ISLAMABAD: The Islamabad High Court (IHC) on Monday summoned the chairperson of the Wildlife Management Board and the secretary of ministry of climate change, sought names of wildlife officials, and hinted at contempt of court proceedings against Climate Change Minister Zartaj Gul and Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Climate Change Malik Amin Aslam in a case pertaining to deaths of animals at Islamabad Zoo.
Hearing the case, IHC Chief Justice Athar Minallah said that it appeared that the animals died due to incompetence of the Wildlife Management Board.
According to the May 21 ruling, the board was responsible for the transfer of animals, remarked the court, adding that on March 16 the notification of the wildlife management board was submitted with approval of the federal cabinet.
The court was informed that the lions are being shifted to Lahore instead of a sanctuary, recalled the court. The Ministry of Climate Change seems to be more interested in taking control of the management than in the transfer of animals, the court observed. The petitioner’s lawyer stated that the lions were being shifted to Lahore when they died.
The court observed that this pointed towards incompetence of the board. The Climate Change Ministry, Metropolitan Corporation Islamabad, and the Capital Development Authority are all engaging in politics, remarked Justice Minallah. “No one is prepared to take responsibility of the zoo,” he added.
Reminding that the court had asked in its earlier decision as to who would be responsible if anything happened to the animals, Justice Minallah directed Deputy Attorney General Tayyab Shah to read the court’s earlier decision with regards to the zoo.
Justice Minallah observed that the federal government had notified who would be on the board. “Who is the SAPM on climate change?” asked Justice Minallah. Noting that Zartaj Gul is the minister for climate change, Justice Minallah wondered whether it would be best to initiate contempt of court proceedings against all the members of the board.
The judge also expressed anger at the incompetency that led to the deaths of the animals. He asked whether an FIR has been registered for the negligence and inquired about the investigation into the matter. He asked whether the ones whose negligence led to the deaths are the ones investigating the matter.
Directing his ire towards the federal government and the wildlife management board, Justice Minallah sought details of the officials and adjourned the hearing till Tuesday.
Animals at the zoo are being transferred to other zoos or private sanctuaries across the country following directions from the Islamabad High Court (IHC) to protect them from mismanagement at the zoo. However, the process has proved to be deadly for some animals.
So far, as many as 10 animals held at the zoo have died over the past month during attempts to transfer them to sanctuaries due to the alleged incompetence and negligence of the caretakers.
Meanwhile, the Ministry of Climate Change has set up a high-level inquiry committee to probe the deaths of animals at the Islamabad Zoo.
A statement issued by the ministry last week, stated that committee will be chaired by the Ministry of Climate Change Additional Secretary Joudat Ayaz, and it will look into the causes of the recent deaths of animals at the zoo including lions, ostrich and other animals if any.
Muhammad Saleem, the ministry’s media focal person and deputy director, said that the IHC had tasked the board to ensure the safe and harmless transfer of animals from the zoo to wildlife sanctuaries. But, it has been brought to the notice of the ministry that deaths have occurred due to poor management and poor feeding arrangements over which the ministry was quite concerned, he said.