Where will the (illegal) money collected from the ‘licensing Karachi’ campaign go?
Recently, the Karachi traffic police started a campaign, on the orders of the provincial government, against those drivers who don’t carry driving licences. According to the provincial government, this campaign is a part of the on-going process to enforce the law and order situation in the city. The driving licence is a very important public document and in many countries it is used as an identity card.
The campaign was initiated with the announcement of a 15-day deadline, which was previously extended to one month but has now been extended to three months. Since the process has already started, there have been many changes in the campaign and a lot of confusion in the department, which shows that the campaign was not well-planned before it was launched in a city of unofficially 18 million people. While talking to a private news channel, the DIG traffic police said that 3.8 million people are driving in Karachi and projected that 40 per cent of Karachiites are driving without licences – that is nearly 1.5 million drivers out on the roads without a licence.
Aftab Pathan, DIG of the driving licence branch, while talking to the media said that the department has set up three branches in the city – Nazimabad, Clifton, and Korangi – to serve the whole city.
But an inside story, which was shared by a traffic police official on the condition of anonymity, states something different. He said, more or less, all three branches have the same stories. According to his knowledge, every day, each branch is capable of issuing 600 to 700 licences, which means the medical counter, which is the second phase of the licence process, is making Rs60,000 to Rs70,000 per day. This medical fee is illegal, as it is not written in the Pakistan Motor Vehicle Ordinance. This fee is supposedly authorised by a small hand written letter signed by a personal assistant stuck to the wall by the medical desk.
He said that the lamination fee of Rs250, which is charged by the department in the end, is also illegal. Moreover, the fee is not highlighted in the ordinance or passed through the Sindh Assembly Bill. According to him, the money (illegally) collected goes to the DIG of licensing authority and not to the department of traffic police.
The common observation on the streets of the Karachi is that most of the time the motorcyclists or drivers of small cars are victims of traffic wardens. It’s a known fact that the VIPs and people belonging from the privileged class have connections with influential people and hence are not charged for driving without a license or a fake license for that matter.
According to the given numbers and statistics, if the offices work seven days a week and issue 21,000 licences in a month, the three branches will be issuing an estimated 189,000 to 200,000 licences in three months. This means that they will not be able to complete the task of licensing 40 per cent of Karachi’s drivers but will end up making an estimated Rs12,000,000 per month (more or less) from each branch, which will come out from the pockets of those who will stand in queues for three to four hours and pay the illegal fees just to get a licence.
According to the anonymous traffic police official,
“I have powered off my phone, I was getting many calls for help in getting the licence without people going to the branch.”
The question is; what will happen to those who will be left without licences at the mercy of the traffic police?
How many times will they be paying the ‘challan’ (fine) for not getting the licence during this campaign from these three branches? Does the DIG traffic police have any plans for those who will be left behind after three months? Will the money made under the guise of medical and lamination fees be invested on the roads of Karachi? Or has the traffic police made plans to open more branches from the money collected?
If the city can be divided into 18 towns and administered easily accordingly, then at least 18 offices are needed to serve the estimated 1.5 million people to issues licences. If these people want to be law-abiding citizens, then provide them with the basic requirements to do so; don’t make it difficult for them. The initiative of ‘licensing Karachi’ is a positive step, if carried out properly without emptying the pockets of the citizens.
In light of the recent terrorist activities in interior Sindh (Shikarpur and Jacobabad), is the government considering such a campaign in all areas of Sindh? Or will our leaders sit back, do nothing and give everyone another chance to criticise them?
The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.