KARACHI: Pakistan is home to 2.3 million smuggled, unregistered and non-duty paid vehicles, according to reports. The fact that these vehicles make a major contribution towards crime and militancy has never been understood or highlighted. A recent survey conducted on green number plate (government) cars in Sindh revealed that 35 per cent of them were either carrying fake number plates or were simply posing as government vehicles by illegally displaying their private registration numbers on green background plates. Vehicles carrying fake number plates are most often employed in crime, smuggling, car lifting, carrying explosives, kidnapping and militancy — for they leave behind no clues of their origin or ownership.
In trying to evolve an anti-terror policy, it may be best to begin by controlling all vehicles and bringing them under the ambit of law. The first step is to ensure that the Excise & Taxation Department (E&T) issues a standard number plate, vehicle documents and tax token to each vehicle immediately at the time of registration and not months later. No vehicle must be allowed to leave the showroom without having met these requirements. The E&T department needs to get its act together and clear the backlog of thousands of vehicles, which continue to move around with temporary documents and number plates.
Vehicle-related crimes can be reduced if Pakistan was to adopt an integrated automatic number plate recognition system for all four provinces. Linked to CCTV cameras and computer databases, such a system can proactively track criminals and their movements.
It is also imperative to display full registration details of all government vehicles on the E&T department’s website. The same ought to be done for Sindh Police vehicles, which currently do not even exist on E&T records.
Sindh Police, the Citizens-Police Liaison Committee and the Citizens Trust Against Crime have recently joined hands to launch a programme to check, fine and impound all illegal, unregistered and fake number plate vehicles that roam around in thousands on the streets of Karachi. This programme would need the support of all citizens, especially the powerful elite, which are normally allergic to such checks.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 13th, 2013.
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