Govt withdraws export permit of Himalayan brown bears for Jordan only a day before flight MCC, IWMB in hot water for cancelling NOC that was issued on IHC orders

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Zubair Qureshi

The Islamabad High Court (IHC) during a stormy proceeding of a case relating to two Himalayan brown bears, sick and lonely in Islamabad’s Marghazar Zoo, Thursday warned the Secretary, Ministry of Climate Change (MCC) and Chairperson of the Islamabad Wildlife Management Board (IWMB) they could face contempt of court for arbitrarily cancelling an export permit for the two animals’ relocation to a sanctuary in Jordan.
The MCC had issued the permit pursuant to the direction of the Islamabad High Court, however one day before the wild animals’ scheduled flight (on Dec 10), it revoked the licence and that too without taking permission from the IHC.
Chief Justice Athar Minallah while expressing his surprise at the MCC’s change of mind asked the Secretary and the IWMB’s Chairperson whether they knew NOC was issued on the court’s orders and cancelling it arbitrarily could create problems for them.
IWMB Chairperson Rina S Khan claimed she had gone through the judgment of the IHC but there was no mention of sending the bears to Jordan. Chief Justice Athar Minallah remarked this shows you have not gone through the judgments the court has passed previously.
Secretary MCC Naheed Durrani informed the court the decision of not sending the bears to Jordan was taken in the best interest of both the animals and the country.
“We want to raise our standards and keep the bears in better facilities according to international standards rather than just giving them over to an animals’ welfare group,” said the MCC secretary. At a point the court asked if the Prime Minister was aware of the MCC’s act [of cancelling the bears’ export permit]. We are sure he is not or he would never let you do so, said the judge.
MCC secretary informed the court since earlier no province was ready to accept these bears, now they had an offer from Ayub Park and a colonel who is in charge of the team at Ayub Park of Rawalpindi approached the IWMB with an offer that they could take care of the bears there.
“This is why we have decided to keep the bears in Pakistan,” she said. The IWMB member Dr ZB Mirza also tried to convince the court that in Pakistan, the bears could be well taken care of.
Justice Minallah however, expressed his disappointment at the reply of the senior member of the IWMB and reminded him in Kaavan’s case too, he had opposed the pachyderm’s relocation to Cambodia and ‘now you are opposing the bears’ transfer.’
The court addressing the government team collectively asked why they were making it a matter of their ego. “Why don’t you feel proud instead of feeling ashamed of the bears’ shifting to a place where they would have a natural habitat and proper care would be taken? Have you any idea of the suffering and pain the two bears have gone through?” asked Justice Athar Minallah.
The male bear Bubloo and the female Suzie have been subjected to utter pain. One of them has a tumor and the other has an open wound, said the judge.
He said Kaavan’s case is being quoted in US courts and is a subject of research at universities. The court referred to the painful death of two lions in the zoo earlier this year and a number of other violations being committed one after the other. He said, the court passed the order after one-and-a-half years and during that period no improvement was made. It seems we are more interested in authority than responsibility. The court also observed if we needed Cher to come and rescue these bears too.
Later, the court adjourning the case for Dec 11 (today) directed both the ladies to go through the court’s judgments and come prepared.