Original Articles

Federal government selling Balochistan land to Arab Sheikhs

There have been several reports in recent days of the federal government using its influence to get thousands of acres of coastal land in Balochistan sold to Arab Sheikhs from the UAE. According to the speaker of the Balochistan assembly, Aslam Bhootani:

Arab sheikhs who occasionally visit the area for hunting purposes want exclusive control over the vast tract of valuable land. Now they want to set up their private buildings and airport,” he said, adding that he was on an official visit to India when the incident took place and when he returned he informed the CM regarding the matter, who then stopped the summery from being issued. “If I will not protect the interests of the people then there is no justification for me to remain in office or be a member of the assembly,” he said.

“We acknowledge the efforts made by the PM to address the grievances of Balochistan, but it does not mean we can allow any one to sell our lands,” he said. The speaker demanded the federal government or the PM office not pressurise the provincial government on the issue because “we will not allow any one to become the owner of our land”.

See also, this report in the Nation

On Twitter, Governor of Punjab Salmaan Taseer made the following remarkable statement regarding this news:

What’s the harm in selling Balochstan land 2 Arab prince will help develop area. Dubai UAE US Italy everybody does it.Everything is Izzat!

Now setting aside the fact that the hunting of endangered species such as the Houbara Bustard is a condemnable action and that the government has no business issuing hunting licenses to Arab princes (as they do year after year), there is also the more important matter that selling thousands of acres of land to Arab princes in Balochistan which is already on the brink of rebellion shows a complete lack of sensitivity by the federal government. Finally, what kind of “development” would Governor Taseer expect Arab princes to undertake on land that they are purchasing for the purpose of maintaining as a hunting preserve?!

Update: Governor Taseer followed up his original statement with the following:

Plenty of property was sold to Arabs in Lahore Karachi etc what’s so sacred about Baluchistan? How can u develop wth this type of attitude?

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  • http://tribune.com.pk/story/76708/balochistan-told-to-oblige-arab-royalty/

    Balochistan told to oblige Arab royalty

    QUETTA: Balochistan Assembly speaker Aslam Bhootani has claimed that the Prime Minister’s Office is pressuring the provincial government for the allotment of thousands of acres of land to UAE Sheikhs for hunting purposes.
    Addressing a news conference at the Quetta Press Club here on Friday, he said the area (Lyari tehsil) whose land is being sought after is situated in his constituency in Lasbela District. He recalled that earlier the provincial government had taken back 70,000 acres of land from an institution of the federal government after efforts were made by Chief Minister Nawab Mohammad Aslam Raisani.
    “Once again, the federal government wants to allot the land to Arab Sheikhs belonging to the UAE. Ironically, a summary was prepared at the PM House overnight to give out the land on lease to Arab Sheikhs who occasionally visit the area for hunting. Now they want to set up their private buildings and an airport,” he explained.
    He said that he was on an official visit to India at the time of this development. Upon his return he informed the chief minister about the matter who then intervened to stop the summary from being issued. “If I will not protect the interests of the people then there is no justification for me to remain in office or act as a member of the assembly,” he maintained.
    “We acknowledge the efforts made by the prime minister to address the grievances of Balochistan but it does not mean we allow anyone to sell our lands,” he added.
    The speaker demanded that the federal government or the prime minister’s office should not pressurise the provincial government on this issue because the people of Balochistan would not allow anyone to own their land. He said that Balochistan was not up for sale.
    He added that if any attempt was made for the allotment of lands to the Arab Sheikhs, he along with the people of Lasbela would be forced to protect their inalienable rights.

  • Entire Pakistan is on sale- Whether it is our honour, our citizens or out land, provided the price is right- Our polititians are wary of their short instint and endeavour to make hay while the son is shining- I wonder if Mr.Bhootani was not offered any share of the cake or we still have been left with a few polititians who are not for sale-

  • http://www.thebalochhal.com/2010/11/editorial-mr-president-listen-to-bhoothani/

    Mr. President: Listen to Bhoothani!

