This is the tale of a generous feast hosted for a hunter; a tale of footing the bill of the feast for “national interest”; also a story about a former guest of Arabs who tried paying off favours of his former hosts with his art of kingliness.
A few months ago, a Saudi minister and royal expressed his desire to visit Pakistan on a hunting spree before Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. The answer was of course: “most-welcome”. How could the prime minister say no to his former hosts from Saudi Arabia? This was his turn to be a generous host.
The prime minister asked a local MPA from Yazman to make arrangements for the royal’s hunting trip. But there was a problem. The royal could not enter areas in Cholistan already allotted to the rulers of Dubai and Abu Dhabi. The royal guest was looking for houbara bustards which are found in abundance in the Cholistan area of Bahawalpur but the desert has been equally divided from Rahim Yar Khan to Fort Abbas among the royals of Dubai and Abu Dhabi with bold ‘all-rights-reserved’ boards. An uphill task for the MPA! But finally he found a patch of land in Cholistan which was neither earmarked for Dubai nor for the royals of Abu Dhabi. But, unfortunately there weren’t a lot of birds in that patch for the hunter which is why it wasn’t part of any of the other royals’ territory.
Enter a business tycoon from Rahim Yar Khan who is also a close relative of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. He somehow managed to buy birds worth Rs 7 million from the local houbara catchers and released them in the range.
But the Sheikh was still unhappy.
“He was lamenting that the birds were not behaving wildly; therefore, he was not getting the real hunting pleasure,” a source privy to the affair told Pakistan Today.
It is pertinent to mention here that in August 2015, when the Supreme Court of Pakistan imposed a ban on houbara hunting and ordered the cancellation of permits, the government filed an emergency appeal against the verdict terming the hunting by royal Arabs as the “cornerstone of Pakistan’s foreign policy” and ultimately succeeded when the apex court lifted the ban in January this year.
After the lifting of ban and before its imposition by the Supreme Court, visiting royal hunters never honoured the limit given in the permits for the hunting of the endangered bird. Usually a party is given a limit to hunt 10-15 birds in a week or fortnight but if you seriously expect our rulers to implement the law – who themselves go to the extent of buying illegally-caged birds from hunters and release them to be hunted again by the Sheikhs – you may belong on an endangered list yourself.
The man who spent a whopping Rs 7 million in this case to please the Saudi guest served the national interests as per government’s “cornerstone of foreign policy” while the government servants (police, district administration) pocketed millions of rupees which were given away in tips by the royal after eating the aphrodisiac meat. The local MPA was the only one who refused to accept the cash gift of Rs 2.5 million from the Saudi royal, sources said.