In an interview with The Killid Group, Afghan residents in western provinces claim that Qatari Arabs – under the pretext of implementing development projects in Farah province – hunting rare-birds and animals and extracting underground mines, as well as providing financial aids to the Taliban.
According to the Killid sources, Arab hunters have been visiting country’s western provinces in winter seasons for over 13 years now, particularly Northwest Farah.
Implementation of development projects in various areas such as: Educational sectors, Haj and Islamic Affairs directorates, Agriculture, Health, as well as animal breeding to maintain and enhance these traits in the future generation are the main purposes of the trip, Farah’s local authority stated.
Provincial environmental authorities and member of the provincial council dubbed these Arabs “Qatari Hunters”.
According to the authorities, Arab hunters target rare birds and animals in Jowen and Anar Dara districts. Besides, they have molded up to 820 thousand acres of land into various gardens.
A number of provincial council members have tagged these Arab trips with goals behind the curtain, adding these Arabs hunt rare birds and support Taliban financially next to implementing development projects in the province.
Shah Mahmood Naemi, deputy to provincial council, said to Killid these Arabs are exploring around and hunting in places which are not being monitored by the government officials.
These Arabs are particularly roaming in north and northwest of the country which are predominated by Taliban, he added. They have at least 20,000 acres of land fully facilitated for gardening.
Naemi claims Taliban have a good joint with Qatari Arabs, and their collusion provides them better facilities to explore and implement their economic projects in Farah.
Qatari Hunters, aside for development projects and supporting residents, provides financial supports to Taliban, he added. Not just that, but also they have extracted some precious mines, gold in particular, form the province in recent years.
Naemi of provincial council although does not name the provinces, but stressed that government needs to address this issue. He believes these Arabs hunt rare animals and birds despite some local authorities’ presence.
It comes after, when the former Afghan president Hamid Karzai sanctioned two orders in 2004 and 2010 supporting wildlife, in which he banned hunting and smuggling rare birds and animals in the country; violator will be dealt accordingly otherwise.
Mohammad Fazel Noor, environmental directorate head in Farah, nodding to the claims said, “Hunting rare birds and animals, especially by the Arab hunters, is a main problem in Farah next water scarcity.” Security threat is another factor that hinder our administration from protecting wildlife in the province, He added.
Fazel exclaimed that a memorandum of understanding on protecting wildlife and producing offspring has been signed between the government and the Arab hunters, based on which hunters have made a visual format three years ago.
Fazel reiterated that based on this agreement, the Arab hunters are obliged to free up to 50 percent of the offspring after two years and can take the remaining with themselves to Qatar.
According to Fazel, environmental directorate should look over the farms and offspring as agreed upon; but security threats and limited facilities deprive them from nursing and monitoring the farms which opens door for hunters.
Environmental directorate head in Farah sought reports from Arab hunters on their activities; however, no one complied with the request.
He added that certain committees, including head of districts, will be designated to prevent the ongoing hunting phenomena.
Mohibullah Mohib, Farach police spokesman, admitted the controversial claim on foreign nationals hunting animals. He, however, does not comment on whether they explore the area and provide financial aids to the Taliban.
According to Mohib, about 20 up to 25 Arab hunters would regularly visit Farah during winters in the past 13 years. Based on the presidential order, Ministry of Interior Affairs (MoIA) designated about 50 police officers to secure and monitor the area.
He added Arab hunters in central Farah opened an office, dubbed “Al Gharrafa”. As well as, they randomly roam around in Jouin and Anar Dara districts of the province, where armed Taliban are common.
But Mosa Nazari, Deputy Farah Provincial Council, declining the claim said that Arab hunters do not travel to Farah targeting rare birds, rather they implement development projects.
He also refused the claim over providing financial aids to the Taliban; adding these Arabs – based on the memorandum singed years ago – coordinate with the local authorities about their trips.
These Arabs did never hunt rare birds, he reiterated; rather they produce and nurse its offspring in Farah.
According to Nazari, these Arab has remarkably contributed in various sectors such as health, agriculture, and education with the cost of more than 10 million USD, which has been outstanding progress in the province.
Construction of a mosque with the cost of at least 1 million USD, construction of local airport, and production of rare birds’ offspring are the major projects Arabs have implemented, Mosa Nazari of Farah Provincial Council confirmed.
However, hunting rare birds does not limit in Farah, rather spreads wings in Badghis province where Pakistanis too target these unique birds next to Arabs.
Mirwais, head of Environmental Protection Directorate in Badghis, said to Killid that mostly eagles are being targeted by the Arabs and Pakistani hunters.
He exclaims that foreign hunters associate with local residents in Aabkamri, Qades, and Jowand districts; areas mostly dominated by Taliban due to which the phenomena of hunting is stretching wings.
Mirwais of environmental directorate depicts over growing concerns on distinction of rare animals and birds in the province; unless the wide spreading issue is addressed and taken seriously.
According to Mirwais, environmental directorate has coordinated with hajj and religious affairs officials to raise public awareness on the ongoing issue during the religious gatherings.
[Although the Killid sought to have comments from Arabs residing in Farah, however, they refused attending an interview over the issue.]
But National Environmental Protection Agency (NEPA) confirms that Arab has coordinated about producing offspring of rare birds and animals to sustain their generation.
Jalaluddin Nasery, head of the Natural Heritage Department of the National Environmental Protection Directorate said that based on the Presidential order hunting is banned and no one will be known as hunters.
However, provincial sources has reportedly claim on these Arabs hunting unique birds and animals. But the environmental directorate stressed that no issue on the claim has been reported. He dubs lack of hunting guideline and policy one of the biggest challenges.
A draft law has been sanctioned recently, which will bid for a court trial of cash penalty or imprisonment to the violators after considering the nature of their crime committed.
Arab Hunters, accustomed to visit Northern Province of Herat, however, now has changed the direction and frequently visit Farah following their personal goals.
Environmental Protection Directorate and Local Governance Authorities said Arabs do not have a specific goal on their journey to the province.
Jelani Farhad, Provincial spokesman to Herat said these Arabs would just bypass Herat to Farah.
Meanwhile, Naseer Ahmad Fazli, Head of Herat Environmental Protection Agency said foreigners do not aim rare birds in these provinces; but a number of residents in some war-zoned areas capture these animals and smuggle to neighboring countries of Iran and Pakistan.
At least 37 species of animals and birds in Herat are known, of which ten of their generations are smuggled and hunted to extinction.
According to Fazli, Myna, Starling, Carduelis, Otis Tarda of bustard family, Deer and Rabbits are amongst rare animals and birds that are wastefully hunted or smuggled.
Ghurian, Gulran, Kuhsan, and Rubat Sangi are districts with major security threats that resulted a widespread hunting and smuggling routines, he added.
Head of Herat environmental agency exclaims that support from the local governance has been sought, however, no consideration took place in this regard. But Jelani of Herat spokesman responded local governance will provide support to environmental agency as needed.
The growing trips of Arab Hunters have been numerously flayed by numbers of Wolesi Jirga (House of the People) representatives and residents; but local authorities in northern Afghanistan have repeatedly cited that Arabs visit these provinces to further establish development projects and produce rare birds’ offspring as prevention to their extinction.Follow TKG on Twitter & Facebook