ISLAMABAD - Prime Minister’s Strategic Reforms Unit head Salman Sufi on Saturday announced that the government was going to introduce ‘special course’ on animal welfare in Islamabad schools.

“A special course is being prepared on animal welfare that will be introduced in schools of ICT region. Children will be introduced to compassion and a humane approach toward animals so they can be better citizens,” he said in a tweet. According to sources, the course which will be introduced in educational institutions by the end of October has already been chalked out. The course would not just be included in the curriculum but will also have co-curricular sessions. Animal rights activists will visit schools and teach children about keeping pets. They will tell kids that pets cannot just be kept for fun, and make them realise that animals are a responsibility and with every class, the depth of the course will increase.

The students will also be taught about stray animals. Furthermore, the course will entail the dangers of keeping exotic animals at home. The children will be taught that if they can afford these wild animals, it is absolutely unfair to keep them at home.

Recently, Pakistan had announced its first comprehensive animal welfare law which included punishments for animal cruelty crimes and also banning testing and surgeries on live animals. According to Salman Sufi, the law was enacted in Islamabad and the federal government would encourage the provinces to implement it. Pakistani animal rights activists had long demanded amendments to the British-era law to address animal cruelty and abuse through effective legislation and its implementation.

The reforms include tougher punishments for animal cruelty crimes. The offenders now face Rs15,000 fine and jail term. The citizens can now report any act of cruelty toward animals through a hotline 1819 in Islamabad’s capital territory. Most importantly, testing and surgeries on live animals have been banned at veterinary schools and industrial complexes in the federal capital under the animal welfare law. Under the law, shooting and poisoning animals has been banned.

The reforms were announced after widespread outrage in Pakistan over videos that went viral in May showing animals in states of extreme distress after allegedly being operated upon by veterinary students. Protests were also held in Islamabad by animal lovers and rescue organisations against the brutal and inhumane surgeries on dogs at veterinary universities and demanding swift action by the government against unethical practices. Under the Wildlife Preservation Act Northern Areas (1975), it is illegal to hunt, kill or capture any animal in a National Park, wildlife sanctuary or other protected area. Game animals are only allowed to be hunted by those in possession of a Game Shooting License or Game Capture License. Islam also forbids treating animals cruelly or killing them except for food. Zabiha rules stipulate how an animal to be slaughtered must not be mistreated or caused undue pain.