi government “has given us that till now.”
While the heatwave was a concern in Delhi, a cyclone that is expected to hit land tomorrow was being closely watched in eastern Odisha and West Bengal, parts of which are also voting on Saturday.


Pakistan plans to improve medical education framework, resolve issues of locals studying abroad

Updated 25 May 2024
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Pakistan plans to improve medical education framework, resolve issues of locals studying abroad

  • The development came days after hundreds of Pakistani medical students returned from Kyrgyzstan following last week’s mob attacks
  • Kyrgyz medical schools have over the decades become popular among aspiring doctors, thanks to affordable fees and living expenses

ISLAMABAD: Deputy Prime Minister Ishaq Dar on Friday called for improving regulatory framework for medical education in Pakistan to make it at par with international standards and to resolve issues faced by Pakistani students studying abroad, Pakistani state media reported.
The decision was made at a meeting of a government committee on medical education in Islamabad, which was presided over by Dar. The committee reviewed medical education system, including fee structures, and identified key areas for improvement to align it with global standards.
The development came days after hundreds of Pakistani medical students returned from Kyrgyzstan following last week’s mob attacks on residences of foreign students studying in the Kyrgyz capital of Bishkek over an earlier brawl between several Kyrgyz men and some Egyptian students.
Medical schools of Kyrgyzstan have over the last few decades become popular among aspiring doctors from India, Pakistan and some other Asian and Arab countries, in part thanks to relatively affordable fees and living expenses.
“The Deputy Prime Minister underlined the need to establish coordination mechanism between medical institutions and the public and private sector to ensure uniform high-quality education in all provinces,” the Radio Pakistan broadcaster reported.
“The meeting decided to constitute a sub-executive committee to review the existing TORs [terms of reference], synergize the regulatory bodies, streamline procedures for foreign students in Pakistan and uniformity in curricula.”
PM Shehbaz Sharif constituted the committee on medical education on May 20. The committee, which includes representatives of the medical community, education sector and government officials, was set up to reform medical education, improve health care standards and ensure highest quality of medical training for future generations of health care professionals.
“The sub-committee will prepare its report with the objective to ensure that medical graduates in Pakistan are equipped with the knowledge and skills required to meet contemporary health care challenges,” the report read.


Pakistan PM admires Ireland’s decision to recognize Palestine in phone call with counterpart

Updated 25 May 2024
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Pakistan PM admires Ireland’s decision to recognize Palestine in phone call with counterpart

  • Ireland, Spain and Norway this week said they would formally recognize Palestine as a state on May 28
  • The additions have brought the total number of countries recognizing the Palestinian state to nearly 150

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif on Friday held a telephonic conversation with his Irish counterpart Simon Harris, in which he admired Ireland’s recent decision to recognize Palestine as a state, Sharif’s office said.
The Pakistan prime minister felicitated his Irish counterpart on his assumption of office and remarked that his youth and dynamism would bring major changes to Ireland, according to a statement issued from Sharif’s office.
He noted that Pakistan had always advocated that a two-state solution, in accordance with relevant United Nations (UN) resolutions, was the only way to bring lasting peace to the Middle East.
“Ireland’s decision would send a message of hope and solidarity to the innocent Palestinians who were suffering Israel’s brutal atrocities,” Sharif was quoted as saying by his office.
“It would also go a long way in promoting the Palestine cause and would urge other countries to follow Ireland.”
The prime ministers of Ireland, Spain and Norway said on Wednesday they would formally recognize Palestine as a state on May 28, following recent recognitions by Barbados, Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago and the Bahamas. The additions have brought the total number of countries recognizing the Palestinian state to nearly 150.
PM Harris said that Ireland had taken a principled decision in consultation with other European allies because the extent of Israel’s military action in Gaza could no longer be condoned in any way.
“The Irish felt that this decision was necessary to promote normalization in the occupied territories,” he was quoted as saying.
Sharif reaffirmed Pakistan’s strong commitment to the just struggle of the Palestinian people and lauded the decision of the International Court of Justice to order Israel to stop its assault on Gaza and Rafah.
Pakistan does not recognize the state of Israel and calls for an independent Palestinian state based on “internationally agreed parameters” and the pre-1967 borders with Al-Quds Al-Sharif as its capital.
In recent months, the South Asian country has repeatedly raised the issue of Israel’s war on Gaza, launched last October, at the United Nations through its permanent representative, Ambassador Munir Akram.