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TAXILA: Residents faced problems in their daily commutes after the police impounded several public transport vehicles for use in the general elections. Many transporters hid their vehicles to save them from being impounded.

Many of the impounded public transport vehicles including vans, wagons, Suzuki and other cars could be seen at the judicial complex and at polling stations. They were used by the police to transport polling staff and supply election material to and from polling stations.

Scores of commuters were seen stranded in almost all the bus stops in Taxila and Wah as even rickshaws, taxis and vehicles used for transporting goods disappeared from the roads of the twin cities after the police started confiscating the vehicles Tuesday morning for election duties.

Many impounded public transport vehicles were seen at the judicial complex and at polling stations

“I have to go to my native village in Haripur for my cousin’s funeral but I cannot find transport,” said 55-year-old Ameer Sultan, who was waiting at a bus stand with his wife and children.

Another commuter, Tahira Bano was waiting at a bus stand in Taxila with her young children. She said her husband works in Karachi and that she has to get to Attock where her mother has had a stroke. She said she had been waiting for a bus for three hours.

Local transport union leaders told Dawn that the majority of drivers do not want to perform election duties as they will not be paid by the local administration. They said that during the 2013 elections, the transporters had reached an agreement with the transport authorities under which their vehicles were hired on fixed rates for official duty. However, their vehicles had been taken away by force three days ago and without any promise of payments.

The manager of a van stand, Sher Khan told Dawn that they had no choice but to hand over their busses to the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP), police and army.

“We understand that people are facing problems and the ECP should also take this into consideration,” he said.

“We will get our vehicles back Thursday morning after all election staff is dropped off,” he said.

In-charge traffic warden Mohammad Tayyab said clarified that the police have 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,” he said. According to traffic by-laws, Mr Tayyab said, public transport laws can be used by the administration, especially the police but they must pay rent to transport operators.

Published in Dawn, July 26th, 2018