LAHORE - At least four City Traffic Police personnel were caught for using unauthorised number plates during the last week in the provincial capital. On the orders of Lahore Chief Traffic Officer (CTO) Tayyab Hafeez Cheema, an inquiry has been initiated against the wardens.

A police spokesperson said that the city police had launched a crackdown on the motorists using unauthorised number plates. During special checking, traffic Warden Majid was stopped from using unauthorised number plate on his car (LEM-6488) and Shaheen Hayat was booked for using unauthorised number plate on his car (LZH/5560).

Similarly, traffic wardens Sarwar and Zulfikar were caught with unauthorised number plates on their motorcycles LEW-8050 and GAR-6133 respectively during the drive.

The spokesperson said that the police had impounded the vehicles while a departmental inquiry is underway to initiate disciplinary action against the policemen, who are otherwise supposed to strictly adhere to traffic rules.

In our status-conscious society, everyone wants to show his ‘strength’ by telling others who really he/she is. Ironically, instead of using prescribed or computerised number plates the trend of unauthorised plates with words like “MNA, MPA, Senator, Editor, Media guru, Boss, Police, Lawyer, and Chairman” has been growing in our society.

A serious question arises here, who will abide by the traffic laws when the lawmakers and law-enforcers become law breakers? Similarly, media persons and lawyers are considered a key component of a civilized society. How can we reform a society and ensure supremacy of law when its basic components would make mockery of the constitution? Police constables and traffic wardens hesitate while checking four-wheel-drives and other type of luxury vehicles at the check-points. They are powerful but only for the poor and ordinary citizens.

To influence others, many people prefer to show their power by writing ‘introductory’ words on the number plates rather than using authorized and computerized number plates as per law. And this all is happening simply because either the police are unable to check the illegal trend or the cops are part of the problem.

In May 2013, the Sindh High Court (SHC) had ordered the provincial government to curb the use of unauthorised, diplomatic, fancy, and Applied for Registration (AFR) number plates on public vehicles roaming around the city. The then SHC Chief Justice Mushir Alam, while heading the bench, had passed this direction during the hearing of a suo motu case. Justice Mushir had noted that “it has been observed that a number of vehicles are plying on the roads without registration and with Applied for Registration number plates.” The judges further noted that the vendors of fancy number plates were operating all around the city unchecked, whereas under the Motor Vehicle Ordinance, the number plates are supposed to be issued by the excise and taxation department’s motor registration wing.

In Punjab province, it is the responsibility of the provincial government to take action against the motorists using unauthorised, fancy, or fake number plates. The police, traffic police, and Excise and Taxation department are supposed to stop this illegal trend but they never launched a successful campaign to penalize the powerful violators.

Similarly, the Motorway Police also launched enforcement campaign against illegal blue revolving lights and unauthorized green number plates vehicles plying on the national highways. Unfortunately, like other provincial departments the motorway police also failed to check the violations properly.

A police officer said that the government must take steps to make it mandatory for vehicles to have tamper-proof High-Security Registration Plates (HSRP). These plates have a hologram and the letters Punjab printed on it. Since its implementation was left to the provincial government, it was never implemented across the board.

Some taxation department officials were seen conducting surprise checking of vehicles on roads for a few days but their efforts were not enough to check the violations.

As far as the police department was concerned, the traffic police in Lahore have badly failed to launch a full-fledged crackdown against the violators. Even the policemen and senior government officers are making mockery of the traffic laws by using unauthorized number plates. Illegal use of green, fancy, and other type of plates, and tinted glasses has been growing with every passing day and there is no one to stop this illegal practice. Even, inexperienced and underage drivers of the public transport vehicles are posing great threat to the lives of people due to the police negligence.

The Punjab government must come forward to ensure a massive crackdown against those using unauthorised number plates since this practice is also a security risk. The police, traffic, and excise department should launch a joint campaign to intercept and penalize the violators irrespective of their status, class, or family background.