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Wild animal meat sold in markets, says lawmaker

By Shabbir Mir

GILGIT: Legislator Rani Atiqa said meat of wild animals was available in markets as illegal hunting of Markhor and other such animals continues in the region.

“The wildlife department says there is no illegal hunting but I challenge this statement,” Atiqa said at the Gilgit-Baltistan (G-B) Assembly during proceedings chaired by Deputy Speaker Jafarullah Khan on Friday. “Illegal hunting continues and meat is being sold openly, right under the nose of the wildlife department officials.”

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She also criticised the tourism department for not updating the website. “The information should’ve been uploaded by now –officials just waste time.”

Referring to her statement about hunting, Atiqa added she has done her job and it was up to the relevant officials to go after the criminals.

Rebutting her statement, Minister for Forests and Wildlife Abdul Wakeel denied there was illegal hunting in the region. “The lawmaker [Atiqa] should provide us with evidence and we will send the culprits to jail as we have done in a couple of cases.”

However, lawmaker Shah Baig turned the tables on the minister, accusing him of hunting two markhors with one licence.

“This man isn’t going to take action against criminals as he himself is involved in illegal hunting,” Baig said as lawmakers burst into laughter. “Recently he killed two markhors and paid the fee for just one.”

Wakeel rebutted the accusation and said he duly paid the fee before hunting. “You can check the documents if you want to.”

The deputy speaker said, “The law is equal for all and every individual must abide by it to avoid legal action.”

Markhor’s hunting fee stands at $67,500 for international hunters in G-B. This year the G-B government auctioned hunting permits for four markhors, 60 ibexes and eight blue sheep. Besides markhors, hunting fee for Himalayan blue sheep and ibexes have been fixed as $8,800 and $3,000, respectively.

Resolution against bank chief

The G-B Assembly unanimously adopted a resolution demanding removal of Zubair Ali Sheikh as National Bank of Pakistan’s zonal chief. The lawmakers said Sheikh was continuing on the post even though there were written complaints against him.

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The G-B Assembly lawmakers had lodged a written complaint with the chief minister, asking him to transfer Sheikh out of G-B. He was accused of misbehaving with lawmakers and defying official orders given by them.

“This is sheer insult of the house that the NBP chief [is still there],” Minister for Food Janbaz Khan said. “The prestige of the house can only be restored if the man is suspended and an investigation initiated,” the deputy speaker said after passing the resolution.

The house passed two more resolutions relating to regularisation of employees service in Peoples Primary Healthcare Initiative.

Published in The Express Tribune, February 27th,  2016.

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