Tiger row embarrasses Pakistan politician
(AFP) August 3, 2009
ISLAMABAD — The family of Pakistan’s main opposition leader has come under fire for importing a Siberian tiger and housing the animal expensively at a private zoo in the middle of a sizzling summer.
A nephew of former prime minister Nawaz Sharif and son of the popular chief minister of Punjab province Shahbaz Sharif imported the tiger last month after obtaining a special permit.
The tiger was housed in a special enclosure on the Sharif family farm in Punjab. The cost of the air-conditioning triggered a media uproar because few Pakistanis can afford such luxuries.
Sulieman Sharif shipped the animal from Canada after getting the necessary permits despite a ban on the private import of large cats, officials said.
The media criticised the move, saying that the compound would use the local electricity supply at a time of power shortages, and the family made arrangements for its relocation.
“Shahbaz was rightly displeased with his son for his disregard of international laws and… for purchasing and importing (a) highly priced and endangered wild animal,” the influential Dawn newspaper said.
Sulieman’s private secretary Sikandar Pasha said the family decided to give the animal to the government of North West Frontier Province (NWFP), where temperatures in the mountains are significantly cooler.
Pasha denied the tiger was being removed because of criticism over the reported air-conditioning facilities when people were facing severe power shortages.
“There was no public pressure,” he told AFP. “It is the Sharif family’s own decision to gift it to the NWFP government. They are making arrangements to receive it.”
The Pakistan branch of the WWF said the Sharifs were expected to send the tiger to a holding centre at a national park, away from battle grounds with the Taliban.
“WWF really welcomes this decision,” conservation manager Uzma Khan told AFP. “Big cats should not be kept in private facilities,” she added.
Punjab government spokesman Pervez Rasheed defended the importing of the tiger.
“This tiger was imported by Suleiman in his personal capacity because he likes animals,” Rasheed told AFP.
“He fulfilled all the international obligations regarding the import and fulfilled the requirements under local laws.
“But it was difficult to maintain this in the available environment so he decided it was better to send it to a natural environment.”