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Truck owners threaten indefinite strike

By Shabbir Mir

GILGIT: Claiming to be harassed by policemen asking for money at every stop from Gilgit to Skardu, dozens of truckers threatened to go on an indefinite strike. They demanded the government take stern action against police officers involved in taking bribes.

Addressing a news briefing at Gilgit Press Club, the transport union secretary, Zafar Khan said, “Men in police uniforms at check posts are not police, they are robbers.”

Zafar added, “The Gilgit-Skardu Road is perilous for truckers on at least four points as the 200-kilometre-long artery is in shambles and accidents occur frequently on it.” He added, “But we still manage to deliver goods by putting our lives at risk.”

The transport union secretary said, “In return, we have to face humiliation at the hands of police.” President of the union Kamaluddin added, “Alam Bridge has the capacity of bearing 24 tonnes but the Frontier Works Organisation’s employees and police stationed there do not even allow trucks carrying less weight to pass – unless they get Rs3,000 to Rs5,000 in bribes from the trucker.” He said, “The situation at 10 other police check posts all the way to Skardu is not any different.”

Kamaluddin added, “If the truck drivers fail to pay the police bribes, then they make them wait at the check post for hours and even for days till the driver gives in and pay.”

Transporters told journalists a traffic policewoman in Skardu, Sayeda Batool, is behind the situation. She was accused of cursing at drivers. The truck drivers and vehicle owners warned they would go on an indefinite strike from next Sunday if their demands were not met.

Published in The Express Tribune, November 23rd,  2015.

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