Convoy of Qatari royal hunting rare bird attacked in southwestern Pakistan

January 16, 2017 9:10 pm

An Emirati falconer trains his bird on January 1, 2017, during the Liwa Moreeb Dune Festival in the Liwa desert, some 250 kilometers southwest of Abu Dhabi. (Photo by AFP)

A Qatari royal family member on an expedition to hunt rare birds using falcons has come under attack by a group of villagers in ’s southwestern province of Balochistan, officials say.
Muhammad Yasar, a local Pakistani official, said on Monday that three security guards were wounded after a group of villagers brandishing guns and knives attacked the convoy of a Qatari royal family member on Sunday evening in the Musakhel district of the troubled province.
“A case has been registered against 25 people,” Yasar said.
Arab sheikhs regularly travel to Pakistan to hunt the houbara bustards using falcons.
Meanwhile, a Qatari official involved in the sport of falconry confirmed the assault by a large group of men on the convoy of hunters, which included a royal family member. He, however, declined to identify the individual.
“Qatari hunters apply and pay for government hunting permits and donate to local communities and wildlife conservation,” the Qatari official said, adding, “Unfortunately there have been attacks led by armed groups.”
The Pakistani government began issuing permits to houbara hunters for royals from the countries in the 1970s. The move was initially seen as a way to forge diplomatic ties with them after rival India imposed a ban on hunting the birds.
In 2014, a Saudi prince illegally hunted more than 2,000 houbara bustards, which are protected under Pakistani law. The Saudi prince went on a hunting spree for rare birds in province of Balochistan.

A falcon (R) tries to catch a houbara bustard during a falconry competition, part of the 2014 International Festival of Falconry in Hameem, 150 kilometers west of Abu Dhabi, UAE, on December 9, 2014. (Photo by AFP)

Thousands of houbara bustards enter Pakistan in winter to flee icy temperatures of the Central Asian regions.
The issue of Saudi and Qatari royals coming to Pakistan to hunt with falcons is increasingly becoming controversial. The hunt has sparked controversy in recent years because of the dwindling numbers of houbara bustards.
The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has also classified the birds as a vulnerable species with a global population ranging from 50,000 to 100,000.
The issue has sparked outrage on social media and among young activists. They have demanded the expulsion of Arab hunting parties from various regions of Pakistan.
Critics say that hunting with falcons, a practice Arab nomads used to survive life in the desert, is today a reckless hobby.  The practice threatens the houbara and funnels money into areas controlled by militias.
The activists have blamed the government of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif for colluding with some royals from the Arab monarchies over the issue. Premier Sharif spent nearly seven years in political exile in Saudi Arabia and has close personal ties with royal families of the Persian Gulf countries.
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