LAHORE, March 21: The ‘process’ of a free and fair election began in Lahore on Saturday with sudden impounding of cars bearing green number plates (officials) from the roads under the pretext that the vehicles were to be given to the district election staff.

The “crackdown” on official cars began at around noon. As far as the modus operandi was concerned, police in downtown would stop cars bearing green number plates, ask their drivers to hand over the keys and take the vehicle to the Sessions Court premises to the utter surprise of the officers whom they belonged to.

The drivers were not even given time to collect their belongings or those of their bosses while impounding the cars. The drivers who were alone at the time of impounding cars, walked to the offices of their bosses with the news. Those who had mobile phones broke the sad news immediately.

A few senior officials intervened and managed to get back their cars, though with much difficulty. A couple of ‘affected’ drivers said they saw around 25 impounded cars on sessions court premises.

Though officials in the Punjab Civil Secretariat were aware of the move, the modus operandi adopted was taken as an insult and termed illegal.

“There is no direction for handing over our vehicles to anyone,” an affected official said.

“Official car is a state property assigned to an officer under some law. And snatching them the way it was done today is illegal and amounts to robbery,” said another angry official who was ‘robed of’ his vehicle.

Official sources said the Punjab government had promised to the provincial election commissioner that DCOs concerned would provide official vehicles to the election staff by March 25.

A senior official who requested anonymity said there was no mention that the official cars would be impounded in such a manner from roads. Surprised over the happening as he was, the official said after reports that Wapda vehicles were being impounded for election duty, the government had recently issued directions to all DCOs to refrain from engaging vehicles of the essential services.

The Lahore DCO was not available for his comment despite repeated attempts and senior police officials expressed their ignorance about the happening.—Intikhab Hanif

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