More than 30 per cent of the vehicles bearing government registration plates are not registered with the provincial excise and taxation department, The Express Tribune has learned.
The provincial government owns around 27,000 vehicles but hardly 65 to 70 per cent of them are registered while the rest are on the roads without registration and are not paying any taxes. Out of the total unregistered vehicles, 4,000 are with the Sindh police and an estimated 4,000 are with other government departments.
Traffic AIG Ghulam Qadir Thebo, who has also served as Karachi police chief, told The Express Tribune that unregistered vehicles cannot be located or traced and therefore cause problems in investigations. “Government vehicles should also have to register and pay taxes,” he said, adding that a list of police vehicles has been given for registration.
“If you stand at Punjab Chowrangi, every third car will bear a green registration plate with the prefixes of GS, GP or AFR,” said a traffic police section officer seeking anonymity. “When we stop them for a certain violation, they fail to provide us with any documents and say that it is a government vehicle and that we should ask the government for the documents. We can’t even fine them because doing so will jeopardise our jobs.”
Last year in October, NGO Citizens Trust Against Crime (CTAC), Sindh Police and the Citizens-Police Liaison Committee (CPLC) launched a drive against vehicles with irregularities and driving without a licence in district South.
The traffic police were charging around 150 vehicles daily during a mere two hours of checking but the drive was suspended after a few days. Perhaps for the first time, the traffic police section officers were fining government officials, politicians, businessman and police officers alike. The drive encouraged low-ranking traffic police officers and they learnt that no one is above the law but it was suspended for Muharram and has yet to be resumed.
CTAC representatives, when contacted, said that unregistered government vehicles were the main reason behind the suspension of the drive. “When you are not abiding the law, then how can you ask others to abide by it?” asked Naeem Sadiq, a member of CTAC, adding that during checks, many of the government vehicles that were stopped were unregistered and bore dummy registration plates.
“We had excise department officials at the checking point but they had no records of the vehicles,” he said. “The excise department needs to make a list of all registered government vehicles and then ask the traffic police to impound all vehicles that have a government registration plate but are not on the list,” he said, adding that they have written over 20 letters to the department but it has failed to provide them with a list of registered government vehicles.
“These unregistered vehicles are often used in crimes but cannot be traced and it is the responsibility of the excise department to either register them or ban them,” he said, threatening to take legal action if the issue is not fixed.
“There are hundreds of vehicles which bear fake government number plates but they can’t be traced unless government-owned vehicles are registered,” said a traffic police officer who participated in the drive.
The excise department has a record of all registered private vehicles registered on its website but the record glaringly omits government vehicles. “If the record is updated, then fake vehicles can easily be identified and citizens can inform the police if they see a suspicious car,” said the traffic police officer.
Despite a number of visits to his office, the excise and taxation department provincial secretary could not be contacted.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 4th, 2014.