The Houbara bustard, an endangered species, is the official bird of Pakistan’s Balochistan region. It is currently illegal to kill the bird, but when Saudi Arabian princes come by, exceptions are made. Despite the ban, the government issued special permits to Prince Fahd bin Sultan bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud to shoot 100 birds over 10 days, which the prince quite handsomely exceeded by 2,000 in number. Even though the permit was issued specifically to him, his buddies also hunted their share. Dawn issued a strongly worded editorial condemning the act:
The state might want to prove its hospitality to its foreign friends who want to hunt in Pakistan, but surely not at the price of violating local laws and international covenants designed to protect endangered wildlife…. It is indeed ironic that while some in the Gulf are working to protect the Houbara bustard in their own countries, our government seems to care little when it comes to well-connected foreigners decimating the local bird population.
Of course, none of this matters to the Pakistani government. If killing a few thousand birds is what the Saudis want in return for keeping Pakistan’s economy and currency afloat, so be it.Saudi Arabia gave a mysterious “gift” of $1.5 billion to Pakistan in February that appreciated Pakistan’s currency. The Kingdom is also providing subsidized fuel and investment to Pakistan’s sagging economy. Neither country has elaborated much on what Pakistan is offering in exchange, but a joint statement by Pakistani and Saudi diplomats in which Pakistan, for the first time, implicitly called for the Assad regime to be removed, indicates that Saudi Arabia wants Pakistan’s help in Syria. In an essay for TAI, Saim Saeed explains what the implications of such a security alliance could mean for the region, and for Pakistan itself. For now, it looks like the Houbara bustard may be the very least Saudi Arabia may look to get from Pakistan.