Houbara bustard’s meat is prized for its supposed aphrodisiac qualities and the bird is considered to be at risk of extinction
Jon Boone in Islamabad
Monday 12 December 2016 17.24 GMT
One of Pakistan’s four provinces has banned Arab sheikhs from hunting a protected species of bird, defying Islamabad’s longstanding policy of giving hunting licences to key regional allies.
Swaths of habitat used in the winter by the migratory houbara bustard are allocated in blocks to the some of the most senior people in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states, who come armed with specially modified vehicles and radar systems to track the birds.
But an official in the government of the north-western Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province said it had rejected a request from a party of Qatari princes to shoot houbara bustards and would no longer allow such hunts.
On Sunday the politician Imran Khan, whose Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) partly runs the province, had said he would not allow anyone to hunt houbaras “as it is a protected bird and hunting them is illegal.”
Arab hunters first started coming to Pakistan in the 1960s after houbara stocks in the Arabian peninsula were decimated.
Pakistan’s three other provinces all permit hunting, in spite of opposition from conservationists who say the fast-dwindling houbara population will not survive the annual onslaught.
Although the hunters are only permitted to kill up to 100 birds each, it is difficult to control powerful visitors who reportedly hand out gifts of cash and jewellery to local notables.