The police detained on Tuesday six members of a Sindh wildlife department raid party and confiscated their vehicles after interrupting the latter’s raid at a cattle market in Tando Allahyar.
Reaching the weekly market in Chambar town after receiving a tip-off, the SWD team found three persons in violation of the Sindh Wildlife Protection, Preservation, Conservation and Management Act 2020, which grants SWD employees status of wildlife protection police. The three suspects were arrested along with two peacocks, four cartridges and two parrots.
However, as the SWD team began leaving the market, Tando Allahyar Police intercepted it. Onlookers gathered around as a heated argument broke out between officials of the two law enforcing departments. The police appeared unhappy with the raid at the cattle market.
“Police held us [even] though we were in uniform,” said SWD Inspector Aijaz Noondani, who led the raid party. Speaking to The Express Tribune, Noondani, who frequently conducts raids against illegal trapping and transportation of wildlife, said that the local police’s attitude towards him and his team had been harsh. “Never before have we been held or interfered with by the Sindh Police. We are empowered to conduct raids without informing the local police.”
And yet, informed sources told The Express Tribune, that all six members of the SWD raid party were taken to the police station and forced to remain there for nearly three hours.
“SWD staff were being interrogated as if we were criminals,” said one team member. He added that the attitude of the policemen who interrupted the wildlife department’s raid was unprofessional.
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Confirming the detention, SWD Hyderabad Deputy Conservator Wajid Shaikh said that the police held his team without any justifiable reason. “All of the SWD staff were in uniform and our vehicles are marked with wildlife department logos.”
Legal action will be taken against the police personnel involved in intervening in the SWD’s raid, said Shaikh. “This kind of attitude [by the local police] will discourage our staff.”
Sources informed The Express Tribune that all top officials were immediately alerted to the detention of the SWD team but they did not respond. Hours later, after higher ups of the Sindh Police and the SWD intervened and the local police released the SWD staff.
Tando Allahyar SSP Rukhsar Khuhawar denied any arrests of SWD officials. “There was a clash between SWD staff and the local citizens. Police just intervened and responded to the clash.” When asked, the SSP claimed that misinformation was being spread. “We are both government departments and have to support each other,” added Khuhawar.
The Sindh Wildlife Protection, Preservation, Conservation and Management Act 2020 strengthened wildlife protection in the province and empowered SWD employees by granting them police status. SWD can conduct raids and arrest persons involved in illegal trade and transportation of wildlife besides other violations of the Act, which repealed a weaker law for the first time since 1972. Under the 2020 Act, six wildlife protection police stations were recently set up in different districts of lower Sindh.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 6th, 2021.