    Bhoothani is indeed a very brave politician of the mega-sensitive Balochistan province. His critics say the only bad bone Bhoothani has got in his body is that of his affiliation with pro-Pervez Musharraf Pakistan Muslim League (PML-Quaid-e-Azam). Otherwise, he has stood time and again very bravely for the rights of the people of Balochistan. He was in fact the only politician to raise voice against the Pakistan Navy for illegally grabbing the public lands for a test firing range. He battled the case with such a great determination that the Balochistan Assembly ultimately had to pass a resolution against the illegal land acquisition.The Navy had to surrender before a steadfast Bhoothani.
    We admire Bhoothani for taking such a bold initiative in the broader public interest. It is earnestly hoped that Chief Minister Raisani will , firstly, ensure the blockade of the summery at the Revenue Department and, secondly, offer complete support ot Bhoothani on this matter. There is already a lot of anger and frustration among the Balochs over their natural resources being usurped. Now that a top official like Bhoothani has publicly accused the office of Prime Minister for pressurizing the Balochistan government for selling land to the oil-monarchs, the Baloch sense of insecurity further gets validated. Balochs would believe that the plot to colonize them is very deep-rooted and officially sponsored.
    Bhoothani’s staggering revelation has come at at a time when Balochs hold the Punjab and its leaders responsible for exploiting their resources. Raising fingers at a prime minister who belongs to the Punjab province may trigger massive reactions from the Baloch nationalists. Furthermore, this development is coinciding with the time when the province is struggling to ensure its control over multi-billion Reko Diq gold and copper project.
    With Prime Minister Gilani being implicated in this scam, we would urge President Asif Ali Zardari to personally take urgent notice of the matter. The people of Balochistan should be taken into confidence before taking any decision. The people of Balochistan will not happily endorse any official decision to sell the Baloch land to foreigners in return of kickbacks.

  • Houbara hunting permits issued to Gulf dignitaries
    By Bhagwandas
    Wednesday, 10 Nov, 2010

    Hunting of Houbara bustard by Pakistanis is banned under wildlife laws.—File photo

    KARACHI: The federal government has issued 28 special permits to the rulers, members of ruling families and other dignitaries of four Gulf states to hunt the internationally protected Houbara bustard during the 2010-2011 season, according to reliable sources.

    The sources said that, according to the code of conduct, the hunting period is restricted to 10 days with a bag limit of 100 birds.

    Hunting of Houbara bustard by Pakistanis is banned under wildlife laws.

    Houbara bustard, a native to Central Asia’s Kuzl Kum region, around the Aral Sea, is a migratory bird species that visits Pakistan every year to escape the harsh winter.

    The bird is sought after by Arab hunters owing to a myth that its meat has aphrodisiac qualities — a notion not supported by scientific evidence.

    The United Arab Emirates tops the list with 13 hunting permits — 11 of these have been awarded to the ruler and ruling family members. Five of these have been granted to people from Abu Dhabi and six from Dubai.

    Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al-Nahyan, President of the UAE and ruler of Abu Dhabi, has been allotted hunting areas in three provinces.

    In Punjab he has been granted Rahimyar Khan, Rajanpur and D.G. Khan districts, in Sindh Sukkur, Ghotki, Nawabshah and Sanghar districts and in Balochistan his areas comprise Zhob, Ormara, Gwadar, Pasni, Panjgur and Washuk districts.

    Sheikh Mohammad bin Zayed Al-Nahyan, Crown prince of Abu Dhabi, can hunt in Lehri Tehsil of Sibi district, Balochistan.

    Deputy prime minister of UAE, Sheikh Sultan bin Zayed Al-Nahyan, has been permitted to hunt in Khairpur district, including Kot Diji.

    Sheikh Mohammad bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the vice-president of UAE and ruler of Dubai, has been permitted to hunt in Khuzdar and Lasbela districts of Balochistan and Muzaffargarh district in Punjab.

    Crown Prince Sultan bin Abdul Aziz Al-Saud has been allotted Chagai and Nushki districts of Balochistan.

    Prince Naif bin Abdul Aziz, interior minister and brother of King Abdullah, has been permitted to hunt in Dera Bugti, Dera Murad Jamali, Nasirabad and Awaran districts of Balochistan.

