A CRACKDOWN against vehicles plying the roads using ‘AFR’ (applied for registration) number plates, as well as unauthorised government plates, has been ordered in Sindh. While the move is welcome, several such operations have been undertaken by the Sindh authorities in the past, which means that after the initial zeal, the campaigns lose steam. Using illegal plates is a major public safety hazard, while the practice also deprives the exchequer of revenue. The AFR plates, as well as phoney government plates, can easily be obtained from the market, while the Sindh police chief has himself admitted that government officials, including police officers, have used official plates on personal vehicles. The hazards involved in the use of AFR and illegal plates is obvious. Primarily, in cases of accidents, such vehicles are very difficult to trace. Moreover, such vehicles can be used by criminals and terrorists and easily be discarded after committing crimes, making it tough to probe incidents. Also, lack of registration deprives the state of annual motor vehicle tax.
The campaign to crack down on illegal plates must be a sustained one if the issues mentioned here are to be addressed. People apparently resort to the practice due to the belief that an unregistered vehicle will fetch a higher resale price. To end this racket, auto dealers should release only registered vehicles. Moreover, the Sindh excise department also takes a long time to deliver official plates to vehicle owners. Unnecessary delays in the process of issuing licence plates need to be addressed, while drivers should use temporary plates with their actual registration numbers instead of AFR plates. Meanwhile, the illegal use of government plates is an equally grave issue. Official vehicles must not be used for personal purposes, while the possibility of criminals and terrorists using fake green/blue government plates needs to be investigated and addressed without delay. The campaign against illegal plates should be across the board, and the rich and powerful driving expensive vehicles with fake plates must also be penalised.
Published in Dawn, August 20th, 2022