ISLAMABAD: There has been an increase of 120 per cent in the rate of crimes on the motorways in the country over the past two years of the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) government, if compared with the last two years of the previous Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz government.

Ten incidents of crimes were reported on different sections of the motorways in 2017 and 2018 but this number increased to 22 in 2019 and 2020, shows the data presented before the National Assembly by federal Minister for Communications Murad Saeed in response to a question asked by Shahida Rehmani of the Pakistan Peoples Party.

The issue of the crimes on the motorways had been under discussion in the country when a mother of two was gang-raped off the Lahore-Sialkot Motorway on Sept 9 last year in front of her children after her car ran out of fuel on way to Gujranwala late night.

15,294 Pakistanis killed in road accidents in Saudi Arabia since 2015, NA told

The government faced a severe criticism from the opposition and civil society over the incident.

In his written reply to the question, the minister also elaborated the steps being taken by the government to make the motorways safe for travelers. “The number of patrolling vehicles has been increased in dark hours,” he said.

According to the minister, anti-crime squads have been deployed at crime-infested areas in dark hours along with necessary equipment, including arms and ammunitions, to check the verge, underpasses and flyovers on the motorways. Moreover, in order to ensure effective patrolling of field formation in dark hours, supervisory patrolling is carried out by zone/sector/beat commanders/operation officers.”

The reply said: “The commuters are briefed not to stop on the motorways unnecessarily during dark hours, except at service/rest areas or beside the patrolling vehicles of the National Highways and Motorway Police (NHMP) and in case of a need, immediately inform the NHMP through Helpline 130.”

Snap checking of suspected vehicles is also being randomly carried out, especially at night hours.

“Video recording of each and every public service vehicle (PSV) is also being ensured at movie making points to avoid crimes and all stakeholders i.e. National Highway Authority (NHA), Frontier Works Organisation (FWO), local police and rescue services have been taken on board”.

According to the reply, the NHA and the FWO have been requested to direct the concerned quarters for cleanliness of the verge by trimming vegetation and shrubs along the motorways.

Besides, the NHA has been requested for early plugging of fence gaps on the motorways for safe travel of commuters. The FWO has also been requested to repair /install cameras at the interchanges/toll plazas so that NHMP could seek assistance to trace out the movement of suspicious vehicles at the entry and exit points.

Coordination is being carried out with local police for combing operations in adjoining areas of the motorways and for patrolling. On the request of the NHMP, Elite Police vehicles have been deputed in Sargodha and Sheikhupura regions to curb criminal activities along motorway.

Police pickets established outside the interchanges by concerned police stations are being coordinated for prompt availability/response in case of any untoward incident.

Meanwhile, in response to another question asked by PTI MNA Sher Akbar Khan, Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi, also through a written reply, informed the assembly that 15,294 Pakistanis had been killed in accidents in Saudi Arabia during the period from 2015 to 2020.

When asked whether insurance or Diyat (blood money) had been paid to the families of those killed in the accidents, the foreign minister said that around SAR18.9 million on account of dues/Diyat of the deceased Pakistanis had been recovered during the past five years.

“As per local laws, the legal heirs of the deceased are entitled to claim payment of insurance of the deceased from the General Office of Social Insurance (GOSI), if the worker has passed away on duty,” said the reply.

“According to prevailing Shariah laws in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the legal heirs of a deceased expatriate are entitled to blood money upto SAR300,000 or according to the percentage of responsibility of the accident fixed by the concerned traffic police,” the reply said. “In case of 100pc responsibility on the part of the deceased Pakistani, his legal heirs are not entitled to claim any amount of Diyat.”

“The blood money is recovered through a lengthy process of litigation, including attending scheduled hearings of the Shariah courts in various cities.

“Despite human resource constraints, Pakistan’s missions pursue such cases free of cost by deputing officials, who are well-versed in Arabic language and local laws,” the reply said.

Published in Dawn, January 24th, 2021

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