Islamabad: Animal rights groups, members of civil society and environment activists have termed two successive decisions of the Islamabad High Court (IHC) as landmark steps with regard to protection of endangered species and THE restoration of Margalla Hills National Park (MHNP) to its former glory.
Both the orders issued in the past seven days and authored by Chief Justice Athar Minallah serve as guiding principles for the authorities and will help them make decisions in the best interests of the city whenever they are confronted with difficult situations.
In the first order issued on November 6, the IHC Chief Justice stopped the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) from granting permission for import of exotic animals as it is contrary to the Pakistan Trade Control of Wild Fauna and Flora Act (PTCWFFA), 2012.
The IHC directions came on a petition instituted by the Pakistan Animal Welfare Society seeking a directive against the government permission for import of endangered species of animals.
The law prohibits the export or import of exotic species in contravention of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).
According to the PTCWFFA, exotic species means wild animal or plant species introduced to an area outside of their natural occurrence and thus face the threat of extinction because of its trade.
Importation of animals 'against their rights'
In the 4-page judgment CJ Minallah observes the import conditions are not only contrary to the mandatory requirements prescribed under the law of the land, it is also against the natural rights of animal species to deprive them of their respective habitats merely for entertainment of humans. The trade of animal species which involves the process of import or export subjects them to unnecessary pain and suffering.
The second decision was with regard to conservation of the Margalla Hills National Park (MNHP) in its original state.
The 10-page order issued on November 9 highlights complacency and negligence of those who were duty bound to protect and preserve the specified area of the national park but they appeared to have been responsible for its destruction.
The judge announced the order after hearing a petition by Prof Zahid Baig Mirza against violation of the Islamabad Master Plan (IMP).
It appears that the Capital Development Authority and the federal government without having lawful authority and jurisdiction have facilitated the destruction of the notified ‘wildlife sanctuary’ and the ‘national park,’ the judge observed in the order.
In 2016, the federal government purportedly allotted more than 8,000 acres of land situated in the notified area of the national park in favour of the Remount, Veterinary and Farms Directorate of General Headquarters (GHQ) and the latter has purportedly executed a lease agreement with Monal Group of Companies for running a restaurant.
The court has directed the Ministry of Climate Change, CDA and the Islamabad Wildlife Management Board (IWMB) to survey the notified areas of the “National Park” and the “Wildlife Sanctuary.”
They are also expected to take immediate measures to save the notified area from further harm. The court has also ordered the Attorney General of Pakistan to assist the court regarding legality of the grant of 8,000 acres of land on lease to Remount, Veterinary and Farms Directorate of GHQ as prima facie, it appears to be in violation of laws.