Transport strike

Intercity buses go off the roads

The intercity transporters all over the country have gone off the roads, as their strike entered a third day on Thursday, as they struck against the imposition of various taxes and the raising of various cesses. The strikers are protesting the increase in the token tax, toll tax, challan fee, excise duty and the increasing price of petrol. This is one sector in which the devil’s bargain with the IMF is going to hurt, and there may well be other sectors facing problems.

The real problem the transporters face is that they are running at a loss at present fare levels. There is a problem with raising those rates. That is done by the provincial governments, but as there is as yet no Transport Minister in Punjab, with ex-PM Imran Khan agreeing only on Wednesday to the names for a Punjab Cabinet, because transporters are interlocked in the provinces, until someone takes responsibility for the portfolio in Punjab, an agreement with one province would be meaningless. The portfolio was previously held by the PTI’’s Jahanzaib Khichi, who may not be in one partial list of PTI ministers, but who has not been ruled out of contention.

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Apart from petrol, price of which has risen internationally, the other increases are clearly revenue enhancing measures which mean to enhance revenues so as to meet IMF demands, It will not possible for any government to roll back any of these increases without upsetting its own budget, particularly its spending pledges to the federal government, which will then find it cannot meet the targets set by the IMF. Intercity transporters threaten strikes whenever they want a fare raise. After some dickering with the provincial governments, a strike is averted, usually because the provincial governments all wish to avoid a disruption in intercity passenger transport. The system whereby the provincial government had its own buses had meant that the could always be used as strikebreakers, and saved both people and government from such blackmail. However, the IMF will not allow provincial governments to adopt this solution, and the government will have its hand forced as usual.

The Editorial Department of Pakistan Today can be contacted at: [email protected].

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