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Bahrain: ‘Make driving licence applications in the evening’

Restriction will help lessen the huge application demand on traffic department

Gulf News

Manama: Traffic police in Bahrain have urged people to ease the unusual pressure on their department by handing in their applications for driving licences in the afternoon or early evening.

“The Driving Licence Directorate works from 7am to 8pm,” Colonel Mohammed Rashid Al Nuaimi, Deputy Director-General of Traffic, said. “We urge all those who want to have their papers processed by the department to take advantage of our long working hours and reduce pressure on the staff as well as the waiting period for themselves.

Al Nuaimi said that he was issuing the call after the department “witnessed a big rush of expatriates applying for a driving licence, resulting in long queues despite the extended working hours”.

Foreigners, mainly Asians, are trying to beat a motion endorsed last week by the lower chamber of the parliament, to amend the traffic law and restrict the number of foreigners who could be driving in Bahrain.

Under the amendment, only expatriates earning BD500 or those whose occupations required them to be on the roads would be able to apply for a driving licence.

Lawmakers behind the motion said that the measure would help reduce the number of vehicles on Bahrain’s roads and highways and would ease bottlenecks and traffic jams.

The motion will have to be approved by the Shura Council, the upper chamber of the parliament, and eventually ratified by the government in order to become law.

Al Nuaimi said that the licence applicants’ current rush was unfounded.

“There seems to be a misunderstanding about the new draft law on traffic and the mechanisms to obtain the driving licence, prompting people to try to get it as soon as possible,” he said. “The draft law is still going through the legislative procedures and is yet to be ratified.”

Shura Council Member Shaikh Khalid Bin Khalifa Al Khalifa said that the Council would look carefully at all the clauses in the law and that no decision could be expected during the current term, expected to end this month.

Shaikh Khalid, the chairman of the foreign affairs, defence and national security committee, said that including a clause that restricted the right of expatriates to obtain a driving licence amounted to discrimination.

“The Bahraini deep-rooted tradition is to welcome guests and to treat them like citizens in societal and service matters,” he said. “Therefore including this restrictive article will have only negative consequences both politically and socially, particularly that it is tainted with discrimination. We cannot tolerate the codification of a move to discriminate between the rich and not so rich. There are people who do need cars, but their income is limited,” he said.