KARACHI: Cargo supplies across the country came to a halt on Monday when goods transporters suspended their operations in protest over a hefty increase in fines, forcing the federal government to send in its top guns for holding talks to resolve the crisis.
Sindh Governor Imran Ismail, Punjab Governor Chaudhry Sarwar, and Prime Minister Imran Khan’s point man Jahangir Khan Tareen have been given the task to woo the transporters who said their countrywide strike will continue on Tuesday (today).
Transporters said that they decided to halt the cargo supply as a last resort after their several appeals had failed to convince the authorities to take action on their concerns.
They said they paid millions of rupees in taxes and play a key role in the overall economic activity of the country but they were never taken on board by the government where the making of the recent policy was concerned.
Centre intervenes to resolve the crisis; strike to continue today
“For instance, the government has changed the fine from Rs750 for every violation to Rs5,000,” said Agha Jawad Raza, a spokesman for the United Goods Transporters Alliance — an umbrella body of different goods transporters’ bodies.
“The transporters cannot afford this and the same was our stance from the very first day. From power corridors in Islamabad to authorities in the National Highways and Motorways Police (NHMP), we have been pleading [with] everyone for the last couple of months but in vain.
“We are left with no choice but to suspend our operation as part of a countrywide strike. Right now, more than 7,500 heavy vehicles involved in goods transport are parked in Kathore and Hawkesbay truck stand,” he said.
The federal government had recently approved revised rates of fines against traffic violations on highways. The penalty, which was Rs750 on every kind of violation, is now being categorized. For speeding, the fine would be Rs1,500 for motorbikes, Rs2,500 for cars, Rs5,000 for trucks, and Rs10,000 for public service vehicles.
On the other hand, the NHMP said that higher penalties on traffic violations were resulting in safer roads and lesser violations by the heavy traffic which most of the time caused fatal accidents.
Only last month, DIG Jan Mohammad of the NHMP claimed that studies had proved that an increase in penalties resulted in safer roads and that the Rs750 fine had lost its effectiveness.
Last year, he said, 785,000 motorists were fined for speeding on highways and motorways; 1,100,000 motorcyclists got fined for not wearing a helmet, and 100,000 motorists penalized for using high beams.
For using a mobile phone, he said, 200,000 people were fined while 400,000 got tickets for not wearing seatbelts.
But despite strong arguments from the law-enforcement agency, the strike from the goods transporters apparently had sent ripples in the quarters concerned.
“The Sindh governor invited us today [Monday] and we had a meeting with him at Governor House,” said Mr. Raza of the United Goods Transporters Alliance.
“The governor informed the meeting about his appointment along with Jahangir Khan Tareen and Punjab governor from the federal government to hold talks with the transporters and resolve the issue. He has proposed a few measures to continue the talks which [we] would take up in our meeting tomorrow [Tuesday] and then would get back to him. In the meanwhile our strike would continue,” he said.