Hunting rare birds in Pakistan to feed the sex drive of princes

Hunting rare birds in Pakistan to feed the sex drive of princes
A group of hunters from Abu Dhabi, pictured in Pasni in the late 1980s. Source: Haji Hanif
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Daily US Times: Two army officers stopped at a car rental office in Pasni, a small coastal town in the south-west of Pakistan in 1983.

“Do you have a good car? We have to take an Arab sheikh to Panjgur,” ne of the army officers asked the owner:

The owner told them he had a good car and sent his son Hanif to show it to them.

The vehicle was for Prince Suroor bin Mohammed al-Nahyan, who was from to one of the six royal families of the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

The Prince wanted to get to Panjgur, about 100km inland, to hunt houbara bustards, rare birds whose meat is considered by some to be an aphrodisiac.

The sheikh liked the car and he took to Hanif. He was then 31. A long friendship started since then, says Haji Hanif, as he’s now known. Thirty-seven years on, Hanif is one of the caretakers for the royals who come every year to Pakistan to hunt houbaras, about the size of a turkey.

The shy birds, are in decline, so killing them is controversial – but they are still hunted for sport.

Powerful people in Pakistan support the secretive hunts of birds, which have been going on for decades, as a way of furthering relations with influential and powerful players in rich Gulf states.

Those who back the trips say they bring desperately needed investment and employment.

But what Pakistan as a country actually gains from these secret bird hunt is not all that clear. Some in hunting circles say royal members use the trips purely for personal pleasure and enjoyment.

Every year between November and February, Haji Hanif welcomes royal members who flock to his part of Balochistan province, about an hour’s drive east from the strategic Gwadar port.

Before this winter’s hunts ended, he showed the BBC to see the meticulous preparations he and his staff make for the royals.

The lavish reception preparation stands out in a place like Pasni, where basic necessities are still a far-off dream for most locals.

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