Animal advocates in Pakistan

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, November 2000:

MULTAN, Pakistan– – International human rights monitors consider Pakistan one of the hardest of all places to advocate for women and minorities. Animals scarcely rate public notice.

Among the major international animal protection organizations, only the British-based Brooke Hospital for Animals and World Wildlife Fund maintain a presence in Pakistan––and the four Brooke clinics deal almost exclusively with equines, while the prohunting WWF confines its concerns to wildlife.

The World Society for Animal Protection campaigns on behalf of dancing bears in Pakistan, but faxes press releases to Islamabad media from London.

Pakistan enjoys a relatively strong tradition of press freedom, by the standards of underdeveloped nations and the Islamic world. According to the Dorling Kindersley World Reference Atlas, however, the illiteracy rate runs as high as 60%, the poverty rate is comparable, corruption inhibits the pursuit of justice, and the rates of commission of violent crime––especially against dissidents––are among the highest in any Islamic nation.

Public life in Pakistan is dominated by Islamic fundamentalists, who tend to ignore teachings of Mohammed which were meant to protect women and animals.

Afghanistan, to the north, has for more than 20 years been embroiled in almost perpetual civil war. The Afghani strife sends Pakistan a surfeit of cheap weapons, opium, and desperate men who will poach wildlife––or kill a person–– for almost any price.

A cold war with India, the regional superpower, has continued since the nations separated in 1948, flaring sometimes into gunfire––and in 1998, tests of nuclear weapons. That makes ideas from India, including about the humane treatment of animals, almost inherently suspect to many Pakistanis.

None of that seems to inhibit the four young attorneys and a few dozen others who have formed a Pakistani chapter of Animal Rights International, “for preserving the life cycle of animals and compassionate treatment,” under the motto “Live and let live.”

One recent ARI-Pakistan position paper reminds readers that the name of Multan, the organization’s home city, means “Land of Birds.” Lamenting losses of bird life to hunting and habitat destruction through the use of land to raise animals for meat, the paper concludes by noting the irony that most of the birds in Multan today are factory-farmed poultry.

Another ARI-Pakistan position paper notes the recent decline of rare Indus river dolphins, due to irrigation and pollution which have made much of the Indus basin inhospitable both to the dolphins and to the fish they eat.

ARI-Pakistan argues that the Indus basin should be protected against both overfishing and dams which divert water away from critical habitat for key species.

Thirty-two delegates attended a September 9 ARIPakistan conference. According to minutes sent by trustee Faheem Aurangzeeb, the discussion was prefaced by readings from ANIMAL PEOPLE and the ARIPakistan newspaper Lord. Copies of each were posted on the wall.

Lord, edited by attorney Muhammed Arif Mehmood Qureshi, is so titled as a reminder that Mohammed himself was an animal advocate, who forbade hunting and once cut the sleeve off a favorite jacket rather than pick it up and disturb an aged sleeping cat.

Lord emphasizes, in patriotic and reverent language, that Pakistan must grow in moral stature by accepting an ethic of kindness, in order to grow further in political and economic stature.

Advocating for both animals and human minorities, Lord resembles the broadsheets of early British and U.S. humane societies, which opposed slavery, child labor, dogfighting, and horse-flogging all at once, as symptoms of the same corrosive human disrespect for other living creatures of God.

[ARI-Pakistan may be contacted c/o 133 Pakiza Lodge, Lodhi Colony, Multan, Pakistan; telephone 061-221659-549623; <>.]</>

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