Australian sheep saga: Quarantine Act rules violated in import of sheep

By Kazim Alam, The Express Tribune

KARACHI: An independent enquiry committee, constituted by the Ministry of National Food Security and Research to look into the import of purportedly diseased Australian sheep, has found that the rules laid down under the Pakistan Animal Quarantine Act, 1979, were violated while clearing the consignment during the first week of September.

In its 26-page assessment report, which is available with The Express Tribune, the four-member committee stated that the importer had most likely concealed the fact from the ministry that the consignment had already been rejected by the veterinary authorities of Bahrain. Moreover, it also cast aspersions on the authenticity of the certificate of health issued reportedly by Australian veterinary authorities.

“The certificate of health, bearing No 612-000891, signed by the authorised Australian veterinary officer on September 1 at Perth – about 27 days after the ship had left Australia – seems to be fake and bogus,” the report said. It added that a thorough examination and verification of documents, such as the health certificate and the commercial invoice, had not been carried out on the vessel.

Commenting on the fact that the director of the Animal Quarantine Department (AQD) had inspected the sheep on board, the committee said the Pakistan Animal Quarantine Rules, 1980, did not authorise the AQD director to exercise the powers of quarantine officer, and that this was “beyond his defined mandate”.

The report scathingly criticises officials concerned, while pointing out that the farm of PK Livestock and Meat Company was registered with the AQD as a ‘slaughter house’ – not quarantine, which refers to premises approved by the federal government for isolation and examination of animals intended for import or export.

“The competent authority of the Ministry of National Food Security and Research has not declared the aforesaid premises as ‘quarantine house’ for keeping the sheep in isolation. Therefore, the reply (of the quarantine officer) is not reasonable, and is contrary to the provision of the Pakistan Animal Quarantine Act, 1979.”

It said the premises where the sheep were stationed were not approved by the competent authority. “The purpose of quarantine was defeated when the imported sheep were shifted to a slaughterhouse, where other animals were also kept for slaughtering purposes.”

Describing the conditions they witnessed during a visit to the farm, the committee members observed that the animals were kept in an open area without “the basic facility of shade or shelter”.

Meanwhile, the Sindh High Court is expected to hold an urgent hearing of the case on Friday. The government has reportedly received the test results of 102 samples taken from the Australian sheep, which were earlier sent to a British laboratory.

Published in The Express Tribune, October 11, 2012.

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