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No immediate ban on cab services: Dr Umar


February 1, 2017


The Punjab Government has directed the provincial transport authority and all other related departments not to implement the notification vis-à-vis harnessing the illegal cab services, The News has learnt.

In a meeting here on Thursday, members of the CM Office, handling the issue, decided to set up a committee for evolving a fresh regulatory and taxation mechanism for dealing with all such operators. This committee is expected to comprise the members from all the departments concerned, related members of the CM Secretariat and representatives of the cab operators.

Till that time all these operators have been advised to carry on with their usual business, implying that the Punjab government has not banned the operation of all these companies. 

Sources in the government revealed that the CM had been apprised of the fiasco created in lieu of the initiative taken by the Punjab Provincial Transport Authority. It is important to note the government did not realise the implications of introducing this modern cab trend without any prior homework with regard to regulations and taxation. Interestingly, it made the same mistake while issuing the notification, which led to panic among the ‘partners’ of these operators as well as the general public which was benefiting from the service.

While talking to The News, Adviser to CM Dr Umar Saif, who is also chairman of Punjab Information Technology Board (PITB), confirmed there was no immediate on the operators. “We have adopted a hands-on approach for arriving at a quick solution to this deadlock. Since this cab service phenomenon was new to Pakistan, it was bound to have teething problems. We saw very lucrative opportunity for putting people to work without spending anything from the kitty besides focusing on the volume of people benefiting from this affordable means of transport,” said Umar Saif, while explaining why didn’t the government come up with prior regulations and taxes for these operators. He said the government looked at the positive side of this huge facility with people getting jobs and public enjoying affordable and comfortable ride.  “Apart from this, the government calculated the introduction of these operators would take some load off the roads, which, we expected would ease traffic pressure,” he added. 

When asked if the competitors, who are charging much higher fare as compared to these operators, had any influence on the chaos, Umar replied he didn’t know whether or not it was the case. However, he continued, had the competitors had any reservation vis-à-vis these operators, it wouldn’t be out of place.

The media handlers in one of the leading cab operators refused to comment when The News sought one.          

“It has been observed with grave concern that some companies, including Careem, Uber, and A-One, are offering cab services through mobile network technology without registering the private cars with any regulatory body and without obtaining fitness certificate/route permits of these cars causing great loss to the government exchequer and also a security threat to the general public travelling through these cars,” reads the notification issued by Punjab Provincial Transport Authority (PPTA) on Jan 27.

Earlier in the day, the notification went viral on social media inviting strong criticism from the general public and the ‘partners’ of these cab services.  Tania, a professor at a private university in Lahore, termed the ‘ban’ shortsightedness of Punjab government.

She said Uber was far cheaper and securer than rickshaw. “I used to travel in Uber cab without fear from my house to university and back. Now I and my family have no clue how I will commute,” she adds.  Mahmood Ahmad is another 'affectee' who works for a private company against a modest salary. To supplement his income he drives his car, which is registered with Uber, after his office timings and earns around Rs 1,000 to Rs 1,500 per day to feed his family comprising five people. “If the Punjab government cannot provide free and compulsory education and quality healthcare to my children, it has no right to deprive me of my sources of earning,” he comments.

Before the latest development, The News had also talked to PPTA Secretary Chaudhary Muhammad Iqbal who said, “The department does not want to ban Uber, Careem and A-One. Rather it wants to bring them into legal network. Actions are being taken against them as they are driving these cars without route permit which is totally illegal.”

The secretary also said it was necessary for the owners of the cars to obtain fitness certificates for their vehicles and route permits before these can be used as cabs. He said private cars must be treated as commercial if they charge for transporting people and added if they operate without fitness certificates and route permits they would be challaned.

He said PPTA contacted Uber, Careem and A-One and asked them to comply with the required conditions but they were allegedly lingering the matter on lame excuses. 

“They will have to have route permits and fitness certificates just as Daewoo, Albayrak and others obtained these,” he said. The News could not reach him for comments in the evening.  

Meanwhile, it is learnt the Excise and Taxation (E&T) Punjab has sought vehicular data from all the private online cab services operating in the provincial metropolis.

Sources in E&T Punjab told The News that these companies were causing huge financial loss to the national exchequer as their cabs were not registered as commercial vehicles with E&T Punjab. 

E&T Punjab has also issued a notification in this regard to all private online cab services asking them to immediately provide the details of all cars registered with them. They asked these companies to provide the data from day one of its operation and directed them to provide each car data from the first day of its registration with that online cab company.

Talking to The News, Motor Branch Director Muhammad Asif said not even a single private vehicle could be operated as commercial vehicle on city roads without permission of all departments concerned. Asif said any vehicle being operated as commercial would be dealt under Section 34 of Motor Vehicle Registration Act 1959 and their registration would be suspended in the first phase while later on it would be cancelled.  

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