VIP allowed to import Siberian tigers in violation of ban
Saturday, 25 Jul, 2009 – 05:05 AM PST
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KARACHI: The government has issued a permit to Suleman Shahbaz Sharif, son of Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif, to import a pair of Siberian tigers, a rare and highly endangered species, in violation of a ban.
According to sources, the federal environment ministry issued the permit in the first week of June to Suleman Sharif for the Sharif Wildlife Breeding Farm, Jati Umra, Raiwind Road.
International transport of endangered species is controlled and monitored by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Fauna and Flora (CITES) whose secretariat is in Geneva. Its focal point in Pakistan is the Islamabad-based National Council for Conservation of Wildlife (NCCW).
The sources said that a ban on import of tigers, lions and other big cats by the private sector imposed by the NCCW had been breached within four months.
One of the tigers — a male — arrived at the Allama Iqbal International Airport in Lahore a couple of days ago from Toronto by PIA’s flight PK-790.
The CITES permit No. P04/2009 was issued on June 4 and the same day the NCCW also issued a permit, No. F7– 6/78 NCW.
Suleman Sharif had declared the value of the rare tiger — purchased from Norm Philip, Northwood Zoo and Animal Sanctuary, 2192 Cookson Lane, Sea Grave, Ontario, Canada — as $5,000. He spent $7,829 on air fare, etc.
Customs duty and other taxes of Rs109,458 were paid by Sikander Pasha who had come to get the carnivorous beast of the endangered species cleared on behalf of Suleman Sharif who had reportedly got stuck in a traffic jam on way to the airport.
A document of the NCCW says that the two permits were issued to the Lahore Zoo (for two white tigers) and Suleman Sharif (for two white tigers — one male and one female).
The sources said the decision to ban import of big cats had been taken at a meeting presided over by Federal Environment Minister Hameedullah Jan Afridi on Feb 13 this year.
At the meeting, the Director General of the Worldwide Fund for Nature (WWF), Ali Hassan Habib, who is a member of the NCCW, referred to obligations under international conventions and said there was no need to allow import of big cats. He said that some people were indulging in illegal trade under the garb of operating zoos.
NCCW’s wildlife conservator Umeed Khalid said a committee had been constituted at the council’s previous meeting to approach the WWF for drafting viable standards and legislation for import of big cats and keeping them in captivity.
The Inspector General for Forests, Dr Iqbal Sial, — a retired BPS-20 official who had been hired on a contract and was holding the charge of the BPS-21 post — said import of big cats had been stopped until the legislation.
According to the minutes of the meeting, ‘the ban on the import of big cats for the private sector will continue until legislation/standards are in place.’
This reporter approached NCCW conservator Umeed Khalid and IGF Iqbal Sial several times over the past four weeks, and Mr Khalid said he was waiting for his boss’s permission to give information and Dr Sial termed the information ‘confidential’.
Responding to this reporter’s queries at the Karachi Press Club on July 10, the environment minister had ordered IGF Iqbal Sial to provide the information to the media. Mr Afridi also called the IGF the following day in Islamabad and asked him to give the information.
But the officials did not provide the required information to this reporter. This reporter made repeated attempts to contact Mr Suleman Sharif at his residence and office but could not get in touch with him.