Pakistani labourers take care of infected sheep at a farm in Bin Qaisim town, some 50 kilometres southwest of Karachi. Photo: AFP
A warrant for the arrest of the Pakistani importer of more than 20,000 Australian sheep has been issued by Karachi authorities as confusion surrounds the fate of the animals.
The sheep were unloaded in Karachi earlier this month after Bahraini authorities rejected the animals because of scabby mouth.
After two weeks at sea, exporter Wellard was able to sell them to a Pakistani importer.
Despite the sheep being given the all-clear by quarantine, local authorities ordered their destruction after a second disease test carried out at a poultry centre found the animals to be sick and unfit for human consumption.
Pakistan industry and Australian officials both disagree with the disease finding - which was at odds with an earlier test result from Pakistan's national laboratory - saying the animals are healthy.
Speaking from Lahore Syed Hasan Raza, Secretary General of the All Pakistan Meat Exporters & Processors Association, told the National Times this afternoon that the court had ruled that the freeze on the government ordered cull would last seven days while further investigations are carried out.
The test results must be provided to the court within a week.
The sheep remain in Pakistani feedlots after local importers won an injunction against a government order to cull the flock because they were diseased.
Before the injunction 700 animals had been killed. A third independent test of the animal's health is now being sought.
Mr Raza also said that the local government had ''made a request for the arrest'' of the importer who bought the sheep from Wellard.
A Pakistani news website is also reporting that ''a case has been lodged against the importer of the infected Australian sheep, Tariq Mehmood''.
Information has been hard for Australian industry and government to gather, with some reports from local Pakistan media deemed to be lacking credibility by the Agriculture Department.
A bomb blast in Karachi has compounded difficulties.
There is also speculation that much of the fear of ''diseased'' sheep is being whipped up by Bahraini's who are trying to save face after rejecting the sheep as well as by other competing Karachi importers.
The news came as a trio of Labor backbenchers and independent Andrew Wilkie called on the government to halt the export of live animals for breeding following reports of cruelty to dairy and breeder cattle at a Qatari farm.
Australian breeding animals sent overseas are not covered by strict new animal-welfare laws, which were introduced following cases of cruelty in Indonesia last year.
The Farmer Review of live export, initiated after revelations of gross cruelty in Indonesia last year, recommended the government consider tougher controls for breeding animals, with a report into that idea due by November.
Backbenchers Kelvin Thomson, Melissa Parke and Tony Zappia said there must be a halt on exports for breeding until the report was handed down.
The three, and Mr Wilkie, have seized on the Qatari case, which was aired on 7.30 last night, and the continuing crisis in Pakistan as further evidence that live exports and animal welfare do not mix.
''It is more evidence that the entire live animal export system is broken and that the reforms the government had introduced already do not go far enough,'' Mr Wilkie said.