Foreign Affairs Ministry, 8 Other Govt Depts Served Show Cause Notices On Houbara Bustard Hunting

The Pakistan Information Commission (PIC) has issued show cause notices to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) and eight other public bodies of the federal government over their failure to comply with the orders regarding the hunting of houbara bustard in the country.

The spokesperson has been directed to appear in person before the commission on July 24 to argue as to why proceedings should not be initiated against them under Section 20 (2) of the Right of Access to Information Act 2017.

The said section of the act states that non-compliance of a decision of the information commission under the clauses of (e) and (f) of sub-section (1), if not been appealed against within 30 days, be dealt with in the same way as contempt of the court.

The other public bodies to whom the notice has been issued include National Database Registration Authority (NADRA), Bureau of Emigration & Overseas Employment, Trading Corporation of Pakistan (Pvt.) Limited, National Institute of Rehabilitation Medicine,Federal Government Employees Housing Authority, Pakistan Institute of Medical Science, Ministry of Climate Change and the Department of Stationery and Forms.

The PIC, in its order on June 4, had directed the ministry to provide information about the total number of letters written and the names of the countries pertaining to the hunting of the birds. The ministry was also directed to provide certified copies of the requested letters after extracting the sensitive content.

The order was issued over an appeal of a citizen named Naeem Sadiq who had requested the ministry to provide the copies of the letters written by the foreign office that permitted, invited, or approved the hunting of the endangered birds. The citizen approached the PIC when he did not receive the requested information within the stipulated period mentioned in the law i.e. 14 days.

On the notice of the PIC, the ministry, through a letter No. DCP(P&I)18-6/2019-20(Allocation) dated 09/01/2020, claimed that the requested information cannot be shared under Article 16 (a)(ii) of Right of Access to Information Act, 2017.

Later, through another letter No. DCP(P&I)-18-6/2019-20 dated 04/03/2020, it stated that the ministry does not issue hunting permits. It maintained that after the 18th Constitutional Amendment, the subject of wildlife had been shifted to the provinces, therefore, provincial wildlife department issue the permits in accordance with their respective wildlife laws. It further said that the ministry can only convey recommendations to the provinces.

Keeping in view the sensitive nature of foreign relations, it added, the requested information cannot be shared as it may cause damage to national interests of Pakistan in conduct of its international relations.

The order stated that the hearing of the case was held on 05/03/2020 and Adeel Pervez – Dy. Chief of Protocol – appeared on behalf of the MOFA. He maintained that the “Keeping in view the sensitive nature of foreign relations, requested information cannot be shared as it may cause damage to the interest of Pakistan in conduct of its international relations”.

After listening to the point of view of the ministry, the PIC, on June 4, 2020 issued an order directed it to provide the requested information to the citizen at the earliest not later than 10 working days. However, despite the passage of more than a month, the ministry did not provide the requested information.