Well done, Minister Mazari
Minister for Human Rights Dr Shireen Mazari has finally removed the focal person of her ministry in Sindh, Iftikhar Loond; a step which needs to be acknowledged and appreciated. Loond was a known violator of human rights and he had subjected one of his employees to the worst of inhuman treatment.
Since his induction as the focal person, footage of his savagery was making rounds on social media and questions were asked about the credibility of the ministry itself. Dr Mazari is known to take bold decisions and her activism was the very basis for her appointment as the federal minister. She tweeted that Loond was found to be a violator of human rights after re-investigation of the matter and in presence of evidence against him, she removed him.
Here, two questions arise. One is purely related to human rights and the other to politics which, though not central to this particular case, must still be answered. So, is the removal of Loond from the office of the focal person of the ministry of human rights enough to serve justice? The answer is a big no. In April, Loond attacked his employee and subjected him to his inhumanity. After much hue and cry, a case was lodged against him. The police must now complete the investigation and bring all the culprits to book. The case has been made easier to solve by the ministry which has found him guilty, as has been expressed in the tweet of the minister.
Second, it is being rumoured that the government needed the support of the Loond family, which has influence in Ghotki district, where a by-election has recently been conducted. The by-election was due after the death of Minister for Narcotics Control Ali Muhammad Mahar. PTI and its allies including the Pir of Pagaro backed Ahmed Ali Mahar against the PPP candidate Sardar Muhammad Buksh Khan Mahar. All along, the office given to Iftikhar Loond was seen as a political bribe as he had nothing to do with human rights. Ministry of human rights is very sensitive in the nature of its job and it cannot afford such negative perception.
Critics are of the view that now that the PTI alliance had lost the seat badly to PPP, the party no more feels obliged to hold up Loond like a dead weight and hence it jettisoned him.
Anyways, it is a commendable decision of Minister Mazari and she has done well.
Technological check on poaching
Technology may at last be the saviour of wildlife as traditional ways of protecting animals in Pakistan’s sanctuaries often fail to detect and defeat gangs of poachers. The Punjab Wildlife Department plans to introduce information technology (IT), particularly drone cameras, to track and arrest poachers and improve breeding and protection of wildlife in the vast desert area of Cholistan. The plan shared by the Bahawalpur Wildlife deputy director with the media is the outcome of an official survey of the desert. The Cholistan desert is home to several hundreds of local species of birds and wild animals besides different kinds of migratory birds. The present methods, which often turn out to be futile exercises, include the establishments of check posts, patrolling by forest guards and fencing of sanctuary areas. The wildlife department has only 24 check posts in Cholistan’s area of over 8.4 million acres. Under the plan, the department will equip these check posts with the most modern communication systems such as solar powered drones and install a network of surveillance cameras in the jungle.
Gangs of poachers invade the Cholistan sanctuary mainly to steal deer, chinkara and partridge, dead or alive. Over the years, the wildlife population in the desert has depleted due to illegal hunting. In 2003, the number of chinkara gazellers in Cholistan was around 3,000, which later fell to 2,000 in 2007, and less than 1,000 in 2011. It rose to above 5,000 in 2018, but the heartening news came at a great cost, particularly much higher patrolling expenditures.
The biggest trophy for the gangs is the famous hohbara bustards, which flock to the desert in the winter months – mainly from November to January. The flocks which used to run in the thousands have been reduced to the dozens, thanks to both illegal and permitted hunting. Unauthorised poaching is mainly done with the backing of influential political families. Wildlife officials also blame the administration of Shaikh Zayed Palace for the ruthless poaching of the bird in Cholistan. Rulers of the United Arab Emirates set up canals to irrigate mustard fields and to attract the bird in large numbers. The canals have now run out of water. Climate change is another killer, responsible for a large number of deaths of birds and animals. There has been a drought for several years in the region, which has impacted the overall population.
Before the birds reach at the verge of extinction, the technological surveillance of the desert is a welcome step.