KARACHI: People of Karachi faced severe shortage of transport vehicles on Tuesday after around 3,000 public buses were either impounded by the police or taken over by the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) on rent for use in the general elections today (Wednesday).
Hundreds of buses and mini buses were seen parked at the Karachi Expo Centre and at Sakhi Hassan in North Nazimabad on Tuesday, with more coming. The returning officers (ROs) were supposed to collect and dispatch election-related material to the polling stations under strict security in these vehicles. ECP employees were busy numbering the public buses after properly checking them.
Karachi Transport Ittehad (KTI) Senior Vice President Muhammad Ilyas said the district returning officers and ROs took over their vehicles along with the police. He, however, complained that the police were not paying them any rent. “The ECP is, however, paying us Rs12,000 per vehicle,” he shared.
The vehicles will be returned to the transporters after the results are announced. “We’ll get our vehicles back Thursday morning after dropping off all election staff,” he said.
Earlier, the KTI had given a strike call against their buses being impounded, but called it off later.
Public bears the brunt
Meanwhile, people returning home from their offices on Tuesday faced difficulties as no public transport was available. Manipulating the situation to their advantage, rickshaw and taxi drivers charged exorbitantly from commuters and minted money.
Muhammad Arsalan, who works at a private bank, told The Express Tribune that there wasn’t a single mode of public transport available on Sharae Faisal. “Only one bus came, which was cramped with commuters,” he said, adding that people could be seen standing and helplessly waiting for transport at bus stops.
Muzna Ibrahim said that MA Jinnah Road and Saddar which is always teeming with public buses wore a deserted look Tuesday evening.
The ticket collector of Khan Coach, Ajmal Khan, told The Express Tribune that they had no choice but to hand over their buses to the ECP, police and army. “We understand that people are facing problems, but this is what the ECP should think about,” he said.
Meanwhile ECP’s spokesperson Hamid Mughal wasn’t available for a comment despite repeated attempts to contact him.
Commenting on the issue, District South SSP Omar Shahid Hamid clarified that the police has requisitioned buses, which is within its power. “We need the buses to transport additional personnel to and from polling stations and for other election-related duties,” Hamid said.
District West SSP Dr Rizwan Khan, on the other hand, clarified that the police haven’t taken over any vehicle forcibly. “The election is a national duty,” he believed.
Defending the law enforcers, he said police officers risks their lives day and night to provide security and the transporters were taking advantage of the situation by charging double.
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