Islamabad: The hunting of endangered houbara bustards by members of Arab royal families in Pakistan has led to friction along the Indo-Pak frontier, with the BSF complaining about the firing, a media report said on Wednesday. The hunting in border regions has "caused friction with neighbouring India", The Express Tribune reported.
Any firing near the border is a violation of norms and India's Border Security (BSF) has lodged protests with the Pakistan Rangers. On Monday, the BSF held a meeting with the Pakistan Rangers at Attari on the issue. Last week, gunshots were heard near the border opposite Nachna at Jaisalmer in India.
A few days earlier, there was firing in the area adjoining Shahgarh Bulj. After these incidents, the BSF sent a protest note to the Pakistan Rangers. In an annual migratory trend, thousands of houbara bustards from cold climates come to the desert areas of Pakistan every winter.
However, the presence of this rare and internationally protected species has "major diplomatic implications" for Pakistan. The bustards, prized for their meat with purportedly aphrodisiac qualities, are hunted mostly by Arab royals.
"The Arabs hunt birds in the country with the permission of the government of Pakistan," said Foreign Office spokesman Moazzam Khan. He said the government issues permits to certain dignitaries not for monetary benefits but as a gesture of goodwill. Khan offered no comment on local and international laws that prohibit the hunting of endangered migratory birds like the houbara bustard.
An unnamed Foreign Ministry official told The Express Tribune that the government did not want to "annoy" Arab dignitaries by denying them permission to hunt. "They (Arab dignitaries) can hurt us economically if we deny them permission," the official said.
The official contended that the Arabs had sponsored development projects in areas where they hunted. During 2012-13, the Pakistan government issued 12 permits for around 815 trained hunting falcons. This includes two permits for 135 falcons for the royal family of Saudi Arabia, five permits for 200 falcons for Bahrain's royal family, two permits for 250 falcons for the United Arab Emirates and three permits for 230 falcons for the royal families of Qatar.
Each permit allows a maximum of 100 birds to be hunted. Currently, Bahrain's Sheikh Abdula Bin Salem al Khalifa is camping with trained falcons in Bahawalpur. UAE's Sheikh Sultan Bin Khalifa Bin Jaiyad al Nelyan and Sheikh Sultan Bin Jaiyad al Neyan are camping to hunt houbara bustards in Shakhar and Sangad areas.