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Pakistan turns blind eye to Arab smugglers

October 25, 2012

Arab falconers are smuggling endangered birds out of Pakistan at an alarming pace.  According to a Pakistan Today article on Oct. 17, Pakistani customs officials are forced to turn a blind eye to the export violations; those who attempt to stop the practice are “taken to task.”

This is being done in the name of fostering amity between Pakistan and unnamed Arab states (which include Saudi Arabia, the U.A.E., Kuwait, etc.)  The falcons are treasured by the Arabs.  It’s good politics for Pakistan which maintains warm relations with virulent Sunni allies, and it’s good money for those involved in the illegal trade.

But it’s bad for the birds—many of whom die in transport—and bad for the biodiversity of South Asia.  Much like illegal logging by the Taliban in Pakistan, the government is either powerless or complicit in the despoliation of the country’s resources.

Hat tip to Cites.org:

…Conservationists worry that there are cases where the government [of Pakistan] is not just apathetic about biodiversity loss but also collusive in its destruction for political or diplomatic reasons.

Raja Zahoor, a customs official, said many animals and birds are hunted for sport by foreign nationals with special permission granted by a government eager to “foster good relations” among influential countries in the Middle East. “Rare species of falcons and the houbara bustard are being taken away to Arab states on dubious documentation.”

Arab falconers hunt the internationally protected houbara bustard on special permits issued by the ministry of foreign affairs. They often bring in their own hunting falcons, but take back endangered Pakistani species using re-export permits. “It is very easy to swap the falcons,” said Panhwar.

“We know this is illegal, but our hands are tied. Customs officers who have tried to stop local falcons from being smuggled out of the country in this way have been taken to task,” Zahoor said.

One wonders what else, or who else, is being smuggled in and out of Pakistan so easily with government approval.

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