LAHORE: Citizens have complained that the policy allowing the disabled to import duty-free cars outfitted with special devices for driving assistance is unreasonable and has prevented any disabled people from taking advantage of the offer.
Since the Ministry of Commerce issued a notification on September 28, 2009, outlining the terms and conditions for the duty-free import of such cars, not a single car has been imported although 19 applications are under process, The Express Tribune has learnt.
According to the notification, the disabled are allowed custom-free import of cars of up to 1,300cc capacity for their personal use, subject to certain conditions, such as having a valid driver’s licence and a verifiable income of Rs20,000-100,000 per month. Once an applicant has submitted the required documents and been assessed as genuinely disabled by the Federal Board of Disabled Persons, he or she is due an import authorisation certificate from the Ministry of Commerce.
But the applicants said that the terms and conditions are unreasonable and the authorisation process is time-consuming.
And a leading advocate of rights for disabled people complained that the board was incompetent and incomplete since it didn’t contain a doctor.
Shah Ismail, a disabled applicant from Karachi, said that he had submitted his driving licence, disability certificate issued by the provincial Social Welfare Department, and income tax payment documents to the authorities concerned, but the Ministry of Commerce had yet to issue him a car import authorisation certificate. He said he initially spent a lot of time and energy visiting the government offices to submit documents and press officials, but now had no expectations of receiving the certificate.
Dr Hamid Mazhar from Faisalabad complained that he was unable to get a customs-free car for his disabled 22-year-old daughter because she didn’t have a valid driving licence.
“How can a person who was born disabled get a driving licence in the absence of cars outfitted with special gadgets that would allow her to drive in the first place? And there are no driver training centres for disabled persons,” he said.
He also objected to the condition that applicants submit their last three income tax returns to the Ministry of Commerce to verify their income.
This meant it was available only to disabled people with jobs, he said, and so he couldn’t buy the car for his daughter from his own money.
Dr Khalid Jameel Akhtar, who is known as ‘Big Brother’ for his work helping the disabled, said the medical board was incomplete.
“You can judge the government’s intentions from the incompetent medical board formed to evaluate disabled people. It does not even have a medical expert.”
He said that the import of Hondas or Toyotas, the most popular carmakers in Pakistan, was not possible as these companies produce cars locally as well and did not allow the import of cars made elsewhere. He said no other companies were manufacturing cars of less than 1,300cc capacity that could be fitted with gadgets for the disabled and which could be imported.
Dr Akhtar also criticised the requirement that cars imported for the disabled should have a special registration plate with a distinctive colour bearing the words “Disabled Person’s Car”. He said such distinctions could have damaging affects on the psyche of the car’s driver.
He suggested that the government give the disabled a 50 per cent subsidy for the purchase of locally-assembled and reconditioned cars, three-wheelers and motorcycles. The government should allow the disabled to import any type of non-luxury vehicle, he added.
Published in The Express Tribune, December 3rd, 2010.