Islamabad: The government had challenged an Islamabad High Court (IHC) order allowing bikers on the motorway.

A joint appeal filed by the government through the Ministry of Communications and the Inspector General of the National Highways and Motorway Police (NHMP) has requested the Supreme Court to set aside the lower court order.

The IHC in its December 2018 decision had ordered the federal government to make arrangements and devise a Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) to allow motorcycles on the motorway.

Pakistan’s Supreme Court has issued notices to the respondents while hearing the appeal.

The three-member bench headed by Justice Mansour Ali Shah while hearing the plea asked the government counsel Additional Attorney General (AAG) if there was a restriction for motorcyclists on motorways.

The AAG replied that motorbikes could not operate on motorways as per the National Highways Authority (NHA) Safety Ordinance.

The court noted that the law required that a notification to ban something must include the reasons for doing so.

“The government should produce the relevant notification of prohibiting the entry of bikes on motorways and to explain the reasons behind the move,” remarked the judge.

To this the AAG admitted that no such notification had been issued so far, rather signboards inscribed with ‘ban on motorbike entry’ have been put up at all entry points to motorways, adding that this has been done given the safety and security of road users.

Justice Shah noted that it was more dangerous to ride a bike on highways than motorways yet the government did not ban it on highways.

After the Islamabad-Lahore Motorway (M-2) was constructed, the Motorway Police (now the NHMP) was empowered under the National Highway Safety Ordinance 2000 (NHSO) to regulate and control traffic and maintain order on national highways, however, motorcycles were banned from entering M-2 from day one.

On December 19, 2009, however, the Prime Minister’s Secretariat had forwarded a request from Lahore Bikers Club president Bhurhan M. Khan, seeking permission to ride his motorcycle on the motorway. This request was denied by the NHMP on February 15, 2010.

But in a letter dated April 6, 2010, the NHMP decided in principle to allow 500cc and above motorcycles to run on motorways for three years, on the condition that the National Highways Authority (NHA) put in place necessary facilities such as a separate track for motorcycles with road markings and signboards.

But the bikes would be allowed on motorways only on national days for which a limited number of cards with a validity period would be issued.

This conditional permission was later withdrawn due to safety reasons in view of public complaints and the lack of adherence to mutually agreed upon SOPs by motorcyclists, particularly regarding speeding — even beyond 230 kilometres per hour — driving zigzag, sharp cuts and violating lane discipline, according to the appeal.