RAWALPINDI: The metro bus service between Rawalpindi and Islamabad was closed on Friday as bus drivers went on strike against the non-payment of their salaries the last few months and the deduction of fines from their salaries.
More than 110,000 people were affected due to the strike and the Punjab Mass Transit Authority (PMA) and the divisional administration had not yet solved the issue till the filing of this report.
Drivers were demanding assurance from the provincial government for the payment of their outstanding dues and that the company should stop deducting fines from drivers’ salaries.
They parked their buses in the main bus terminal at the Pakistan Secretariat and refused to drive them till their salaries are released.
They threatened to halt the service permanently if the Punjab government and management do not release their salaries.
They carried banners which were inscribed with slogans against management and related higher officials in the authority.
PMA Rawalpindi in-charge Shamila Mohsin told Dawn that the authority had hired the services of a private company, Platform, which was to provide drivers for the bus service.
She said the matter was pending between the private company and the drivers and that PMA had directed the company to solve the matter as soon as possible.
She said the company had said that it had deducted the fines for the violation of rules for drivers issued by PMA.
“It is not possible for the private company to not impose fines on drivers for violations,” she said.
Ms Mohsin said between 100,000 and 110,000 passengers use the metro bus service every day.
Passengers arrived at the stations on Friday but staff refused to issue them tickets. Those who had bus cards went as far as the platforms and their fare was also deducted by the automated punch machines.
Public transport was not available from Murree Road to Islamabad and many people had to get taxis and rickshaws to Faizabad from where they got on a wagon to Islamabad.
Commuters also faced problems coming back to Rawalpindi and taking advantage of the situation, taxi drivers were also charging more than the usual rate.
Waiting for transport at the Liaquat Bus Station, Sajid Mughal said government should also allow private transporters on the metro route.
A resident, Raja Liaquat said his sister was using the wagon due to the suspension of the metro bus service.
Passengers demanded the Punjab government conduct an inquiry into how financial problems had started in the authority which resulted into the non-payment of salaries and made management cut fines from drivers’ salaries.
Published in Dawn, February 2nd, 2019