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Markhor killers go scot-free; case disposed of

PESHAWAR, April 10: The Peshawar High Court on Wednesday disposed of the suo motu case regarding killing of a markhor in Chitral Gol national park on February 17 with a direction to the provincial finance department to allocate regular budget to the wildlife department within two months for increasing its staff, including watchmen, and other facilities to check poaching in wildlife parks.

A bench comprising Chief Justice Dost Mohammad Khan and Justice Mussarat Hilali directed the wildlife department to prepare fresh summary or PC-1 for increase in staff and arms and ammunition and telecommunication network as per requirement to ensure end to poaching.

It observed that protecting wildlife was not only in the national interest but also it was an international obligation. The bench directed the chief conservator of wildlife and Chitral police to expedite their efforts for arresting poachers involved in killing of a markhor inside Chitral Gol National Park.

It disposed of the case with the direction to the relevant officials to submit the report to the human rights directorate of the court after arrest of culprits. The chief conservator informed the bench that there were only four watchmen for the said national park and six for the entire division. He said poachers had killed the markhor after sunset knowing watchmen were relaxed at night.

He said one of the watchmen stopped fleeing poachers, called three of his colleagues and managed to snatch the skin of the killed markhor from them. The official said in 1991, there were only 200 markhors in the said park, but in 2012, the population increased to 1,360. He said the department had begun the international trophy hunting programme, which initially raised $40,000 but the income later increased to $95,000. He added that 80 per cent of the income to the local community.

The chief justice had taken a suo moto notice of the issue on Feb 27 on media reports about the killing of a markhor inside the park. According to the reports, poachers loaded the dead markhor into a pickup truck and escaped from the scene during nighttime on Feb 17.

When the chief justice asked the chief conservator how poachers had entered the park, he blamed it on understaffing and said he had only four guards for the park spread over area of 7,000 hectares. He said the department had twice moved a summary for increase in staff but the finance department didn’t approve it.–Dawn

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