Sharif hosts UAE president in Rahim Yar Khan

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif will roll out the red carpet for Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the president of the United Arab Emirates (UAE), upon his arrival in Rahim Yar Khan later today.

The two leaders are set to discuss further strengthening of bilateral ties between the two countries, as well as other matters of mutual interest.

The visit, which is scheduled to last one day, will take place at the Chandana Airport in Bahawalpur, 119 kilometres away from Rahim Yar Khan.

While the purpose of the visit was not immediately clear, each year, members of the UAE royal family visit Pakistan around the end of the winter season to partake in hunting expeditions of the houbara bustard, a species that is both internationally protected and critically endangered but whose meat is considered by some to be an aphrodisiac.

These hunting trips are conducted under a license issued by the foreign ministry.

The shy birds, about the size of a turkey, are in decline, so killing them is controversial — but they are still hunted for sport.

Powerful interests in Pakistan support the secretive hunts, which have been going on for decades, as a way of furthering relations with influential players in rich Gulf states. Those who back the trips say they bring desperately needed employment and investment.

But what Pakistan actually gains is not all that clear. Proponents argue that these hunting trips bring much-needed employment and investment opportunities to the country. Some in hunting circles say royals use the trips purely for personal enjoyment.

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