LAHORE - Public transporters observed strike on Thursday and staged protest demonstrations in many cities to condemn the imposition of heavy fines over violations of different traffic laws.

However, All Pakistan Transport Owners Federation (APTOF) yesterday evening announced end to the countrywide strike after successful negotiations with Punjab Governor Chaudhry Ghulam Sarwar who assured them that their issues will be resolved by the month’s end.

After a meeting was held between members of the transport alliance and the provincial government during which Sarwar convinced transporters that their issues will be resolved by January 31, the APTOF said they were ending the countrywide strike. 

The federal government has recently increased the fine from Rs500 to Rs10,000 in a bid to force the drivers to follow traffic laws on the national highways. Authorities believe that heavy fines would help control increasing road accidents in the country.

Hundreds of transporters held protest demonstrations by blocking all major routes leading to and exiting from Lahore. They also chanted anti-government slogans and demanded withdrawal of the notification regarding heavy fines.

A good number of transporters gathered at Shahdara Chowk, Babu Sabu Interchange, Thokar Niaz Beg Chowk, Kot Abdul Malik Chowk, Ravi Road, Ferozepur Road, Bund Road, Lorry Adda, and Suggian Chowk where they staged sit-ins for several hours. The roadblocks triggered traffic mess on the national highways and many other parts of the city.

Strike causes immense sufferings to commuters

A traffic police spokesman said that more traffic officials were sent to entry and exit points of the city to ensure smooth flow of traffic. He said that wardens had diverted the flow of traffic towards alternative routes. However, the protest demonstrations caused traffic jams in different parts of the city, including the Lower Mall, Multan Road, Ferozepur Road and Bund Road.

The day-long strike caused immense sufferings to millions of commuters across the province. Buses, trucks and vans remained off the roads in many big cities and small towns throughout the day. However, the federal government, on Thursday evening, hinted that they would implement the new policy after taking all stakeholders into confidence.

Federal Minister for Communications Murad Saeed, while speaking on a point of order during the National Assembly session, said the new policy about heavy fines would be implemented after taking all stakeholders into confidence.

The minister also clarified that the decision to increase traffic fines was taken to control increasing number of deaths in road mishaps and it was not meant for increasing the revenue.

The All Pakistan Transport Owners Federation had announced countrywide strike on Thursday morning, and called for protest rallies against the new policy.

Earlier, Chairman Goods and Public Transport Association Asmatullah Niazi told reporters in Lahore that they had decided to stage protests across the country from Karachi to Peshawar. “Rs10,000 fine on traffic violation is totally unacceptable,” he said. “We have given the strike call after failure of talks with the government.”

He expressed the resolve that the strike would continue until the government withdrew the new policy.

The federal government had approved increase in the traffic fines couple of months ago.

The average fine amount which was Rs750 for a traffic violation will now be charged in manifold. According to officials, Rs1500 would be charged from motorcyclists for over speeding, Rs 2,500 from car drivers, and Rs 5,000 from the drivers of trucks and buses. Other fines include Rs5,000 for violation of one way traffic and Rs10,000 for driving sans license.

Similarly, Rs1500 fine will be imposed for overtaking for both the motorcycle and car drivers. While those car drivers and motorcyclists who are found taking a wrong U-turn will pay Rs1000 while heavy vehicles will pay a fine of Rs 5000.

On the other hand, traffic police officers argue that recent studies have revealed that a reasonable increase in penalties helps promote road safety. They say that most of the people do not follow traffic laws despite the fact that millions of drivers are issued tickets every month. “When you impose heavy fines on the violators of traffic laws, they will never violate the laws again,” a police officer said.

However, the transporters say that they are being deprived of their livelihood by the government in the name of traffic laws. “Actually, the federal government wants to collect more and more revenue by imposing heavy fines on poor drivers. How a driver can pay Rs10,000 in fine if he gets less than Rs20,000 salary per month,” asks Aslam who drives a bus to feed his family.