KARACHI, Dec 10: Goods transporters blocked the Superhighway for vehicular traffic on Monday in connection with their ongoing strike against ‘excessive taxes and poor law and order situation’ on the country’s highways.
A motorway police vehicle also became a target of the protesters wrath, as it was attacked and then torched near Kathor.
One personnel of the motorway police was also injured in the attack.
However, the protesting transporters denied their involvement in any violent episode during the Monday protest and blamed ‘conspirators and third element’ as the force behind the arson attack.
Traffic remained suspended on the Superhighway for more than two hours due to the protest.
“A rally of transporters in trailers, trucks and cars emerged on Kathor Bridge when a team of the motorway police was busy rescuing passengers of a car hit by a trailer,” said a motorway police official.
The situation turned ugly when someone from among the protesters fired shots into the air that caused panic and terrified people, he said, adding that the charged mob attacked the motorway police vehicle (IDP-3108) busy in the rescue operation.
“The attack left one of our officials injured. He was later moved to a nearby hospital for treatment. The vehicle was later set on fire. However, the police managed to restore the traffic after more than two hours,” he added.
However, blaming the motorway police of highhandedness with transporters from Karachi to Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, the transporters denied their involvement in the act.
“One can imagine the level of seriousness on their part that none of institutions has so far approached us to hear our concerns,” said Muhammad Shoaib Khan, the secretary-general of the Karachi Goods Transporters Association. “We are demanding reduction in the number of taxes and improved security on the highways. We are also protesting against the attitude of the motorway police and increasing incidents of kidnapping of transporters and snatching of consignments.”
The goods transporters strike has led to a serious cut in industrial and other supplies forcing agriculturalists and traders to think that it would ultimately increase the retail prices of household goods.
“Our manufacturing units in the country are facing shortage of around 2,000 tonnes of raw material daily which is transported from Karachi,” said a spokesman for the All Pakistan Vanaspati Manufacturers Association. “If the situation is not improved immediately, I fear not only will the prices go up, but also majority of the manufacturing units may suspend their operations.”
The transporters’ strike also resulted in the suspension of Diammonium Phosphate (DAP) and urea supply to the upper parts of the country. Growers felt that it could hamper the wheat and other crops sowing.
“It’s a crucial time and if the situation does not improve the agriculture sector could face a serious crisis,” said a spokesman for the Sindh Agriculture Forum.
Their concerns, however, have failed to convince the transporters who are determined to continue with their strike.
“We have stakes no less than any other sector in the country,” said Mr Khan of the Karachi Goods Transporters Association. “Our 40,000 vehicles are at a standstill and nearly 200,000 labourers are facing unemployment. We have made several requests and met everyone in the institutions concerned but faced humiliation. The strike is the last option left.”