ISLAMABAD - The National Highway Authority while replying to a query regarding toll tax exemption for lawyers on motorways clarified that as per the policy, there was no exemption for any specific vehicle or a group of road users on national highways and motorways. 

Though, the lawyers already used to pass through toll plazas situated on national highways by showing their respective bar council’s licence, but now they are also getting similar relief on motorways after an attempt made by the President Islamabad High Court Bar Association in this regard.

The President IHCBA Syed Javed Akbar Shah had written a letter to Registrar Islamabad High Court (IHC) in which he sought tax exemption for lawyers on motorways. The letter was forwarded by the registrar IHC to the chairman NHA with his covering letter for further necessary action.

Sources inside the NHA revealed that the request had been turned down by the concerned directorate sighting legal limitations; however, the final decision had not been yet conveyed by the authority to the registrar IHC.

Meanwhile, it has been noticed that the lawyers were being exempted on motorways from paying toll tax, especially on Islamabad-Lahore (M-2) Motorway.

“I asked the cashier on motorway entrance at Lahore about the toll exemption and in response he did not issue me a card usually issued and directed to show my card on exit point at Islamabad while leaving the motorway”, a lawyer Chaudhry Ahmed Sher Advocate informed this scribe, adding, “When I reached Islamabad, I showed my bar licence to the cashier seating inside the booth and he allowed me to leave the motorway without charging the toll amount.”

On the other side, when asked whether the lawyers had an exemption from toll tax on motorways or not, public relation office of the NHA responded, “As a policy, it should not provide any exemption for any specific vehicle types or a group of road users from payment of toll, except for ambulances, police vehicles, vehicles of National Highways and Motorways Police, and vehicles bearing broad arrow plates under the use of armed forces. This exemption, however, will not be available to commercial vehicles of the National Logistics Cell (NLC)”.      

When this scribe approached the NHA’s General Manager Revenue Salah-ud-Din to clarify the ambiguity in a stated position of the authority in its written reply and situation on ground, he explained, “We have nothing to do with the operations of toll plazas as these are being operated by firms like Frontier Works Organisation (FWO) and the NLC etc., which give us an already-agreed amount on annual basis”.

“It is possible that the tax is being exempted to lawyers as a stopgap arrangement by the FWO at its own”, he said, clarifying, “As stated in our written version, there is no tax exemption for lawyers so far according to my knowledge by the NHA.”

It is pertinent to mention here that the revenue collected from road users on toll plazas is supposed to be used for maintenance and road safety of motorways and commuters should pay the tax. However, if a specific group of people wants to get exempted from the toll tax, then the policy should be the same for each citizen of Pakistan in this regard. 

The collection of toll on motorways started in November 1997 whereas in July 1999, federal government had decided to transfer the rights to collect tolls on national highways to the NHA so in practical the tolling on highways commenced in 1999.