LAHORE - Private agents are virtually running the Licence Branch of the Lahore traffic police since many years. They not only help policemen mint money but also assist applicants in fulfilling the legal formalities while applying for a driving licence.

The provincial government, in recent years, launched multi-billion transport projects in the metropolis but the city traffic police have failed to develop a corruption-free system for the citizens.

During an investigation conducted by The Nation, it was learnt that 90 per cent of the candidates apply for driving licences through agents or middlemen.

A good number of agents could be seen on footpaths outside the traffic police headquarters in Lahore. They in connivance with the policemen help untrained and incompetent people get driving licences even without appearing in the driving test.

Several applicants told The Nation last week that the traffic “police officials use different techniques” to discourage the candidates if they apply directly.

Zohaib, who preferred his first name not be mentioned, said nobody can pass the tests and others obstacles without agents’ role. “You have two options either to pay the agents and get the licencee comfortably or apply directly and wait for a miracle to happen”.

Thousands of new drivers were issued licences last year by the city traffic police in Lahore. More than a half million people were caught and fined for violating traffic laws in the metropolis in 2015.

“Even if someone is foreign qualified, he will have to request the middlemen to complete a file mandatory for applicants. Application forms are sold solely by traffic police agents,” said Zohaib. The MBA graduate requested the authorities to take steps to facilitate the applicants by uploading application forms on-line.

The procedure is very complicated since the “file needs signatures” of the traffic officers. The agents charge eight to ten thousand rupees from those who wanted to skip the complicated procedure for getting driving licence.

A private agent told this reporter that they charge applicants for helping them complete the application forms. It was also learnt that an application form is being sold at Rs150 to Rs200.

“If you want driving licence within a week, you will have to pay double fees. The licence must be delivered at you home address via courier,” a private agent said. The ordinary people have to stand in long queues for hours to submit forms.

It was also learnt that the driving licences are issued to the clients of private agents on priority basis. Even if such clients could not pass the driving test or did not appear in person while submitting the forms, their licences are sent at their home addresses.

Traffic experts and road safety researchers blame the corruption-tainted police for issuing driving licences mostly to unqualified motorists. The driving licensing system of the Lahore police is marred with complaints of corruption and nepotism.

The private agents even get prior information in case of any possible crackdown. They are doing this ‘business’ for the last many years. The police department is yet to introduce a system like one-window operations to facilitate ordinary citizens.

Since the traffic licence issuance system is marred by corruption, therefore unskilled drivers get the driving permits easily. While driving on city roads, many motorists don’t care about traffic rules including breaking a red-light, one-wheeling, underage driving, vehicles with tinted-glasses, and driving without a seatbelt, or helmet.

An official said the city traffic police issued more than 500,000 tickets to the drivers for different traffic violations last year in the provincial metropolis. No less than 9000 new drivers are given licences by the city traffic police this year in 2015.

Insiders say the traffic policemen are given specific targets on monthly basis to issue fine tickets to the motorists. The policemen extort money from the drivers of commercial vehicles in the name of checking.

Also, the traffic police have no system in place to keep a check on every motorist in Lahore. Policemen say they can’t capture everybody red-handed since motorists violate the traffic signals in bulk.

Experts say that some important steps must be taken to ensure transparency by reforming the licensing branch of the city police. “Only the skilled drivers should be given driving permits after proper examination. The role of private agents must be eliminated”.