LAHORE: With Punjab Police going green and trying to develop a soft image, the Excise and Taxation Department seems to be filling the void with an unapologetically aggressive approach towards motorists during back-to-back general holdups against illegal number plates in the metropolis, The Express Tribune has learnt.
Several motorists complained that citizens of all age groups and genders were subject to such dreadful treatment. They said old men in their 60s or 70s and even women drivers carrying their children to school; all faced extreme humiliation at the hands of these aggressive excise personnel.
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Interestingly, it was not that the department was in the dark about its field team playing offensive. According to officials, the department was enjoying the success of the aggressive crackdown.
Sources revealed that to this date, 1.8 million number plates have already been issued of cars alone. They said annual issuances of number plates were around 1.6 million, whereas this year that figure was expected to hit over two million plates by December. They said the success of the crackdown was the reason the excise department was looking the other way.
The director general office of Excise Taxation and Narcotics Control Department has received several complaints of harsh behaviour during general holdups.
Noor Muhammad, a senior citizen, said he was driving his wife and grandsons to Liberty when they were stopped by three men in plain clothes during a general holdup near Liberty. “These men came out of nowhere in the middle of a traffic jam. I put my window down to ask what was going on. Those men insisted and forced me to stop alongside the road,” he said.
Excise officials using unauthorised number plates
He said with no clue as to who these people were, his family was terrified. “As my car was being escorted aside, one of the men started beating the window of my car and shouting at me to speed up. It was only after I got out of my car, I realised that it was an excise holdup.”
After the excise department team removed the number plate, he requested them for a challan receipt. However, he was ordered to leave immediately or face one year in prison. Muhammad said since no one was concerned about a senior citizen standing between them, he drove off in extreme disgust. “I am an old man. I had a family with me and I deserved to be respected,” he said.
These holdups were set up at 10 to 12 points of the city, covering all the major arteries on alternative days.
Requesting anonymity, a senior official at the head office said a number of officers in the department were also against such treatment towards citizens. The officer also revealed that complains were being overlooked due to the success of these holdups. “Success coming at the cost of humiliating our elders and families will be counterproductive for the image of the department and the government in the long run,” he said.
Director Muhammad Asif told The Express Tribune that the department would not spare anyone, whether old or young, during the crackdown against illegal number plates. “Influential people and government officials have taken advantage of their powerful positions and contacts.” He was of the view that an unapologetic attitude was needed to ensure the success of this crackdown. He said it was obvious that no driver would appreciate the drive. “The people will continue having complaints with us until they get number plates issued by the excise department. He said those issued solely by the excise department were an integral part of the Safe City Project. “Only these plates are readable in the Safe City System. This will help tracking a vehicle and issuance of an e-challan,” he added.
Meanwhile, Excise Additional Director General Masoodul Haq said the department had received several complaints about the behaviour of the staff. “The members of the field teams are not trained for public dealings. While on the other hand, people also get emotional and upset when they are stopped by these officers. This leads to arguments,” he remarked. “However,” he said, “public servants should not behave in such a way,” he remarked. He said the crackdown against illegal number plates would continue as it was important for the implementation of the Safe City project.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 21st, 2017.
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