Wildlife minister scandal- smuggling turtle meat to China

Wildlife minister scandal- smuggling turtle meat to China

KARACHI: The railway police decided to conduct a raid on the Sindh Wildlife conservator’s official vehicle. They were not disappointed so to speak, as they discovered a heavy consignment of protected turtle meat. The meat was dried, boneless and all packed in four large cartons to be exported to the international market. Turtle meat is served in soups and is considered to be not only a delicacy but also in fact an aphrodisiac in many countries including China, Hong Kong, Singapore and Thailand. Just these four cartons alone could fetch up to Rs 1 million.

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The cartons were tagged with the words ‘Thai cargo’ and the bill no 217-16234875. They were supposed to be taken to Beijing, China. The railway police station lodged an FIR no 44/2009 under section 411/34 Pakistan Panel Code (PPC) while also arresting the wildlife department’s junior clerk, Bashir Ahmed Shiekh, the Sindh Wildlife conservator’s personal driver Ghulam Nabi and Imran, a rickshaw driver. The 150 kg consignment was also taken into custody along with the official vehicle, registration no GS-4126 and Imran’s rickshaw, bearing resgistration no D-45521 in custody. The incident took place while Sindh Wildlife Conservator Husain Bux Bhaagat was not in the country and is in Saudi Arabia for performing Umrah. Interestingly, the meat was lying at the Provincial Wildlife Conservator Department, as it had been recovered in raids conducted over the past two years and was stolen from there on early Thursday morning.

“We were already informed that the turtle meat was being stolen, so I had personally arranged for guards so that we could foil their attempt but the culprits had already fled from the scene, hence we contacted the railway police,” said Karachi District Game Warden Karachi Shahbuddin Burfat. He added that Bashir was a junior clerk but had been working as a wildlife inspector and although he has been posted in the Larkana district he has been working in Karachi.

District Game Warden Office official Muhammad Naeem said he and his fellows attempted to intercept the culprits but could not manage to do so and they escaped with the turtle meat. “We took photos while they were stealing the meat,” he said, adding that the meat was supposed to be bought by three businessmen and they had arrived in a rickshaw but when the police came, they ran away. “I helped the police, as Bashir was running really fast but we caught him after chasing him for two hours,” said Naeem.

Turtles are protected under the Sindh wildlife Act 1972 under which capturing, keeping, hunting, killing and transporting turtles in any form is prohibited. During the last two years, the wildlife team has raided several vehicles and recovered meat, which was kept at the provincial conservator office.

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The source said that Provincial Minister for Sindh Wildlife Department Daya Ram Essrani directed the wildlife staffers to take the meat to a certain place. To hide the case from media Essrani requested the railway police not to lodge a case and handover the recovered items and persons to his department while promising to conduct a departmental inquiry against them, but the railway police refused to do so. “This cannot be a departmental case as we have arrested the culprits red-handed while also recovering stolen property from them. The wildlife minister requested that we hand the culprits over to his department but we bluntly refused,” said Railway DSP Shafi Muhammad Mughal.

Talking to this scribe, Bashir Shiekh did not mention any names but said that the high ups of the department had told him to sort the old and fresh meat apart and then to weight it. “I came to the Cantonment Railway station to weigh the meat and all of sudden the police came and arrested us,” said Bashir. When he was asked about the tags attached to the cartons as well as the information indicating that the meat will be exported to China, he bluntly rejected the allegation and said that the meat was not supposed to be exported anywhere. “It is a conspiracy and these tags were not on these cartoons when we were arrested and in fact they were glued on after we had been taken into custody,” he said.

Even after this scribe tried to Essrani several times to get an official version on this case and to clarify how the turtle meat came out of the office in the official vehicle and whether or not the recovered items such as animals hides, trophies and other items are safe or not, he bluntly rejected to issue any statement. Essrani, usually does not talk to media men and despite clear directives from the president and the Sindh chief minister he does not sit in his office. “I am on vacation and my number is not saved in the minister’s cell. I have tried to contact him several times but have not gotten a response, hence I cannot issue a statement in this regard,” said Sindh Wildlife Department PRO Hizbullah Memon.

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