No ban on female riders

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Recently came across a posting on social media in which a Karachi girl had narrated her story when she was refused a driving license for a motorbike. Searched and scanned the details given in Motor Vehicle Rules of 1965 (YES they are still being used as the authority) coupled with the National Highways Safety Ordinance 2000 and recently published “Guidelines for Driving Licensing”. None of these prevents the 52% female members of our population from getting a license to ride a motorbike.

Work on girls riding bikes was not strange in our villages yet in our cities it started in early 2013. This concept was appreciated and got extensive coverage by print, electronic, and TV media. Various international channels like BBC, VOF, and others gave special reports and interviews of the participating riders.

Seeing the interest of the riders the program was extended to many cities through Girl Guides, colleges, and universities. A special program titled “Women on Wheels” started soon after where free-riding training with awareness on rules and personal protection was given along with the facilitation of buying motorbikes in installments. Rallies in different cities remained a regular event for later years.

Female riders got so much encouragement from families and society that a rider opted to travel from Lahore to Khunjrab on a motorbike. This was also filmed titled “The Motorcycle Girl” which a Karachi star playing the lead role. This movie earned many awards and lots of appreciation from viewers and critiques.

As per my information to date over a thousand girls have been awarded Riding License in Punjab and their number in Islamabad is in hundreds. Rallies have been held in Karachi too yet refusing a license helps the trend of driving or riding without the same. As a wild guess, only 25 to 30 percent of drivers and riders at present has a valid license.

This attitude and response of traffic police staff are fairly common and even mentioned in the above-referred book as “Different” protocol and procedure being followed in different provinces and districts.

The time is NOW to improve the licensing system in Pakistan with clearly defined SOPS and 24-7 facility with much-improved facilities for the license seekers.