—Govt confesses extinction in Punjab, assures of rebreeding
—Court acknowledges no action taken against culprits like in India against Bollywood star Salman Khan
LAHORE: In a landmark judgment, the Lahore High Court (LHC) imposed a ban on hunting of black bucks across Punjab on Thursday. The case was heard by the LHC Chief Justice Yawar Ali in which he stated that Punjab government’s Forest, Wildlife, Fisheries Department (FWFD) has failed to perform its duty to protect the black bucks.
Being one of the respondents in the case, the Wildlife Department shockingly confessed that the black bucks have completely become extinct in Punjab both due to illegal hunting and natural causes such as pneumonia and attacks by predators.
Further, the Chief Justice showed his utter displeasure over Punjab chief secretary’s reply in which the latter maintained that in 2016 alone, there were86 reported births of black bucks of which about 40 were illegally hunted during the year.
The court said that the government has failed to perform its statutory duty bestowed upon them by the provisions under the schedule three of Punjab Wildlife Act 1972.
The counsel for the petitioner, Sheraz Zaka, argued that the government has failed to take adequate measures to fence the Bhawalpur Lal Sunhanra Park, one of South Asia’s largest national parks, and is a UNESCO declared Biosphere Reserve, in majorly which the remaining black bucks were present.
Punjab chief secretary assured the court that the fencing of the Park is almost complete, and the government has also signed an agreement with Deer Foundation regarding the breeding of black bucks, which would be brought to the Park soon.
Zaka further said that despite the offence being punishable with imprisonment of up to five years under the section 21 of the said Act, the government has failed to take any action against the culprits responsible for the extinction of the endangered species. He further said that an Indian court in Jodhpur has recently sentenced Bollywood star Salman Khan for hunting two black bucks during a shoot about 20 years ago realising the importance of protecting endangered species. He said that no such conviction of this sort has been done here in Pakistan, which indicates an alarming situation.
After hearing the argument, the court issued summons to the section officer and FWFD Director General Khalid Ayaz and asked them to personally appear with the record of past five years of actions taken, including FIRs, against those who were suspected to have been involved in the hunting. He further summoned the FWFD Secretary Mian Waheed-ud-Din and concerned veterinary doctor next week to give a reply to the negligence that caused deaths of as many as 46 black bucks due to diseases.
The court said that Pakistan has certain commitments under the international law such as Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) and the International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN). He further asked the concerned authorities to personally appear before the court with the record of past five years and adjourned the hearing till June 26.
Earlier in April, a Jodhpur court convicted Bollywood celebrity Salman Khan for hunting two black bucks during a film shoot in Jodhpur in 1998. However, he was granted a bail by a Rajasthan court in an appeal. He was released against a surety bond of INR500,000 after staying a night in Jodhpur central jail for a night.