|(Photo: Atif Maqbool – youth politician)|
The death toll in traffic accidents in Kashmir is many times higher than in Pakistan. In a small region like Azad Kashmir, (Pakistan-administered Kashmir) the average annual death toll in traffic accidents is 240 and it is steadily increasing. In this regard, the number is higher than the average death toll in Balochistan and Islamabad, while the death toll in Pakistan is higher than the average in Pakistan.
(Azadi Times – Blog by Atif Maqbool) The average number of people killed in road accidents is 230 people per year while the average number of people killed in road accidents in a population of 200 million is 4300 people per annum.
According to official figures, 4,150 people were killed in Pakistan in 2016, compared to 5,615 in 2006. An estimated 160 people were killed in traffic accidents in Islamabad and 1,950 in Punjab. 750 people die annually in Sindh, 1100 in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and about 180 in Balochistan.
In the last one and a half years, 494 people have been killed in traffic accidents in Azad Kashmir, which is increasing. Of these, 71 were killed in Rawalpindi, 24 in Bagh, 29 in Kotli, 32 in Mirpur, 5 in Bhimber, 30 in Haveli and 51 in Sadhnauti.
In Neelum, 71 people have lost their lives in traffic accidents since 2014, while in Muzaffarabad, 182 people have lost their lives in traffic accidents since 2014, in which 139 people were killed in car accidents and 42 in motorcycle accidents. (It may be recalled that with regard to Azad Kashmir, these figures have been obtained from the district administration and a petition has been filed in the Deputy Commissioner’s Office for the said number of insurance claims.
There are a number of cases for which the administration does not have a record). The main cause of traffic accidents in Azad Kashmir is the dilapidated condition of highways. In the last one and a half years, there have been three major accidents at the same place (in front of the flour mill) in several accidents on Goin Nala Road (the highway connecting Rawalakot to Rawalpindi) in Azad Kashmir, which has resulted in the deaths of dozens of people. No security measures were taken there. Dangerous places have also been identified on several other highways.
According to the AJK traffic police, 234 dangerous places were identified in Azad Kashmir and security measures were proposed but no security measures were taken despite the passage of a long time.
According to Dr Liaqat, Chief of Traffic Police, Azad Kashmir, the main reason for accidents is non-implementation of road safety features. The most dangerous of these is the Goin Nala Road which connects Rawalpindi to Rawalpindi. He also mentioned the link roads of Muzaffarabad which cause accidents due to government inattention.
He said that most of the lives in accidents are lost due to accidents of vehicles used for public transport and the biggest problem is overloading. Thirteen people, including the driver, are allowed to board, but it has become the norm and 20 people, including the driver, get into a car. Another cause of accidents is the haste of transporters or negligence while driving.
The government is also very vocal about this and at the government level every accident is linked to the negligence of the driver which is somewhat correct but it is not correct to cover it only as negligence of the driver because legislation, issuance of license and It is the job of the government and the administration to take precautionary measures to prevent accidents on the roadsides, but in Azad Kashmir, driving licenses have been issued on the basis of affiliation rather than merit (practical tests and interviews on the rules).
The traffic police also said that in the past there was negligence and driving licenses were issued on the basis of affiliation but this is not happening now.
Now the driving license is issued on strict conditions and strict test is taken to issue the license. When I spoke to Azad Kashmir Communications Minister Chaudhry Aziz about the traffic accidents and dilapidated condition of highways, he termed the accidents as the fault of transporters has been allocated and Asian Development Bank has also promised funding for repair of some highways. “It is believed that the present government in Azad Kashmir has been in power for more than a year but no practical steps have been taken to build and repair the highways,” said some transporters in Azad Kashmir.
The reason is that the traffic police does not check the condition of the vehicles and any vehicle can be driven due to the connection of the station owners. “Except for special checks, we are not penalized because we pay the authorities on a monthly basis through the terminal (local base) which is between five hundred and seven hundred per month (if this amount is collected all over Azad Kashmir) Billions of rupees.
When asked about this from the traffic authorities, Dr. Liaqat said that the biggest violation carries a fine of up to one thousand rupees which has no effect. Citing the example of Saudi Arabia, he said that there is a fine of only 500 riyals (about 18,000 Pakistani rupees) for over speeding. The DIG Traffic Police has demanded from the independent government that the government should legislate to increase the fines for violating the laws so that the laws are obeyed out of fear and the risk of accidents can be reduced.
At entry points, the Kashmir Council collects billions of rupees annually in taxes from freighters and public transport for security measures on central highways, but no measures are taken to improve and protect highways from this amount. The council’s deputy secretary of finance says the money is given to the independent government because the highways department is with the government.
In such a situation, the government of Azad Kashmir should fix the condition of highways for traffic accidents and promotion of tourism. Despite billions of rupees being spent annually by the Independent Government and the Kashmir Council in this regard, our roads get so bad after a rain that it is difficult to drive on them.