PESHAWAR: The lawlessness is rampant in the provincial capital when comes to government owned motor vehicles, carrying glaringgreen number plates with repulsive behaviors of their drivers. They have been haunting the tranquility, peace and disciplines on roads.
The arrogant drivers of green number plates vehicles are being witnessed often hurling abuses, threatening and instigating violence on poor fellow citizens on the roads. The frequency of issuing number plates in the province is also quite high.
Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) Excise and Taxation department issued 979 green number plates since January 1, 2017 to different government departments vehicles, of which 411 number plates are issued to motor bikes, 264 to motor cars, 45 vans, 3 buses, 46 trucks, 5 tractors, 36 Sport Utility Vehicles (SUVs) and 169 pickups.
Suleman Khan narrates an incident where a motor car carrying green number plate that belonged to Law Department tried to enter the FATA Secretariat. The guard intercepted the motor vehicle at gate, and did not allow it to enter into the premises. A smartly dressed officer jumped out of the vehicle and started pushing the guard for his act. He also threatened him and said he may have to face the music for this act. The guard who exhibited politeness to the officer throughout the conflict, was repeatedly requesting the officer to park the vehicle outside the building. The guard also explained to him that it is because of the written orders issued on security grounds that no vehicle is allowed to be parked inside the secretariat premises. Later, the dispute was resolved by the higher authorities of FATA Secretariat.
Similarly, the government vehicles carrying green number plates are being prioritized in several circumstances by the traffic wardens on the roads, sending a wrong message of their biased approach towards ordinary citizens. Additionally, the attitudes of the drivers who ride these government vehicles are unacceptable.
“There aren’t any special protocols or powers permissible to green number plate holders on the roads except in the time of emergency“, Javed Khilji, the director registrations at the Excise and Taxation Office explains to Apni Awaz. It is likely that the government is planning to regularize their movement on the roads in the future by introducing special tracking system, Khilji adds.
He further says if a green number plate vehicle violates traffic rules then the driver must be punished as per the law. “Many of the government servants were penalized for violating traffic rules“, Khilji says.
Sami Ullah, who is taxi driver and has been driving taxi for last four years in Peshawar metropolitan. He believes that Traffic Police would always support the green number plate vehicle whenever there happens a dispute between two parties due to traffic violations.
“It was only a day ago that I was transporting school children to their homes and was standing at the traffic signal. A government owned motor vehicle horned me from behind who wanted to violate traffic signal. At that time, I did not give him the way to pass through, however, as soon as the signal turned green and I moved ahead, the same vehicle overtook me and indicated to stop. I was still trying to park my vehicle on the side shoulder that the driver of the government vehicle rush to me and started hurling abuses. He tried to threaten me using his official designation”, Sami Ullah narrates.
He expressed his extreme dismay over the harsh behavior of seemingly of an educated government official. He said that he even called the traffic warden at the site but he too blamed him for committing the traffic violation that he never committed.
Advocate Ihtisham, a practicing lawyer in Peshawar High Court says no one is above the law, and everyone should be treated on equal grounds. He says traffic wardens draw their salaries from the tax money collected from the citizens, therefore there is no reason to exhibit bias on during their duties on the roads. “The traffic laws do not allow any citizens to violate the traffic laws, the only exemption is wherever there is an emergency situation,” advocate Ihtisham adds.
According to the rules of Excise and Taxation department, the government officials are assigned government owned motor vehicles which are meant to dispose of official duties only. Use of these vehicles for private reasons, under law, is strictly prohibited. “It is not a new norm that in sheer violation of the law, families of the government officials would fearlessly use government owned vehicles for their personal use, that are purchased, maintained and run by taxpayers’ money”, an official of Excise and Taxation department told.
Even the higher most officials and the provincial ministers have been witnessed using green number plate vehicles off duty hours. One of such incidents happened quite recently, and the people took on the social media with harsh commentary on the act of corruption by KP Minister for Education, Atif Khan when his driver was allowed to drive government owned SUV for his brother’s wedding. Pictures of the event were also circulated on the social media.
According to Advocate Ihtisham, the government issues different color number plates for its owned vehicles just to easily distinguish them among privately owned vehicles on the roads. These green number plates also help the officials in different cities when they move with connection to their duties, he says.
Rasheed Khan, who works as a Ticketing Officer with Shaheen Squad of Peshawar Traffic Police says that traffic rules and regulations are equal for all citizen. Only in emergency related situations, the government-owned vehicles enjoy special protocols on public roads, otherwise they are treated as normal vehicles. He explains that in emergency situation, the traffic headquarters would inform the traffic wardens on duty to treat certain vehicles on preferential basis.
He says that Peshawar Traffic Police is quite strict in normal circumstances with green number plates and ensure that their drivers do not violate the traffic rules. “Personally I issued tickets to 42 members of legislative assemblies, Secretaries, and 13,000 to other bureaucrats between January 2017 to April 2018. These tickets worth 47,575,400 rupees in terms of money collected by the police department and contributed to the provincial kitty”, says Khan.