Dammam – Rich and wealthy men of the Gulf are used to hunting the houbara bustard in the deserts of Pakistan, Algeria, and even Iraq. But this hobby has become a dangerous activity after bandits and gangsters began using it for blackmail and theft.
The latest attack occurred in Musakhel, in Pakistan’s southwestern province of Baluchistan, and started off as a charity work, only to end with a group of Pakistani villagers waving guns and knives.
A group of villagers approached a camp, thought to be of a Qatari royal family member, and asked to meet the visiting Sheikh on an expedition to hunt the houbara bustard.
The Pakistani guards sent the villagers away, only they returned a while later backed by more villagers.The villagers turned violent after they were prevented from meeting the visiting royal to seek donations to build a mosque.
A Qatari source confirmed to Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper the attack by a large group of men on a convoy of hunters that included a royal family member. He declined to identify the individual, but said the party was safe.
The hunting party was unhurt, but three security guards were wounded during the attack on Sunday evening, district deputy commissioner Muhammad Yasar told Reuters.
“A case has been registered against 25 people,” he added.
“Qatari hunters apply and pay for government hunting permits and donate to local communities and wildlife conservation,” the official said, adding that: “unfortunately there have been attacks led by armed groups.”
In December 2015, about 100 gunmen kidnapped at least 26 Qataris from a desert hunting camp in Iraq near the Saudi border. A member of Qatar’s ruling family was freed in April 2016, along with an accompanying Pakistani man.
Houbara bustard is a very popular rare bird whose meat is prized by Arab wealthy men. The bird is in constant migration, as it spends winter in warm areas in Asia and Africa.
The International Union for Conservation of Nature lists the bustard as a vulnerable species with a global population ranging from 50,000 to 100,000. It has almost vanished on the Arabian Peninsula.
Last year, Pakistan’s Supreme Court lifted a ban on hunting the bird. The government argued this ban damages relation with Gulf States whose wealthy hunters traditionally travel to Pakistan to pursue the endangered species with falcons.