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No kidding around: Baby ibex rescued from G-B lawmaker

An official from the wildlife department looks after the baby ibex. PHOTO: SHABBIR MIR/EXPRESS

An official from the wildlife department looks after the baby ibex. PHOTO: SHABBIR MIR/EXPRESS

GILGIT: For the first time in over 10 days, the one-and-a-half-year-old kid can breathe the air of freedom after Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz lawmaker Mir Ghazanfar agreed to its release.  

Luckily, the rescue operation planned by authorities was not needed as Ghazanfar yielded to pressure from all corners to release the ibex. Among those campaigning for the animal’s release was Gilgit-Baltistan Chief Minister Hafeezur Rahman.

Ghazanfar illegally captured the kid from Gojal Valley in the last week of August. Over the last few days, authorities held negotiations to secure the kid’s release.

However, the lawmaker simply refused as he was determined to gift the animal to Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif who is scheduled to visit the valley this week.

“A plan was devised to rescue the kid and it was only a matter of time before it was executed,” said an official on Wednesday. He was part of the negotiating team which held a series of talks with Ghazanfar.

“Under the plan, we would enter the lawmaker’s residence and retrieve the ibex by force. However, it is better that he accepted our demands and handed over the animal peacefully,” said the official.

Love for the kid

Rahman sent a private message to Ghazanfar, asking him to surrender the baby ibex. “The CM delivered the message to the PML-N lawmaker through the deputy commissioner of Hunza,” said another official of the wildlife department.

The same day, the issue echoed through a high-level meeting chaired by Rahman. It was attended by parliamentarians who visited Gilgit from Islamabad. “The lawmakers, referring to media reports, voiced concerns over the illegal capture of the ibex and asked the CM to step in,” the official said.

Consequently, Rahman summoned Wildlife and Forest Minister Abdul Wakil, Chief Secretary Tahir Hussain, IGP Captain (retd) Zafar Awan and wildlife conservator. He asked the officials to ensure the kid’s release in accordance with the law. The orders trickled down the pecking order and finally reached officials of the wildlife department in Hunza.

“I was issued orders by the CM and had to comply with them being a government employee,” said Divisional Forest Officer Yaqub Ali. “I summoned department officials and devised a plan to launch the operation,” he told The Express Tribune. “We also informed the deputy commissioner about our plan.”

He added a rescue operation would have been launched on Wednesday as a measure of last resort. “Luckily the talks worked.”

The DFO said the ibex will be returned to the Khunjerab National Park — a natural habitat for the animal — in a day or two.

Under the Wildlife Act 1973, poaching is illegal and culprits can be punished with a prison term of up to two years besides a fine equivalent to the trophy hunting fee of the animal. For trophy hunting season 2014-15, the fee for an ibex was fixed as $3,200 per animal.

Published in The Express Tribune, September 10th,  2015.