Blackbuck protection and animal rights | Pakistan Today

Blackbuck protection and animal rights

By: Sheraz Zaka

Recently the Lahore High Court has announced its verdict directing the Punjab government to take safety precautionary measures in order to protect a vulnerable species known as the blackbuck. Blackbucks are a protected vulnerable species under the Punjab Preservation and Protection of Wildlife Act and included in the Third Schedule which describes the list of animals and birds which are vulnerable as declared by CITES (convention on international trade of endangered species). It was argued before the Lahore High Court that the blackbuck population was deteriorating due to the illegal hunting permits granted and the lack of safety measures taken by the Punjab government.it was also argued that after the 18th Amendment the protection of biological diversity, and the ecosystem has been vested with the provinces. Therefore the Punjab government was negligent in performing its statutory obligations and as a source of evidence news clips were attached to corroborate the fact that blackbucks in the Cholistan desert and Lal Suhanra Park in Bahawalpur were deteriorating and it was a worrisome situation. Therefore the Lahore high court should exercise its judicial review powers under Article 199 of the constitution of Pakistan 1973 and issue a writ of mandamus to the Punjab government and the Director General Wildlife Department to take adequate measures in order to save the endangered species of blackbuck.

In developing countries it is very unfortunate that people lack awareness on topics like animal rights, and this is also one of the reasons that animals are being subjected to torture and have to carry such burdensome loads that it is tantamount to inflicting cruelty. Hence the education institutions should play a pivotal role in enlightening the youth about animal rights.

It was really an uphill battle as it took more than three and a half years to prove that the government was not bothered to protect animal rights as enshrined in the Punjab Protection and Preservation of Wildlife Act 1972 as well as in the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act. It was very painful for the petitioners when the law officers appearing on behalf of the Punjab Government stated that it was a frivolous litigation in order to gain publicity and media attention. It has become a routine matter that law officers appearing on behalf of government without any preparation of the brief try to convince the Court through such flimsy allegations that the litigation has been filed to attract publicity. Human rights activists or lawyers should never get bogged down by such cheap criticism because whenever any new idea emerges or a genuine public interest litigation is filed, there are people in lawyer’s fraternity who show their jealousy and insecurity by spewing venom on those lawyers who bring good causes to the court.

In this respect, we must be grateful to the Lahore high court Chief Justice Syed Mansoor Ali Shah (since elevated to the Supreme Court) who took this issue seriously and after his elevation, subsequently LHC Chief Justice Yawar Ali (now retired) appointed a commission headed by Dr Pervez Hassan to propose measures to safeguard the vulnerable specie of Blackbuck keeping in view the precautionary principle. Fortunately, the commission headed by Dr Pervez Hassan also gave its findings that the population of vulnerable species is deteriorating and unless or until the Punjab government imposes ban on its hunting along with taking precautionary measures, the situation is not going to improve. Dr Pervez Hassan also apprised the court that the litigation was absolutely genuine and need of the hour, and the court must recognise its judicial review powers as the right of life contained in Article 9 of the Constitution includes protection of biological diversity and environment. Chief Justice Yawar was shocked to know that from February 2016 to December 2016, 86 blackbucks had been born and 46 had already met a natural death due to lack of care.

It took a lot of arduous work by Dr Pervez Hassan, who through his dedication and diligence formulated a report and proposed that government should increase its spending as well as its capacity for the protection of the endangered species of blackbucks. Secondly, the commission also proposed that since the blackbuck is in the third schedule of Punjab Preservation and Protection of Wildlife Act 1972, therefore no hunting permits should be issued. The court later on summoned Director General Wildlife Suhail Ashraf,  who also endorsed the commission recommendations and thereupon the court directed the Punjab government to implement these recommendations in letter and spirit for the protection of the vulnerable species of the blackbuck.

The government and civil society should focus on animal welfare in educational institutes, inform functionaries including the police about animal rights, encourage media exposure, appoint animal health inspectors and celebrate International Animal Rights Day, World Animal Day, and World Wildlife Day to create awareness.

In developing countries it is very unfortunate that people lack awareness on topics like animal rights, and this is also one of the reasons that animals are being subjected to torture and have to carry such burdensome loads that it is tantamount to inflicting cruelty. Hence the education institutions should play a pivotal role in enlightening the youth about animal rights. The Holy Quran contains many examples and directives about how Muslims should treat animals. The Quran describes hoe animals form communities just as humans do:  “There is not an animal that lives on the earth, nor a being that flies on its wings, but they form communities like you. Nothing have we omitted from the Book, and they all shall be gathered to their Lord in the end”.(Quran 6:38)

Similarly Holy Prophet (Peace Ne Upon Him) exhorted Muslims to show kindness and compassion towards animals and birds and repeatedly forbade cruelty towards animals in the following hadith which is as under:

“Whoever is merciful even to a sparrow, Allah will be merciful to him on the Day of Judgement.”

“A good deed done to an animal is like a good deed done to a human being while an act of cruelty to an animal is as bad as cruelty to a human being.”

The government and civil society should focus on animal welfare in educational institutes, inform functionaries including the police about animal rights, encourage media exposure, appoint animal health inspectors and celebrate International Animal Rights Day, World Animal Day, and World Wildlife Day to create awareness.

The writer can be contacted at [email protected]



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