ISLAMABAD - The Supreme Court has turned down federation’s request to grant interim relief for issuance of licence for hunting of protected bird, houbara bustard .

The federal as well as Balochistan, Sindh and Punjab governments have filed review petitions against the apex court judgment, which are being heard by a three-judge bench headed by Justice Mian Saqib Nisar.

The court on August 19, 2015 had struck down the notification issued by the Foreign Office for issuance of licence for hunting or poaching of houbara bustard . The court had also declared the Sindh Wildlife Protection Ordinance ultra vires. It said neither the federation nor a province can grant licence/permit to hunt the protected birds.

On Thursday, when the bench said they are referring the matter to chief justice for the constitution of larger bench, Attorney General for Pakistan insisted at least the interim order should be passed. The court asked him what the urgency was, but the AGP did not reply.

However, an official of the Punjab government shared with The Nation that the season for hunting of houbara will start from February therefore the federal and provincial governments wanted the ban be lifted at least for this season.

AGP Salman Butt said the August 19 judgment had not imposed complete ban to permit the hunting of houbara bustard . According to the judgment if the population of the protected bird increases globally then government could allow its hunting, he held.

Justice Qazi Faez Isa remarked that it was a migratory bird and how the government could determine its number.

The attorney general pleaded that the federal government has some obligations under international convention. Pakistan is signatory to Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna (CITES) and the Convention on Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS), which have been recognised by the Pakistani law.

Additional Advocate General Razaq A Mirza said there is no restriction on the Punjab government under its Wild-Life Act 1976 to issue licence for the hunting of houbara bustard . The provincial government is implementing the court judgment and it has banned the hunting or poaching of the protected bird, he added. The apex court in its judgment had also ordered the provinces to amend wildlife laws and not to allow hunting of any species which is either threatened with extinction or is categorised as vulnerable.

Barrister Ali Zafar had also filed an application on behalf of 17 MNAs, MPAs and senators from Rahim Yar Khan, DG Khan, DI Khan and Khanpur. The petition said that if the licence is not issued then there will be illegal hunting and poaching of the protected bird. Ali Zafar said that they wanted sustainable hunting in the limited time and with the limited number of birds and that should be through licence.

The petition also mentioned that banning the hunting of this bird will threaten the very existence of millions of residents of these areas and take away their source of livelihood and employment as well as deprive them and the country of billions of rupees worth of development, infrastructure and welfare projects.

The case is adjourned till December 21.