    In Punjab his territory comprises Khushab, Jhang, Mianwali and Sargodha districts.

    Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Thani, the amir of Qatar, has been allotted Bahawalnagar district in Punjab.


    Plight of the falcon
    By Bhagwandas
    Sunday, 28 Mar, 2010

    Millions of migratory birds of hundreds of species visit our land to spend winter here and their colourful presence enhances the natural beauty of our country.

    But due to the policies of our avaricious decision makers, the Saker Falcon (Falco cherrug) and Peregriene Falcon (Falco peregrinus) face the threat of extinction.

    Residents of Central Asian region, these rare and endangered species of falcons are trapped in large numbers in NWFP, Sindh and Balochistan to cater to the rich Arab hunters who arrive every year to hunt the internationally protected houbara bustard. Since the introduction of Arabs and their petrodollars for the past quarter of a century, these birds are widely sold to the visitors who easily pay millions of rupees for a bird that takes their fancy. Falcons have a certain life span with phases such as youth, adulthood, and old age. Hence the older birds need to be replaced after a few years with younger ones so that they could hunt effectively.

    Considering the steeply declining population of falcons, following the concerns raised by local and international conservation organisations, the government has imposed a ban on the trapping and netting of falcons a couple of years ago. However, not to annoy their Arab friends, a policy of “re-export” was introduced under which the government issues an Arab dignitary – a re-export permit allowing him to bring in a certain number of falcons for hunting, and then take these falcons back home at the end of his safari. The idea behind this policy being that since the hunters would bring in their own falcons, they would not purchase the birds during their hunting trip here. The re-export permit and falcons are checked at the entry and exit airports. Though each falcon is brought in on a “passport”, the document is not very effective and could be used for any falcon. Besides, it is checked by the customs people who lack expertise in wildlife recognition. Some falcons are also “ringed” but the rings can be taken off and put on other birds and is hence not a very effective way of regulating their movement.

    A number of falcons are brought in on these permits well before the hunting season starts and sometimes even a person who has not been issued the houbara bustard hunting permit gets the falcon re-export permit. Hence using the re-export permits, people bring in aged, sick, or useless falcons and replace them with younger ones that are easily available in the underground black market here.

    Just to cite one case, this year a re-export permit for 15 falcons was issued to the Governor of Tabuk Prince Fahad bin Sultan of Saudi Arabia. These falcons were brought in through Karachi airport. While traveling to Chaghai in Balochistan, they were intercepted by the law enforcement agency personnel but released when the re-export permit was shown. After a week-long stay here the falcons returned to Saudi Arabia. Prince Fahad did not visit Chaghai during that time and no houbara bustard permit was issued to him either. No sensible reason comes to mind for the falcons’ arrival here except for the reason that during the stay, the falcons were swapped.

    The wildlife conservator of the Federal environment ministry, Umeed Khalid expressed his concern over issuance of re-export permits for falcons prior to allocation of houbara bustard hunting areas. The facility was not only misused for illegal export of fresh falcons but also resulted in unauthorised hunting of houbara bustard. “ We need to regulate the falcon movement more effectively,” he added.

    The deputy director general World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), Dr Ejaz Ahmed believes that the current method of checking falcons while entering and leaving the country is not effective. Though with technological development, identification is no more a problem as microchips with numbers and other information have been developed and these are injected into falcons. The government could make it mandatory that all the falcons entering the country should have microchips so that these could be scanned at airports and therefore ensured that the same falcon which was imported was being re-exported.

    A former WWF president Brig (retd) Mukhtar, who currently heads the Falcon Foundation, said that issue of illegal export of falcons could be resolved if the dignitaries were requested to bring in falcons fitted with microchips.

    A former NWFP chief wildlife conservator Dr Mumtaz Malik said that the current system of falcons entering and leaving the country was faulty and vulnerable to misuse. “Some time back a hunting party from the UAE landed at the Peshawar airport and wanted to take their falcons to southern Punjab, but we told them that we would not allow their falcons to enter until a “microchip” was fitted in each of them. They disagreed and flew back.”

    The microchip should be mandatory so that hunters adhere to the policy, and the highly rare falcon species could be saved.