FROM time to time, this newspaper has carried photographs of vehicles with illegal number plates — that is, personalised plates as well as those reading ‘Applied For Registration’, or ‘AFR’ for short — which have proliferated across the country. In a status-conscious society, vehicle registration plates are another means of gratuitous self promotion. There is no dearth of vehicles bearing ‘MNA’, ‘MPA’ or ‘Senator’ plates plying the streets, or ‘Shaikh’ and ‘Nawab’ for that matter. In a sign of the times, when contempt of the law is itself deemed an act of bravado, one can even come across an occasional ‘Gangster’ brazenly affixed to a vehicle. Two prominent notices by the Sindh government in this newspaper on Friday offer hope that the days of unregistered vehicles may be coming to an end, at least in this province. One stated that owners must register their vehicles within 60 days, failing which they will be fined between Rs5,000 to Rs100,000, depending upon the delay in registration. The other notice addressed those vehicle owners who have inexplicably not picked up their government-issue number plates despite having applied and paid for them, and who are now presumably driving without plates.
Although there have been a number of ineffectual campaigns of this kind over the years, there seems to be a new urgency to this drive given that the Supreme Court’s Karachi bench, during a recent hearing on law and order in the city, ordered that unregistered vehicles, those without number plates and non-custom paid illegal vehicles be impounded. The practice in question not only deprives the government exchequer of taxes due on newly registered vehicles but, particularly important in the context of Pakistan, also makes it impossible to trace vehicles involved in terrorism as well as other crimes, including hit-and-run incidents. This time, there is no room for any laxity.