MURREE, Aug 1: The Punjab government has levied a unique toll exclusively on vehicles entering a luxury hotel in the scenic mountain town of Bhurban, provoking ire of the visitors and local public representatives.
The kiosk set up a few yards from the hotel to collect the toll has a signboard installed next to it reading, “Rs200 will be collected from vehicles entering PC Bhurban”.
After the imposition of the tax, exchange of harsh words between tourists and the staff at the barrier has become a common scene.
Local public representatives including UC Rawat (Bhurban) nazim Majeed Abbasi, naib nazim Tariq Abbasi, UC Namble naib nazim Usman Abbasi and UC Phagwari naib nazim Wazeer Abbasi had opposed the levy.
According to them, imposition of the toll would badly affect tourism in the area.
Separately, the National Highway Authority (NHA) recently imposed toll on Islamabad-Murree Dual Carriageway, though work on the highway has not been completed.
Ironically, the contractors collecting the toll on the road are forcing local people to pay the same amount as collected from tourists.
When contacted, a manager at the toll plaza, who identified himself as Jamil Babar, showed this reporter a document which stated that all exemptions from the toll had been abolished on the orders of the prime minister. Interestingly, the imposition of toll falls in the domain of the provincial government.
It is pertinent to mention that people of Murree in 1996 staged a protest demonstration against the imposition of toll on the local population.
In the violent protest, several public buildings, including Assistant Commissioner Office, Kutchery building and toll plazas, were set on fire.The public’s angry response ultimately forced the government to reverse its decision.
At present, tourists entering Murree have to pay a number of taxes, more than that charged in any other city of the country.
While entering into the limits of Murree, tourists have to pay a sum ranging between Rs45 to Rs80, depending on the type of the vehicle.
Similarly, on entering into Murree City, one has to pay Rs50 again at the Upper Jika Gali barrier. Though the barrier had been removed several times in the past, it reappears after some time.
After crossing the barrier, the tourists are caught by hawkers/agents of hotels who charge Rs100 to Rs300 from tourists as parking fee. Ironically, the fee is received even when the cars are parked by the roadside.