With the passage of time, the automobile industry in Pakistan has come of age. Since independence, the country witnessed an extraordinary revolution in the automotive sector. The roads are now teeming with local as well as foreign luxury cars. The public transport system has revolutionised. The roads that were once dominated by hand-pulled rickshaws and bullock carts have now been replaced by air-conditioned cars.
Apart from being a necessity, keeping luxury vehicles has also become a status symbol. But the good cannot exist without the bad. The influx of expensive vehicles has also given rise to crimes like car snatching, stealing and the illegal sales of parts. Every now and then, we hear news of a vehicle being snatched or stolen.
A few months back, one of my friends was delighted to have bought a new car. But his happiness was short-lived. Within a week, his car was stolen from outside his house, in PECHS society. He was devastated, as he had invested his savings to buy the car. He went from pillar to post to find the car, but in vain. As usual, the police filed an FIR but failed to trace the vehicle and nab the culprits. In the end, what he could do was to curse the car-lifters and his luck.
Professional thieves steal vehicles for profit. In such cases, vehicles are used for resale with fraudulent identification, or for their parts. It is an irony that police rarely maintain systematic records of the condition of vehicles, once recovered. Most often, vehicles that are found stripped and burnt out are recorded as recovered. They can be seen dumped in police stations and the nazarat (a place where stolen cars are kept after recovery) and left to rot.
Stolen vehicle parts are used for, predominantly, the same reasons as one would use legitimate parts: to resell, to replace stolen or damaged parts, to rebuild a wrecked vehicle and to upgrade a vehicle. Unfortunately, it is difficult to estimate the percentage of stolen parts that are used for each of these purposes, but they end up in the scrap markets around the country. In Karachi, these parts are sold in Shershah Market, which is the hub of used vehicle parts. However, this illegal trade is in the knowledge of the police and the authorities, but sadly, some of them have been found involved in this organised crime.
In order to curb such practices, the law enforcement agencies must keep a record and a better estimate of the number of vehicles stolen and stripped for parts each year. Besides, people involved in this crime, both the buyer and seller, should be taken to task.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 21st, 2016.