Sunday, January 24, 2016

Satire: Diary of an Arab hunter // NASIR IQBAL - Inviting Arabs to hunt is pillar of foreign policy

Diary of an Arab hunter
Wallah, it is once again the season of the hunt. We Arabs love God’s magnificent creatures; we travel all over the world to find them and kill them. For there is no struggle more glorious than a Sheikh’s entourage of armed bodyguards versus a small, defenseless bird. In the great deserts of Arabia there are few animals to hunt. There are camels but they do not understand the idea of running away; they stand there, idiots, and it is the Sheikh who has to run away to make distance. Ya tifl, that is not good.

That is why we come to our friends in al-Bakistan, where everyone looks like our servants from back home. They have many of these (houbara) bastards for our falcons to hunt. The Sheikh Abu bin Ibn says there will be great reward on the Day of Judgment for those who have killed the (houbara) bastards for this illegitimate bird is close to Shaitan and there is good in striking it down.

We choose the second day of the second month for this pilgrimage to al-Bakistan; the weather is nice and hot but by the grace of God their country is a bit rural, too few malls and eight lane highways and five star hotels. I ask the locals, “Have you not been blessed with the divine gift of oil?” They cast their eyes downwards and make faces as if to say no. The Sheikh Riyal bin Petrolyam tells me people do strange things with oil in al-Bakistan, like but it in their hair or in their food. I say no, no, you have to find Americans and sell it to them but the Sheikh says they do not understand.

The hospitality here is heartwarming and we truly feel part of a global Muslim Ummah which is why we build balace sized homes with electrified fences to keep the locals out. We start the hunt on a Friday for verily on this day there is a blessing upon those who carry radar devices and radio transmitters in a ten vehicle cavalcade. This year we go to the inhospitably arid dunes of Chagai.

Ya Habibi, this is the thrill of the hunt; pitting yourself in air-conditioned cars against harsh deserts, ferocious foreign journalists and keepers of wildlife reservations. Wallah there is nothing more dangerous than an enraged conservationist. And though we do not gamble verily we make a bet of 40 camels to see who can strike down a (houbara) bastard before the other, and this time Sheikh Abu bin Ibn’s falcon did fly away and when he started firing upon the houbara bushes in anger, the recoil set him upon the hot desert floor and the bullet hit a passerby and there was much rejoicing, for surely God smiles upon him who falls down while firing a rifle.

Then we heard the crown prince had landed in al-Bakistan and upon seeing the airport at the capital had remarked, “Is this a joke?” but then the prince told the Sheikhs that whatever has been promised to you has been promised tenfold, and in dollars, to the government of al-Bakistan for truly he is a friend who lets his brother hunt in his home.

The Sheikh Riyal bin Petrolyam tells me people do strange things with oil in al-Bakistan, like but it in their hair or in their food. I say no, no, you have to find Americans and sell it to them but the Sheikh says they do not understand.

For even though the locals are forbidden to strike the (houbara) bastard, for Arabs that they establish a special hunting license, called a keffiyeh, that is worn around the head and makes blessed all animals killed while wearing it. This follows a long tradition of Arabs enjoying safaris in South Asia from the days of Muhammad bin Qasim who made the journey to hunt the prized wildlife known as Maharajas. 

But some people try to make bad this relationship like last year when an al-Bakistani bureaucrat whispered ill things about the crown prince saying he had personally destroyed the habitat of hundreds of flying creatures and should no longer be given a visa. Surely, as justice is served on the wings of the falcon, the bureaucrat is now washing dishes somewhere in Sibi and close bond between Arabs and whatever these locals call themselves is preserved.

When the crown prince joined us in Chagai, he explained that in nature many things had been made good for man, and the bastard is one of them, for the bastard is good for the kindling of an Arab’s passions and keeps him young and virile. And the Sheikhs Wiz bin Khalifa, Khalid bin Naum and Sahil bin Kahil did raise a toast of halal wine to his speech and there was much rejoicing.

Inviting Arabs to hunt is pillar of foreign policy: govt
ISLAMABAD: The federal government has asked the Supreme Court to reconsider a ban on hunting houbara bustard by foreign dignitaries, saying the restriction was adversely affecting the country’s already-weakened relations with the Gulf states in the wake of turmoil in the region. “The petition involved a question of fundamental importance having direct bearing upon foreign relations of the federation with the Gulf states,” the Ministry of Foreign Affairs pleaded in a petition seeking a review of the Aug 19 verdict.

A three-judge Supreme Court bench, headed by then Chief Justice Jawwad S Khawaja, had ordered the federal and provincial governments not to grant licences or permits to hunt the endangered bird in the future. But the federal government argued that the matter concerned the country’s external affairs, matters the superior courts usually avoided interfering with. The review petition pleaded that falconry is a significant feature of Pakistan’s relations with Middle Eastern countries. Falconry is not merely a sport for Arabs, but also one of their most cherished customs and recognised as a cultural heritage by Unesco.

For over four decades, the petition recalled, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs had been extending invitations to Arab dignitaries for the sustainable hunting of the houbara bustard through falconry, in view of Pakistan’s strong fraternal and diplomatic relations with Gulf countries. The permits were issued following a strict code of conduct issued by the Foreign Ministry. Since inviting Arab dignitaries to hunt in Pakistan was a “cornerstone of foreign policy”, in continuance of past practice, foreign dignitaries were invited to Pakistan for the 2014-2015 hunting season.

The petition contended that under the provincial wildlife laws of Punjab, Sindh and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP), the respective provincial governments have statutory power to remove any category of wildlife from the schedule of protected animals. In Balochistan, the houbara bustard is a game animal under the Balochistan Wildlife (Protection, Preservation, Conservation and Management) Act 2014 and the hunting of this species is permissible under the law, subject to certain conditions.

By placing a complete ban on the hunting of the houbara bustard, the Supreme Court had travelled beyond the scope of law since the vires of provincial wildlife laws were admittedly never in question. Besides, none of the provisions of these laws were struck down by the court for being unconstitutional, the review said. Moreover to determine the actual population of the bird was a complex task that required concerted efforts. Since the houbara bustard, the review explained, was a migratory bird and extends its reach from Egypt to Mongolia and China.

It is a well established principle that the protection of conservation of wildlife species in its natural habitat can only be achieved through the sustainable use of natural resources, the petition said, adding that International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) recognised that the economies, cultures and well being of all human societies depend on the use of biodiversity, rather than constructing artificial distinction between people and nature.

The sustainable use of natural resources as defined by IUCN clearly demonstrates that sustainable use of wildlife is central to its preservation and protection. By placing a complete ban, the apex court has negated well-settled norms of the world community for the sustainable use of natural resources. Moreover, the foreign dignitaries brought with them considerable finances which were exclusively used for the development of the people in the areas where they hunted. Locals are also persuaded to arrangement for the breeding of the species and, often, a large number of the birds are released.
Published in Dawn, October 18th , 2015