As part of its e-licencing project, the Karachi traffic police will soon be equipped with handheld devices to swipe licences if a driver breaks the law. The driver’s entire record will appear in seconds and there will be nowhere to run and nowhere to hide.
“When a police officer swipes your card and finds more violations than the law permits, then your licence will be withheld,” warns provincial minister for information technology, Raza Haroon, who has been involved with the developments.
The fines will be recorded at a central database and can be paid at a bank. If you show the receipt, the record will be removed.
There has been slow progress on the new system. Work started in 2008 and has so far eaten up Rs54 million. A local company, Micro-Innovations and Technologies, has been given the contract to put the system in place.
Traffic violations are rarely prosecuted in Pakistan, principally because no centralised computer database of licenced drivers exists. The ideal database would have information about traffic violations committed by each licence holder and the fines they have paid.
At the heart of the matter, however, are the licences themselves, which should allow traffic police officials to instantly access a person’s records on a computer. The Sindh police, along with the provincial information technology department, have made this the driving force behind their e-licencing project.
This will also help deal with the issue of fake licences, added Additional Inspector General Traffic Zakir Hussain.
The e-licencing project is expected to provide some semblance of relief to overworked traffic cops. However, there is always the possibility that the constable would try to bargain for a bribe.
The minister said that he was aware of the dilemma. “No one can guarantee that the person behind the computer is entering the data correctly, or if he is swiping the card [or not],” said Haroon. “This depends on the integrity of the officer.”
The new licences
Additional Inspector General Traffic Zakir Hussain explains that they are trying to cut out the agent outside the licence office. “It will be like a passport office, and [serve people] on a first-come-first-served basis,” he explained. The driving licence centres have been renovated to create space for new hardware, counters and desks. You will provide your information and have your photographs taken at the licence office. An on-site doctor will perform a quick medical checkup. You would pay the fees at a post office and sit the two written tests on general driving etiquette and traffic rules. The tests will take place on touch-screen computers at the license office, and each will consist of 15 questions.
As soon as you finish the touch-screen test, you will know if you have passed or failed. Next comes the “physical” or driving test. If you pass that, you receive an e-licence in the mail.
The driving licence office in Korangi is the only branch that is currently offering e-licences. Clifton and Nazimabad are next. While licence offices continue to issue paper permits, those with access to the computerised system will provide e-licences for anyone who comes in for a renewal.
The project’s central control room would be located at the Clifton branch. Licence offices in Hyderabad and Sukkur will also be connected to the centralised system, and AIG Hussain hopes that the system would then be expanded into Larkana and the rest of the province.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 4th, 2012.