Dawn Editorial 20 December 2020

Zoo closure

WITH the last two animals relocated to their new home, the curtain falls on the Islamabad Zoo. This week, Bubloo and Suzie — two Himalayan brown bears native to Pakistan — were transported to a sanctuary in Jordan. According to reports, before their arrival at the Islamabad Zoo, the two were trained to be ‘dancing bears’ and spent most of their lives in human bondage. The bears had nearly all their teeth removed to prevent them from attacking their caretakers, and they consequently suffered from malnourishment, along with other medical complications. Two weeks earlier, Kaavan, the (former) ‘loneliest elephant in the world’, was transferred to a sanctuary in Cambodia, and received a hero’s welcome on his arrival. The gentle giant has since shown rapid signs of improvement. His morbid back and forth swaying, a sign of deep mental distress, has ceased, and he has already made new friends at the sanctuary. In May, the Islamabad High Court had ordered the transfer of all animals from the zoo to better-equipped environments, but two lions and an ostrich died before they could reach their new homes, during the transfer process, which signalled callousness and deep incompetence on the part of the authorities and their caretakers. A video recording of the lions being ‘smoked’ out, with a fire lit inside their cages, shocked many people, and raised a number of questions about the ‘methods’ that were being employed to ‘tame’ the wild animals at the zoo.
The Islamabad Zoo was built over four decades ago, but it has been plagued by bad publicity in recent years. According to Four Paws International, over two dozen animals died at the zoo in the past four years alone, while many others went ‘missing’. Now, there are plans to create a sanctuary and animal conservation centre on the ruins of that zoo, which is the right way to go. The conversation on the ethics of keeping zoos alive in the 21st century must not end with the closure of one.



Total impunity

A LOVED one forcibly disappeared and the family running from pillar to post to glean information of their whereabouts — it has sadly become an all-too-familiar story, differing only in the particulars. If the family is fortunate, the missing individual is returned soon, within a few hours or days. But for some, the ordeal lasts for years, with no signs of hope. Such was the account that came to light at the Islamabad High Court earlier this week. According to a petition filed by a lawyer, her husband, a Hizb-ut-Tahrir spokesperson, went missing almost a decade ago. As per the FIR, Naveed Butt was abducted by intelligence personnel on May 11, 2012, from outside his residence in Lahore. The chairman of the Commission of Inquiry on Enforced Disappearances, retired Justice Javed Iqbal, said in 2018 that he may have been picked up by “personnel of the secret establishment and is being held in their illegal confinement”. The petition was filed almost three years later, during which the commission was unable to force compliance with its order that the missing man be produced before it without delay. On Monday, the court was informed that Mr Butt was not in the custody of either the ISI or MI.
One wonders what recourse is left to the family of the missing man whose rights to security of person and due process were violated so brazenly. No civilised country should inflict such suffering on its people. And impunity of the kind that the alleged perpetrators of such a crime enjoy is the hallmark of some of the most despotic regimes in history. It speaks to the utter failure of the commission in one critical aspect of its mandate — to hold to account those who have forcibly disappeared people — even though it has managed to trace the whereabouts of many of the missing individuals. When that is done, the case is considered ‘clarified’. While this has brought immense relief and, in some cases, closure to the families, no one has been brought to book for these abductions — thereby virtually ensuring that such depredations will continue to take place. A few months ago, the International Commission of Jurists issued a scathing review of the commission’s working and recommended that its tenure not be extended any longer. However, its tenure was extended, and the lip service to tackling enforced disappearances continues.

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