Monday, November 28, 2016


Ahlan wa sahlan Marhaba – at any cost

According to a BBC report, during the hunting season in Pakistan this time of year, up to thirty five licenses are issued to a handful of wealthy Arab royal persons to hunt the Houbara Bustard. The Houbara Bustard is a shy, innocuous bird; beige with brown spots – sort of like a chicken with longer legs and neck. One Arab prince is said to have killed over two thousand birds in a single season.
The Houbara Bustard has been placed by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), on a list of ‘vulnerable’ species (which is a list consisting of animals at high risk of extinction). Having the life of such an animal in your hands is like being given a more than usual responsible stake in the past and future of creation itself – but who cares about that (although, last year the Supreme Court did the right thing by completely banning hunting of this bird in Pakistan). Yet, even after that directive, Arab dignitaries were issued licenses to hunt the Houbara Bustard, as they always have. The licenses were supposedly for ‘partridge hunting’, but that is reportedly not ‘what was killed on the ground.’
To place anyone above the law is to break it, and laws are meant to be equally applied to all persons, but in Pakistan some people are obviously more equal than others. The violation of the ban was commonly reported in the Press, yet the practice continued. It seems the Arabs consider the meat of the Houbara Bustard to be an aphrodisiac. I suppose there is no arguing with that mother of all arguments.
In January this year the Supreme Court lifted the hunting ban placing the Houbara bustard officially in danger once again. The reason given was that the ban was detrimental to Pakistan’s relations with Arab States which depend on the denizens of Pakistan, both animal and human…and even its children being open to danger and abuse by the Arabs, under the noses and generally with the full consent of the powers that be in Pakistan. It’s the only way to ensure that relations between us remain cordial. The only way to ensure that our labour force is able to go to Arab countries and be abused there, a situation that carries remarkable kickbacks for segments of the population on both sides.
Three years ago a Pakistani newspaper reported the case of a nineteen year old boy from Rahim Yar Khan who was struggling to cope with the school work of a much younger boy. His mental issues began when as a little child he faced abuse as a child camel jockey in the Gulf States.  He was not alone. Thousands of little boys are taken from Pakistan to the Gulf States as child camel jockeys, many of whom suffer ongoing mental issues as a result of that particularly barbaric ‘activity’, since camel racing involving child jockeys cannot be called a ‘sport’. It isn’t hard to figure out what persuades families of these children to send them to the Middle East. According to the father of this particular young man, he was promised education and employment for his son.
What kind of country considers anyone, let alone its barbaric neighbours, above its laws? What kind of country considers itself bound to cater to the over-indulged libido of those same neighbours making it lay the humans and animals who live within its boundaries open to abuse?
Well, it seems Pakistan does, due to a phenomenon known as ‘you scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours’ – aka, an overlap between public and personal interest. It is a phenomenon familiar to persons within this country (and also for example to the new President-elect of the United States, who is known for scratching backs wherever his business interests exist, and getting his ample back scratched in return).
And Mr. Trump has business interests all over the world, including in Argentina, where he has also been in a long standing business relationship with Mr. Macri – now the President of that country. In a phone call made to Mr. Trump by Mr. Macri, supposedly to congratulate the new American President-elect upon his victory, the Argentinian President reportedly asked Mr. Trump for help with building permits that have not being granted for a proposed 35 story ‘Trump Tower’ in Beunos Aires, the capital of Argentina. The news has been contradicted by a spokesman for the American President-elect.
Mr. Trump has similar interests in Uruguay, Saudi Arabia, India and China, and the Philippines, and interestingly enough the Philippine’s new Trade Envoy to the US is also the man building ‘Trump Tower’ in Manila.
Those last few lines may appear to be a sudden deviation from the subject at hand but they’re not, because such incidents come to mind when one of those persons with the over indulged libido hunting the Houbara Bustard in Pakistan turns out to be Prince Hamad of Qatar, a man who is not new to hunting in Pakistan, only this time he was granted a permit to hunt the near extinct bustard in Bhakkar and Jhang in the Punjab, which just happens to be home territory to the Sharif family, and this, remember is the very same Prince who wrote that interesting letter in an attempt to remove the specter of Panama from the Sharif horizon once and for all.
The removal of the Supreme Court’s hunting ban came with a statement which, according to the BBC, says that ‘the sustainable hunting of the bird, will come as a big relief to many officials and business owners.’ The report goes on to remind us that ‘Middle Eastern countries are a major source of sovereign investment in Pakistan and they employ the bulk of Pakistan’s overseas manpower’.
That is one way of putting it: of saying how vulnerable the people of Pakistan are, of saying how bribe-able, and bribed to the teeth, and willing to dance to the tune of whichever piper is able to pay the shots its officials and business owners are. It’s a noisome state of affairs, and a noisy state of affairs, or perhaps that’s the sound of Jinnah, poor man, turning in his grave.

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