ISLAMABAD: The Islamabad High Court (IHC) has stopped the government from importing elephants declaring it a violation of laws related to the protection of wildlife.
Hearing a petition filed by Pakistan Animal Welfare Society, Chief Justice of the IHC Athar Minallah directed the Ministry of Climate Change (MCC) and the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) to nominate authorized persons and send them on the next date of hearing September 28 to appear before the court with all the relevant record.
In March this year, a private firm, Mohammad Hanif and Engineer Construction Pvt Ltd, had challenged in the Supreme Court of Pakistan a Peshawar High Court’s (PHC) order rejecting the plea for import of the plant-eating mammals.
In the present case, however, the petitioner through Advocate Ali Raza has sought a general ban on import of endangered species including elephants.
The animal import is governed under the Pakistan Trade Control of Wild Fauna and Flora Act 2012, but he would furnish a report before the court to detail procedures for the import of elephants.
In its order, the court has directed the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) to ensure that import of elephants is not allowed in violation of the Act of 2012 read with the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora and the conditions prescribed under the Import Control Act 2020,” the court order said.
The petitioner in his plea had submitted that the government had failed to fulfill its obligations under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) and the Pakistan Trade Control of Wild Fauna and Flora Act 2012.
‘Violation of international commitment’
It is not in public interest to allow import of endangered species of animals, particularly elephants, in violation of the international commitments of Pakistan, the counsel for petitioner submitted.
The petitioner sought directions by the court to the federal government to fulfil its obligations under the CITES and the Pakistan Trade Control of Wild Fauna and Flora Act 2012.
This is not the first time the court of Chief Justice Athar Minallah issued directions to the government in the interest of the animals.
In May last year, the IHC chief justice had issued a landmark judgment on a chained, lonely Asiatic elephant in Pakistan, Kaavan languishing in Islamabad Zoo for almost three decades.
Encouraged by the judgment, an international animal rights organization Four Paws sent its team led by Dr Amir Khalil, which made arrangements and rescued the pachyderm from a 500-metre enclosure in Islamabad and sent to Cuba’s sanctuary for elephants.
Dr Amir spent months of hard training with the 5,500-kg elephant in Islamabad Zoo befriending and even singing to him songs of Frank Sinatra, particularly “My Way” before its relocation.
The court’s observation that animals too have legal rights and should be moved to appropriate sanctuaries was welcomed by leading animal rights activists including the US music icon Cher who travelled all the way to Islamabad to witness historic moment of the animal’s release.
She had campaigned for animals and tweeted that the judgment was “one of the greatest moments” of her life.
The judgment was also quoted in leading newspapers and TV channels of the world.