ISLAMABAD: The capital has become the most dangerous city of the country in terms of road accidents eversince its population and traffic volume increased manifold.

The strength of traffic police, however, has reduced over the last few years.

A petition filed in the Islamabad High Court (IHC) seeking directions for proper infrastructure stated that the population of Islamabad was 800,000 in 1998 which increased to over 1.1 million while the traffic flow went up by almost seven times in the last 13 years. However, the strength of Islamabad Traffic Police (ITP) has gradually decreased from 684 to 628 personnel.

Petitioner seeks directions for govt to ensure proper road infrastructure in capital

There are around 31 entry points to the federal capital which are not properly manned by traffic police. Furthermore, there is no segregation of entities such as motorcycles, motorcars, heavy traffic etc., on the roads which is a major cause of accidents.

The petition filed by a non-governmental organisation, Lakki Foundation, cited the secretaries of interior, climate change, Pakistan Bureau of Statistics, inspector general of Islamabad police, senior superintendent of traffic police, Capital Development Authority (CDA) chairman and others as respondents.

It said the ITP was established on Jan 28, 2006, by the then prime minister to make the traffic system a model of excellence for other cities.

Citing a report of the World Health Organisation (WHO), the petition said Pakistan was ranked first in Asia and 48th in the world for deaths caused by traffic accidents.

The estimated road traffic fatalities as per the report for the year 2016 were 27,582.

The report said there were no national vehicle standards, no formal certification for pre-hospital providers, no testing carried out in case of a fatal crash, the design standards for the safety of pedestrians exist partially, seatbelt law was not applicable to the front, rear seat and child occupants. There are also no restraints on children sitting in the front seat.

According to police records, more than 60,000 people died in road accidents over the last 11 years.

Some of the reasons for the accidents included failure of the traffic police in enforcing traffic laws, poor vehicle condition, lack of road marking, no traffic segregation, use of mobile phones, influence of drugs, speeding, wrong overtaking and bad road condition.

Kashif Ali Malik, the counsel for the petitioner, argued before the court that as per data maintained by the Federal Bureau of Statistics (FBR) the total number of accidents in the capital territory in 2016-17 was 226.

Reportedly, the fatality rate per 100,000 population was 6.1 – more than any other city in the country. This rate for Punjab was 3.3 and for Sindh, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Balochistan and Azad Jammu Kashmir 2.1, 4.5, 3.2 and 4.3, respectively.

He said except for high-profile movements the traffic police were not deployed on major roads such as the Islamabad Expressway and Kashmir Highway to control traffic resulting in severe jams during peak hours and major accidents.

The Islamabad Expressway and Kashmir Highway are considered to be most vulnerable to accidents.

The so-called signal-free corridor is not fenced from either side and has several unplanned accesses for commercial projects such as wedding halls, marquees, plazas, fuel stations etc.

These unplanned accesses defeat the purpose of making this corridor as signal free, he added.

The SSP traffic was quoted as saying in a newspaper interview that with the current strength of the force the ITP was managing over 286 spots in two 12-hour shifts while the 89 points were regulated partially. Around 131 spots go unattended due to shortage of staff.

The ITP is unable to spare personnel to control traffic at some thoroughfares and intersections such as many spots on both sides of the Islamabad Expressway, Tarnol, Bhara Kahu, Golra and at some points in G-7, E-7, E-8 and E-11, the petition stated.

The ITP are also accused of establishing pickets/posts on greenbelts and right of ways of roads in sheer disregard of the law as well as the master plan of Islamabad.

Reportedly, the mayor of Islamabad has recently written a letter to the adviser to the prime minister on climate change reporting such violations by the ITP, said the petition. The petitioner requested the court to direct the federal government as well as the local police to take necessary steps to ensure protection of the commuters.

After preliminary hearing, Justice Miangul Hassan Aurangzeb of the IHC sought comments from the respondent authorities and adjourned further hearing to a date to be fixed by the registrar office.

Published in Dawn, April 6th, 2019