The Houbara Vehicles
Every winter Pakistan plays host to two exceptionally diverse species of visitors. The first to arrive are the Houbara bustards, taxonomically classified as ‘chlamydotis undulata’. Conspicuous by their quiet, peaceful and graceful arrival, they bring with them a sense of beauty, serenity and diversity. They live on seeds and insects and enrich our harsh and arid ecosystem with their breathtaking presence.
In sharp contrast the second category of visitors is the rich, self-indulgent and uncouth ruling class of the Gulf countries. These predators arrive with plane loads of arrogance and pomposity (disguised in holy appearances), with a singular objective of annihilating the peaceful and harmless migratory birds.
Complicit in this crime is the environmentally insensitive government of Pakistan. Instead of protecting and preserving these magnificent birds, the government promotes this massacre by eagerly offering “permits to kill”. These documents are essentially void ‘ab initio’ as the hunting of the internationally protected migratory bird is banned under various local and international conservation laws.
These unending violent encounters have resulted in near extinction of the endangered rare birds and dilapidation of the little that is left of our dwindling environments. There is yet another negative fallout of this illegal and unethical yearly carnage which may be termed as the ‘houbara vehicle’ syndrome. At the end of the killing season, there are scores of unregistered, non-duty paid, foreign license plate vehicles that the affluent visitors leave behind as gifts, bribe or charity to the local hosts and officials. A small price to pay for continuing a racket that would earn anyone a place behind bars anywhere in the world.
Now imagine for a moment, the PM of Pakistan driving in a Gulf country in a car with Pakistani number plate. He will certainly be stopped by the ‘shurta’, fined and forced to follow the law. How come hundreds of vehicles carrying Gulf number plates are driving with complete impunity in Pakistan for past several years. Why has our police not been empowered to check these fraudulent vehicles that are neither duty-paid nor registered in Pakistan.
A nuclear state’s police ought to have the courage and confidence to flag down a ‘houbara vehicle’ and either impound it or send it back to the country it came from.