ISLAMABAD – Uptil now, fear of terrorists had given licence to the federal police to block city entries through pickets, now it is difficult to leave Islamabad owing to long queues of vehicles at every picket set up at all the exit points in the name of anti-car theft drive.

Utterly alarmed by the growing incidents of auto theft in the federal capital, higher authorities of Islamabad police claim they have ordered shifting of police pickets to exit points of Islamabad to minimise alarming car theft cases in the capital.

The move to install police pickets at exit points rather than entrance is said to be a part of strategy to keep the auto thieves away from shifting snatched/looted autos from Islamabad to other areas of country, especially Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KPK) and FATA areas.

The capital police are reducing the number of check posts at the entrance of the city by shifting them to the exit points to counter the rising incidents of auto-thefts. But, this strategy has also piled up public complaints against usual police behaviour, and money minting tactics from commuters on one account or the other.

“Police constables are especially targeting vehicles with number plates from other cities. Some people may have incomplete documents, some may not have transferred their vehicles in their own names etc. But the police personnel will not only humiliate them, but also demand all the documents, failing to which they charge any amount possible,” a motorist complained. 

According to Islamabad police officials, a sharp increase in auto-theft cases prompted the Islamabad police chief to enhance vigilance at city’s exit points to keep check on auto-thieves shifting the vehicles outside Islamabad on daily basis. According to officials sources, three vehicles were being stolen in the city daily.

According to official record of the Islamabad police, Islamabad city is home to 93 checkpoints and police pickets that not only failed to reduce the rate of auto-theft but were also presenting an ugly look as well. According to new plan to counter auto-theft in Islamabad, as many as 24 check points/police pickets have been relocated to the main exit points in both rural and urban areas. But, motorists complain instead of targeting the suspected vehicles, almost every other vehicle is stopped, searched and their documents are checked, even when police officials have no system to verify the documnets.

A high police official, however, told TheNation on Sunday that a number of policemen were also enhanced at checkposts/police pickets installed at exit points of Islamabad to keep a vigil on carjacking of vehicles to Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

On Sunday, this correspondent himself visited some of check posts/police pickets installed at exit points and witnessed long queues of motorists especially at Islamabad toll plaza.

Long queues of vehicles at Islamabad’s exit points are not a new phenomena for motorists but they believe it was not good to tease them in the name of anti auto-theft campaign. “We are already irked by the long queues at CNG stations, and now Islamabad police are adding to our miseries by making us wait for several minutes to exit from the city,” Bilal Saeed, an engineer by profession complained.

Islamabad police officials are well aware of the pain and frustrations of motorists but they advise them to remain cool and calm. “We are well aware of the pain caused by these pickets but we are trying to overcome the issue.” A higher police official told TheNation on Sunday.

The sources said that relocation of police checkposts/police pickets from entrance points have less chance to reduce auto theft in the city. However, they have provided the police men better opportunities to tease and blackmail the motorists.