Page last updated at 17:23 GMT, Wednesday, 29 July 2009 18:23 UK

Sharif tiger sparks Pakistan row

Siberian tiger
Siberian tigers are not naturally suited to Pakistan's hot and humid summers

By Syed Shoaib Hasan
BBC News, Islamabad

The family of Pakistan's main opposition leader says it has handed over a tiger obtained in contravention of local laws to the government.

The Siberian tiger was imported by Sulieman Sharif, nephew of former PM Nawaz Sharif and son of Shahbaz Sharif, the chief minster of Punjab province.

News of the imported tiger led to an outcry because it was to be kept in its own air-conditioned compound.

Pakistanis are currently enduring sweltering heat amid severe power cuts.

Cooled compound

Sulieman Sharif obtained the tiger from Canada on 23 July despite a ban on the private import of large cats into Pakistan since February 2009.

The tiger was set to be housed in an electrically-cooled compound on the family estate of Raiwind, a few kilometres outside Lahore, the Punjab capital.

But a huge hue and cry was raised by the press and public after it emerged the compound would run on local electricity.

Pakistan's nationwide power shortages are so severe that daily outages last 10-12 hours.

Subsequently, Shahbaz Sharif is said to have ordered the tiger to be taken away immediately.

The World Wildlife Fund's (WWF) Pakistan chapter says the Sharifs have now agreed they should no longer keep the tiger.

"We understand it has now been handed over to the North West Frontier Province (NWFP) government," Ali Hassan Habib of the WWF told the BBC.

It is not clear why NWFP has been chosen, but one possibility is that it is cooler there than in Punjab.

"After the matter came into the press, the Sharifs approached us themselves for help," Mr Habib said.

"We don't have the facilities here to keep the animal, but we willing to help relocate him elsewhere. The question does arise as to how the tiger got in, as the environment ministry had recently banned its import."

It is expected the tiger will either be housed in a public zoo in Pakistan, or relocated abroad.

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