There is a constant tussle between qingqi drivers and the police in DI Khan.
A large number of police officials have accused drivers of flouting traffic regulations and adding to the chaos that reigns the city’s roads.
However, for most qingqi drivers, the need to earn their livelihood is above and beyond these considerations. A majority of them belong to the Mehsud tribe whose members were displaced from South Waziristan following Operation Rah-e-Najat in 2009. They can be seen across DI Khan, especially at bus stands, and attract a large number of customers.
“There are 22,000 qingqis in DI Khan – a lot more than what is required,” a police official told The Express Tribune.
According to Saifullah, a 39-year-old rickshaw driver, he earns Rs500 or less every day.
“It is difficult to fulfil household needs on such a meagre income,” he said. “We also have to pay challans which the police impose on us every now and again.”
Saifullah added, “My family lives in a small rented house. We can’t go back to South Waziristan. But things aren’t easy for us in DI Khan either. The police discriminate against us and often mistreat members of the Mehsud tribe.” Recently, a qingqi driver was injured during a scuffle with the police. A large number of drivers placed their injured colleague on a stretcher and blocked Tank-Adda Road in protest.
On the other hand, police officials believe most qingqi drivers do not have valid licences and are much too inexperienced to manoeuvre the city’s bustling streets.
“Many of them tend to drive recklessly,” a police official told The Express Tribune. “Some of them also play loud music which disturbs residents. Drivers and police officials also tend to pick fights with each other.”
In the past, the government planned to resolve the challenges posed by the qingqi rickshaws in DI Khan by restricting them to inner city routes. It put up signboards instructing qingqi drivers as to what routes they should take and threatened them with fines and arrests if they breached these rules.
On October 9, the traffic police initiated a crackdown against qingqi rickshaws. Insiders familiar with the matter said 3,200 challans were issued and fines worth Rs1.2 million were collected. Speaking at a news conference earlier this week, ASP Headquarters Waseem Riaz has said such operations will persist in DI Khan.
“Many qingqi drivers are below the age of 18 and don’t have licences,” the ASP said. “They tend to drive recklessly and take on over six passengers. Some of them even have bogus number plates.”
Ali Wazir, who runs a transport business in DI Khan and helps qingqi drivers, told The Express Tribune the government is not issuing licences to drivers who hail from North and South Waziristan.
“Qingqis have provided a cheap mode of transport for underprivileged sections of society,” he said. “Unfortunately, there is a lack of proper management by the government in this regard.”
According to Wazir, DI Khan has a host of problems such as poor drainage system and lack of effective urban planning.
“The problems caused by qingqi drivers should be the least of our concerns,” he added.
Published in The Express Tribune, November 12th, 2015.
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