LAHORE: Rumors of suspension of the biometric system for transfer of vehicles and motorcycles in Punjab have left car dealers and agents stranded at Punjab Excise Taxation and Narcotics Control Department’s (ET&NC) offices.
Muhammad Ashfaq Khalid, a car dealer who came to the head office of ET&NC located at Fareed Kot House informed this scribe that there are more than seventeen vehicles in his showroom which could not be sold due to the biometric system.
“Actually, before ET&NC introduced the biometric system, people did not pay much attention to the transfer of ownership of vehicles and motorcycles. A common practice in the market was to check the original documents of any vehicle before buying it and if the vehicle was in the name of the seller or someone else, a transfer deed was taken from the seller/owner. This transfer letter/deed was kept open as this was done so that when a car dealer sells a car to someone, he fills this open letter in the name of the buyer so that the vehicle or motorcycle is transferred to the name of the buyer,” he said.
Khalid further informed that after the biometric system, the procedure of transfer of ownership of vehicle or motorcycle had changed.
“Under the biometric system, the vehicle buyer was submitting the transfer fee online through the ePay app and the transfer of the vehicle was possible only after the biometric verification of the original owner of the vehicle i.e., the person in whose name the vehicle is registered. However, we have bought many vehicles in the market following this old practice. Even many people who are not fully aware of the biometric system still buy vehicles under this system. It is now very difficult to contact the owners of the vehicles which were bought on open letter. Even if the owners of these vehicles are contacted, they make many demands for biometric verification. We have repeatedly requested the excise officers to restore the old style of vehicle registration for some period so that the transfer of such vehicles can be possible. Even now we were getting the same information from various sources that the biometric system has been postponed due to court orders but nothing like that happened here,” he lamented.
However, when contacted, some officials of ET&NC informed that the biometric system has not been suspended nor have they received any such orders.
Ashraf Bhatti, an official of Motor Branch of ET&NC informed this scribe that registration of vehicles and motorcycles is being done only under biometric system.
“Many people are also asking us whether the biometric system has been suspended and we are telling them that it is not. I receive many cases of transfer of ownership through transfer letters on a daily basis and I send them back saying that transfer is possible only under a biometric system. If any decision had been taken in this regard, we should have received orders for it, but we have not received any orders,” Malik informed.
Similarly, ET&NC’s Region C Establishment Branch official Mohammad Muawiya also clarified that the transfer of vehicle or motorcycle is not possible without a biometric system.
“We keep hearing rumors of the suspension of biometric systems every day. Actually, there are many vehicles and motorcycles in the market whose ownership transfer is difficult due to this system. But this system is for the betterment of people. It was introduced so that the agent mafia can be tackled and the people can easily process the transfer of vehicles without any hassle,” he maintained.
An inspector of the Excise Motor Branch informed that according to his estimation, there are more than 300,000 vehicles in Lahore alone which are not giving any kind of income to the department due to the biometric system.
“We receive cases of cars and motorcycles on a daily basis and believe me, sometimes showroom owners are worried about the transfer of their forty to fifty vehicles because the owners of these vehicles are no longer providing biometric verification for the showrooms and asking money for it. Now, at the same time, the annual token taxes of such vehicles are not being collected and the money that is to be received by the department in terms of transfer of ownership is also not being received. However, there are definitely rumors that the ownership transfer of some vehicles and motorcycles may be allowed through transfer letters this month, but this will not mean that the biometric system will be suspended. The biggest ugliness of this system is that under it large-scale fraud is being done to simple people. Because under this system the owner and the buyer do the biometric verification and the car or bike is transferred. But the point to be noted is that under this system the original file of the vehicle or motorcycle neither comes to the excise office nor is it checked by an excise officer. In the market, the price of a car with missing files is reduced by twenty percent and there is a mafia in the market that creates fake files. Under the previous system, the vehicle file was checked by officials of the department and if there was any objection, the transfer process was stopped but that’s not the case anymore,” he informed.
Note: In an earlier version of the story we had mentioned that Punjab government had suspended the biometric system for transfer of vehicles and motorcycles, this was just a rumor and we regret for any inconvenience.