By Naeem Sadiq
Published: January 12, 2020
An estimated 100,000 to 200,000 vehicles with fraudulent credentials, unabashedly roam around on the streets of Karachi. These vehicles were either never registered or have not paid the annual vehicle token tax for past several years. They carry illegal, fancy, personalised, foreign or AFR number plates. In many cases, they falsely convert their number plates to government number plates by painting them green and writing the words “Government of Sindh” or “Government of Pakistan” on them.
The province of Sindh has no mechanism, organization or capacity to check this widespread crime that not only deprives the state of its lawful taxes but is also deeply linked to crime and militancy.
A number of steps could be put in place to end this much unchecked and overlooked disease. There is a need to install Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) cameras at all critical junctions of the city. Linked to Police as well as Vehicle data bases, they are used by police forces around the world for checking if a vehicle is registered, tax paid and using the correct number plate or not. They are also used for electronic toll collection and for initiating automatic traffic ‘challans’. Most importantly, they help detect and disrupt criminality and terrorism.
As currently, the Sindh province has a huge gap in registration, tax payment and records of government vehicles, it is necessary to launch a special project to register all government vehicles, pay taxes and place them on E&T website – like those of the ordinary citizens. All vehicles, government or private, must have a common numbering scheme and the concept of green plates and GS, GL, GP, GA series must be discarded. This will help the police to not get intimidated by green plates nor will it be an incentive to citizens to impersonate such vehicles.
The Sindh traffic police needs extensive training in number plate recognition. It ought to be equipped and empowered to crack down on fake and fraudulent vehicles. It needs to be provided hand-held tablets, linked with Vehicles and Driving License Databases, for immediate retrieval of data. It is also important that the police in all provinces has an access to vehicle databases of all provinces and not just one.
The number plate, size, colour and font must be standardized for all vehicles in Pakistan. This would enable an ANPR camera to identify and read any vehicle from any province.
The Government must ensure that no vehicle is on road, even for a single day, with no number plate, an AFR number plate or any other temporary number plate. No vehicle must be allowed to leave the show room / port, unless an officially supplied number plate has been applied. This would be a huge task for the Sindh Excise and Taxation (E&T) Department, which is already lagging behind by years in providing number plates to new vehicles.
The traffic ‘challan’ procedure should be simplified. The police officer should simply write the car number, the violation and the amount on a printer generated receipt, a copy of which is sent to the E&T Department for collection along with the annual motor vehicle tax. There should be no cash transaction and no documents of the driver must be retained by the police.
The existing “challan” fee is too insignificant to deter or pinch the delinquent drivers. It ought to be raised significantly and must not be, for any offence, less than Rs.1000 for a motor bike and Rs.3000 for a car owner. The fine for vehicles using fraudulent number plates must be raised to at least Rs.10,000.
The motor vehicle initial and annual tax payment system must be radically changed. No citizen should need to visit any bank or any tax collection office for the payment of these taxes, which ought to be paid through internet or mobile phone money transfer systems. Why must the citizens continue to be tortured by government’s outdated policing and tax collection processes.