The traffic police’s announcement of drastic action against drivers without licences seems to have backfired as the three licence branches in the city — Korangi, Nazimabad and Clifton — failed to cope with the sudden rush of citizens vying for driving licences. Subsequently, the police and Rangers had to be called in to manage the increasingly restless crowd.
Taking notice of the incident, Sindh home minister Sohail Anwar Sial and Police IG Ghulam Hyder Jamali ordered to extend the deadline to apply for licences for one month. The IG added that all traffic violations will be dealt with in accordance with the existing laws. Traffic DIG Amir Ahmed Shaikh warned on Saturday the residents of Karachi of the impending crackdown that was supposed to start from Monday morning. The DIG had revealed that 15 checkpoints would be set up for the purpose, where traffic DSPs and section officers, along with inspectors and sub-inspectors, will perform their duties from 11am to 1pm and then from 9pm to 11pm.
According to the press statements issued by Shaikh’s office, the traffic police have the authority to arrest drivers under Section 99 of the Motor Vehicle Ordinance (MVO). Shaikh’s reader, Muhammad Idrees, told The Express Tribune that driving without a licence amounted to negligence and it usually became the cause of fatalities in vehicular accidents.
He added that drivers of commercial vehicles without licences could be put behind bars for a maximum of two years, whereas drivers of private vehicles could be sent to jail for a maximum of one year.
Idrees’ claims were negated by Advocate Abdullah Nizamani, who said that the use of MVO’s Section 99 to arrest drivers without licences was inappropriate. He said that MVO Section 99 could only be employed in cases of dangerous driving, which could harm others.
On Saturday, licence department DIG Aftab Pathan had claimed that licence department had the capacity to cater to any number of people who sought the driver’s licence. His claims were laid bare on Monday morning as work in all three licence branches of the city came to a standstill and hundreds of people had to go back with empty forms.
One of the applicants seeking a driver’s licence at the Clifton Branch, Aslam Rafique, told The Express Tribune that he had reached the office at 9am but couldn’t manage to get inside. “The guards at the gates pushed me back,” he said, adding that a large crowd had thronged the office.
“When I somehow managed to get hold of the form, I was asked by the official to come back at 4pm,” he said, adding that at 4pm, an official stamped his form and asked him to come again on November 15.
For his part, DIG Pathan reasoned that it wasn’t his fault if thousands of people, who had not got their licences in the past 15 years, had thronged his office at once and started protesting. “I will naturally call the Rangers to disperse the crowd,” he said.
When asked why they didn’t make prior arrangements in anticipation of the crowd that was expected, DIG Pathan blamed the traffic DIG for failing to give much notice. “I had personally asked him (DIG Shaikh) before the crackdown to give at least 15 days’ time, but he didn’t,” he said. DIG Shaikh did not respond to repeated calls.
In order facilitate the large number of applicants at the driving licence branches, DIG Pathan said they have extended their office timings. “The office will also remain open on Saturdays and Sundays,” he said adding that on Sunday only, students would be facilitated, whereas Fridays would be reserved for women and elderly citizens.
Published in The Express Tribune, November 3rd, 2015.