LAHORE:Transporters have announced ending strike across Punjab after successful negotiations with Governor Punjab Chaudhry Mohammad Sarwar and Transport Minister Jahanzeb Khichi.
The governor has ordered the release of all detained transporters and drivers across Punjab. The federal government has held in abeyance increase in transport fines till January 31.
Governor Sarwar and Transport Minister Jahanzeb Khichi held a press conference with Public and Goods Transport Alliance Chairman Ismatullah Khan Niazi at the Governor House Lahore.
Government and Transporters have agreed to constitute a committee, consisting of four representatives of each side to solve the issue of the increase in fines and other issues.
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Both the public and goods transporters went on strike across Pakistan on Thursday against a whopping 1,900% increase in traffic violation tickets, exorbitant increase in toll tax rates and high-handedness of Customs officials.
The provincial metropolis witnessed a severe massive traffic jam due to the protest and blockade of the transporters.
The transporters strategically choked the city through blockades. Thokar Niaz Beg, Saggian Bridge and Kot Abdul Malik are three main entrance and exit points of the city. The blockade at Kot Abdul Malik and Shahdara created a nuisance for commuters coming from Sheikhupura, Jaranwala, Faisalabad and GT Road.
The blockade at Saggian Bridge also affected the exit and entrance of commuter leaving or entering from Sheikhupura and Nankana Sahib.
Long queues, honking horns and frustration marred these main roads on the day. City Traffic Police Lahore deployed an extra contingent of wardens and set diversions to deal with the issue.
Speaking to The Express Tribune, Pakistan Goods Transporters Association (PGTA) General Secretary Nabeel Mahmood Tariq highlighted that the National Highways and Motorway Police (NH&MP) has jacked up traffic violation penalties by the exorbitantly high rate.
“It is unjust and unprecedented that traffic violation fines have been increased from Rs500 to Rs10,000. Business activities have already shrunk owing to the poor economic condition in the country. Such moves are further pushing businessmen and transporters out of the market,” he remarked.
Public and Goods Transporters Alliance, Tariq said, had announced a nationwide strike against an unjust increase in traffic challans and toll tax rates. He pointed or that toll tax rates for Lahore Ring Road and toll plazas in other districts have also been increased by 200%.
In addition, the local administration has established several toll plazas in the same tehsil or district just to mint maximum revenue from commercial transport. He indicated that in just a few kilometres radius there three toll plazas, including Gulshan Ravi Toll Plaza, Sagian Toll Plaza and Sabzi Mandi Toll Plaza. All these toll plazas should be removed immediately, he demanded.
Besides heavy toll taxes, the NH&MP has also imposed parking fees on national highways, which should also be abolished as transporters are already paying heavy taxes and cannot afford this new tax, he said and added that officials of the Customs Intelligence Wing are another headache for goods transporters.
They have made goods transporters lives miserable by undue checking on road. He alleged that customs officials blackmailed them and mint money from Rs10,000 to Rs50,000 per vehicle.
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Although, he pointed out, it has been agreed upon with the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) chairman that the customs officials would not register an FIR if the vehicle was loaded with 30% non-customs paid goods.
Customs officials should control smuggling by better checking at border instead intercity movement of goods. It is a gross violation of the agreement between the board and goods transporters that vehicles are being impounded after registration of FIRs. He demanded authorities to direct Customs officials to follow agreed-upon code.
He said the government has also reduced route permit expiry from three years to one year and increased route permit fees. This decision should also be reversed immediately. The government should make heavy vehicle licensing process simple and license should be an issue at the provincial level instead of the district. It will help in reducing the shortage of manpower in the transport sector.