Driving Licenses For Sale

Chaos on the streets of Helmand’s capital as drivers buy licenses rather than take a test.

Driving Licenses For Sale

Chaos on the streets of Helmand’s capital as drivers buy licenses rather than take a test.

Thursday, 20 September, 2007
Driving in Lashkar Gah isn't easy, and many people say unschooled drivers are the problem. Our reporter Ahmad Nawid Nazari went out into the streets to investigate whether underage and untrained drivers are buying licenses illegally:

In Lashkar Gah, driving is tough: the cars go too fast and some of the drivers are minors. Whenever I ride my motorbike, I’m scared of getting hit by a car. People drive on the wrong side of the road, park in the wrong places, and honk their horns all the time.

I’ve talked to many people who bought their licenses. Some didn’t want to be named or go on tape with their stories.

Nurullah - not his real name - is a 23-year-old resident of Lashkar Gah who is among those who got their licenses for money. He acknowledges that he is unaware of the rules of the road.

“I went to the traffic police department with a friend of mine at nine in the morning. I gave them 5,000 afghanis [100 US dollars] and they told me to come back at noon and get the license,” he says, adding, “Untrained drivers should not be given licenses.”

Shafe Mohammad, 40, also bought his license illegally. “When I went to the traffic department, I paid money and got the license,” he says.

Abdul Hamid, a dust-covered traffic policeman in Lashkar Gah, says, “We have problems with people who don’t have licenses, don’t care about the traffic rules, drive on the wrong side of the road, and go too fast.”

Abdul Rahman, head of the traffic department, denies that people obtain their licenses for money.

“We have distributed free licenses to some government workers, with the signature of the head of the traffic department, and they have created trouble for us because they have not undergone driving instruction, and they don’t know the rules of the road,” he says.

Twenty-five-year-old Qudratullah, a resident of Lashkar Gah, blames people who don’t have drivers’ licenses and don’t know how to drive for the accident in which he was hit by a car.

Abdul Razzaq, an assistant with the traffic department’s accident investigation office, thinks the problem is inexperienced drivers from the countryside. “Most of the time, we have problems with people who have come in from the districts. It’s the first time they have driven in the city,” he says.

He says efforts have been made to punish people who break traffic regulations or who do not have licenses.

The authorities say one cause of traffic violations is the shortage of traffic police, of whom Lashkar Gah has just 25. Last year the police recorded 25 major accidents, but this year the rate has fallen and city traffic is somewhat better regulated.

People in Lashkar Gah city blame the traffic police for issuing licenses to people who know nothing about the rules of the road, in exchange for payment.

Ahmad Naweed Nazari, for IWPR in Helmand.
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