Wednesday June 19, 2024

Enforcement issues of traffic laws in Pakistan

By Ashfaq Ahmad Klair
June 15, 2018

Pakistan is one of the countries having dangerous roads of world. The abysmal scenario of these roads can envisage after the report of World Health Organisation (WHO) which states that more than twenty five thousand people are killed on Pakistani highways annually. Sundry factors are contributing in framing the horrible picture of our roads. Among these, the dynamic factor is inadequate and deficient enforcement of traffic law. The country keeps “icon of excellence” organisation like motorway police along with several other traffic law enforcement agencies for the maintenance of roads discipline. Nevertheless, enforcement of traffic laws is very poor and falls at number two on a band of 1-10 (WHO).

Standard road engineering is very important for vigorous law enforcement. It is impossible for police officers to enforce lane discipline on a worn out road. Obviously engineering of the motorways in Pakistan encourages police officers to enforce law firmly and confidently. The country is also lacking in modern traffic management training institutions. Generally, police training schools are imparting training in the field of traffic management as additional responsibility. The graduates from these training centers are not too much sensitised towards road safety and importance of fair law enforcement in traffic management.

Traditional old modes of law enforcement are being used to regulate traffic of 21st century. Awareness of law is a key for successful implementation of any public law. Regrettably, Pakistani commuters have least understanding of laws dealing the traffic on roads owing to number of reasons. It becomes challenge for police to enforce traffic laws when majority of commuters are unacquainted with the law. To bridge the gap, electronic and social media is a crucial mean which may be used effectively to educate masses about road safety and traffic regulations.

Lack of professionalism among members of law enforcement agencies is a foremost setback to the objectives of legislation. The traffic police officers often fail to sensitise the violator what was his violation and why he is being penalised. The police officers expect minimum or no argument/talk on violation. It can be practically seen on roads that a driver of a goods transport vehicles stop, take plenty ticket from police officer and pay without any converse. He just says “Mahrbani Ker K Jurmana Thoda Ker Dain” (please impose the lowest plenty). Under existing enforcement policy traffic violations by the drivers of goods transport vehicles are uncontrollable. In fact, the burden of penalty is neither on the pocket of driver nor transporter. It is general public or end consumers who bear this forfeit. Drivers of goods transport vehicles link all their violations with the load on the vehicle and reimburse police fine money from merchant or transporter. Transporters had already included this fine amount in the fare paid by traders. The fine amount is added in production cost of goods and customers have to pay it ultimately.

Enforcement by police is often started reactively against the violation of law. Minor traffic violations are ignored due to lack of proactive approach in the beginning. After some time commuters claim these unnoticed violations their due right and resist robustly when law enforcing agencies try to enforce proper law. For example, maximum carrying capacity of an auto Rickshaw is four passengers by law. But they are carrying 6-9 passengers and no one is taking action against this unlawful practice. Certainly it will become difficult for police to bring these auto rickshaws within the purview of law. Proactive enforcement policies should be adopted to curb any violation of law before it becomes monster.

National Highways Safety Ordinance-2000 (NHSO 2000), Motor Vehicle Ordinance 1965 (MVO 1965) and Motor Vehicle Rules 1969 (MVR 1969) are prominent laws which are enacted in Pakistan to regulate traffic on roads. But none of the enactment is implemented wholly. The NHSO was legislated in year 2000 but rules under this ordinance have not yet been framed. MVO and the MVR are mostly concerned with revenue collection but least with road safety. These laws have become outdated now and need a systematic reframing. Fine amounts against traffic violations have not been revised for last twenty years. Statistics show that inflation rate has been increased by more than 150% in these years. This low amount of fine is leaving a negative impact on the efforts of law enforcing agencies and needs immediate revision.

In the absence of centralised rules related with the construction of a vehicle, there is a complete jumble and transporters are altering their vehicles as per their wishes.

Traffic law enforcing agencies were given special pay incentive in view of their hectic duties. Few years back the government has withdrawn this monetary enticement. Resultantly, the quality of law enforcement is affected badly. The downfall in the efficiency of motorway police is also attributed to this unjust government policy. Traffic management duty on highways is highly monotonous and police officers after some years become victim of this tedium. They enforce law with down shoulders considering it a futile effort. Unfortunately leadership of traffic management agencies has failed to keep their work force motivated.

HTVs, PSVs and goods transport vehicles are considered soft target. Most of the police officers ignore violations by a car or it is difficult for them to deal a Babu in the car. Drivers of goods transport vehicle behave like tamed professionals. They stop their vehicle even sometime without a signal by policeman. They get traffic plenty receipt and pay it without any argue or a hard debate. They don’t link the penalty notice with their violation rather they think it as price of road usage and pay it like the utility bill. With this mindset, drivers violate law willfully and all law enforcement efforts are proving abortive.

In Pakistan, the performance of any law enforcement agency is gauged by number of plenty tickets issued each day or number of plenty tickets against a particular violation instead of reduction in violation or improvement in road discipline.

Comparison in terms of quantity of plenty tickets in a month of existing year is made with the tickets issued in the month of preceding year. The officers are rewarded on the basis of quantity of traffic challans rather than quality of enforcement of traffic law. Resultantly, an unending and blind race of issuance of traffic challans is started among the officers to grab awards. Quality of enforcement of traffic laws may be evaluated by any unprejudiced third party for improvement.

Lack of consistency in the traffic laws enforcement policies is another limiting factor. Mostly policies come with the boss and are wrapped up as he leaves the office. For effective enforcement of law, policy should be simple and vibrant i.e. “a violation is always a violation that must be enforced”.

Corruption by traffic police especially in cities and on local roads is not a hidden phenomenon. Police officers take bribe and ignore violation or they allow violation under their supervision. Taking advantages of their position/uniform, many police officers have introduced their own transport services independently or with a partner. Their drivers commit violations on roads agreeably with the abetment of their masters. This practice is not only promoting the violations but also a culture of prejudgment and nepotism. Almost every commuter keeps a reference of other policemen, government officials and politicians. When the commuters are stopped by a police officer against certain violation of the law, such references are described to get acquittal. This practice should also be discouraged to uphold the rule of law on the roads of our beloved country.

The writer is road safety expert and senior patrol officer at NH&MP