KARACHI: The ban on pillion riding was lifted and clamped down again faster than you could shake the dandruff from your helmet.
The Sindh government decided to cancel the ban on more than one man riding a single motorcycle on Saturday but as target killings continued to pile up, the government took back its decision on Monday.
“We decided to lift the ban because of the countless complaints against it by NGOs and other civil society representatives,” said Sindh Home Minister Dr Zulfiqar Ali Mirza on Monday. But the tense law and order situation in the city has forced the government to implement the ban again, he added.
According to sources, police officials requested the home ministry keep the ban in place. Meanwhile, Mirza has asked the police for data on crime so that they can compare the rate before and after the ban on pillion riding was put in place.
Many of the target killings in Karachi are carried out by men riding on a motorcycle, as one person drives it and the other opens fire at the target. However, the motorcycle is also an affordable way of commuting for a large majority of people in the city. In fact, it is the only transport that thousands of families survive on.
There was a collective sigh of relief from thousands of commuters across Karachi when the ban was lifted. Although no official notification was issued, bikers could be seen making their way to workplaces, confident that they would not be stopped by police.
The ban was imposed in November 2008 in an effort to reduce the crime rate. Several times over the past year, it was lifted only to be imposed again. According to many people, this was yet another way for the traffic police to make money through bribes. The ban pushed commuters to take either a bus or train to get to work. And that meant spending an extra buck, which was an added strain to those who were already struggling to make ends meet.
The news of the ban being lifted spread fast and was met with relief and gratitude. “I am so thankful to God,” said one such commuter. “Now two brothers do not have to pay extra money [in bus fares] to get to work.” Another man added that lifting the ban was a “blessing for the down trodden”. However, their joy was short-lived as the ban was back in place barely two days after the initial announcement was made.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 19th, 2010.