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Public transport woes

Muhammad Tariq Khan

The Writer is journalist and Lecturer at Shaheed Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto University of Law.

A statement from the Special Assistant to the Prime Minister of Ethiopia said that Atlas Honda, a Pakistani motorcycle manufacturer, sold a total of 128,503 motorcycles in November 2021, which is a new record.

Shehbaz Gill is counted among the nine gems of the Prime Minister which the latter has brought especially from the West. Therefore, like the Prime Minister’s tastes, knowledge, geography, mathematics and “communications”, the selection of his special assistants and advisers is also invaluable.

Take this statement of Mr Shehbaz Gill Sahib, an imported Special Assistant to the Prime Minister, whose further feature is that he has a Certificate of Excellence from world-class American University and also teaches in a university. On top of that, he possesses extremely disgusting and derogatory tone and ten yards long non-parliamentary language.

In the above-mentioned statement, the special assistant is getting impress from the sale of motorcycles made by a private company, as if it was an act of his government, and even if it was, it would be forgivable that the government provided a conducive business environment that’s why he is taking credit for that.

But his statement contradicts the ground realities and the basic principles of supply and demand in the market. Let’s talk about why this increase in motorcycle sales is not a matter of celebration but of lamentation.

First of all, understand that cars and motorcycles are not manufactured in Pakistan but are assembled, most of the engines and spare parts are imported, and this government has spared no effort to discourage imports and make it more difficult. Roughly speaking, the increase in customs duties and taxes and the historic decline in the value of the rupee have made imported goods many times more expensive.

The price of a motorcycle which was Rs 80,000 three years ago is now Rs 150,000. Despite such high prices, the sale of such a large number of motorcycles seems beyond comprehension. The government may say that inflation has increased, but revenue has also increased, resulting in increased purchasing power, which is why sales have increased, but to say so is counterproductive.

Before knowing the real reasons, it is important to mention that whether it is a motorcycle or a car, both run on petrol and its is the biggest cause of Pakistan’s import obligations. Every year Pakistan imports billions of dollars worth of petrol at the expense of the valuable foreign exchange that is scarce in Pakistan.

For which our zealous Prime Minister sometimes has to kneel before the IMF, the World Bank and the Paris Consortium and sometimes on the thresholds of China, UAE and Saudi Arabia. Therefore, the sale of motorcycles or vehicles is not a good omen or a proud achievement. On the one hand, engines and spare parts are imported and on the other hand, the use of imported petroleum products is increasing.

In the post-Corona world, governments – around the world – are planning to become self-sufficient and reduce dependence on imports. On the other hand, the governments are trying to transfer economy to renewable energy such as solar energy instead of fossil fuels i.e. petrol and gas. Then at global conferences on environmental pollution and climate change, each country has reaffirmed its commitment to abandon the use of smoke and heat generating equipment and machinery.

Vehicles and motorcycles are a major cause of environmental pollution, environmentally hostile gases and rising temperatures, so steps are being taken to minimize traffic in modern cities. These measures include improving the communication system, promoting the trend of working online and improving the mass transit or public transport system, so that the desired goals can be achieved.

But our government, unfortunately, thinks the opposite. We are lauding the increasing sale of motorcycles, which will increase the use of petrol, increase traffic congestion on the roads, increase environmental pollution and cause fatal accidents.

That is why it is important to understand the reasons for the massive sale of motorcycles, including the failure of the government to provide top public transport. Public transport not only provides the cheapest rides to the citizens, but also saves petrol, reduces traffic jams and environmental pollution.

Motorcycles are involved in the vast majority of road accidents in Pakistan, and motorcycle accidents are more deadly than car accidents. It’s a tragedy, life is dear to everyone, no one likes to ride death, but still three, four, five or more are seen riding on a motorcycle made for two people.

The third reason is the large-scale theft of vehicles and motorcycles. The increase in crime rate is estimated from the fact that three years ago, 11,000 vehicles and about 100,000 motorcycles were stolen annually; three years after the Tabdeeli government, the number has more than doubled to 25,000 vehicles and 200,000 motorcycles. Obviously, if 200,000 motorcycles are stolen annually, then 200,000 new motorcycles will be bought.

Therefore, our government is advised to ensure adequate and timely provision of public transport to the people. Create mass transit plans in major cities to save lives on road congestion, traffic jams, environmental pollution, unnecessary evacuation of rare foreign exchange and fatal accidents.

The law and order situation should be improved, the lives and property of the citizens should be protected, and instead of praising a local company’s sales explain your steps and achievements for the welfare of the people, development of the country, reduction of poverty and inflation.

Lastly, my question for our special assistant is, how many motorcycles are sold monthly in UK, France, Germany, Switzerland, Norway, Denmark, Sweden, UAE, Saudi Arabia and Iran? In the US, Russia, Canada, the Netherlands, Iceland, how many people go from home to office on a motorbike every day? If you get an answer, please let us know.

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