October 19, 2015
The Pakistani government has asked the country’s supreme court to reconsider a ban on the hunting of endangered birds by Arab hunters, which, it says, has adversely impacted ties with Gulf States — ties already under strain due to the crisis in Yemen.

In a petition filed with the court, local English-language daily Dawn reported, Pakistan’s foreign ministry argued that invitations to Arab rulers to take part in hunting expeditions in Pakistan had been a pillar of the country’s foreign policy for decades.

The country’s higher courts, the ministry added, had until now generally refrained from interfering in such matters.

The ministry went on to refer to Pakistan’s weakened ties with the Arab world, caused in part by Islamabad’s refusal to join a Saudi Arabia-led coalition against Shia Houthi rebels in Yemen.

In August, Pakistan’s Supreme Court banned the issuance of hunting licenses to foreign dignitaries — the vast majority of whom traditionally hail from the Middle East — for the hunting of endangered birds.

The ban especially applies to the houbara bustard, an endangered, chicken-sized species of bird indigenous to Pakistan’s southwest.

“Falconry [in which trained falcons are used to hunt other birds] is a significant feature of Pakistan’s relations with Middle Eastern countries,” the petition read.

“It is not merely a sport for Arabs, but also one of their most cherished customs,” it added.

Every year, scores of Arab princess throng to Pakistan’s better known hunting sites, particularly in winter, when millions of birds — including the houbara bustard — migrate from the frozen wastes of Siberia to Pakistan’s warm lakes and mountains.

By Aamir Latif