Careem, Sindh govt might sign landmark agreement on ride-hailing services



The Sindh High Court on Wednesday saw Careem, the popular ride-hailing service, and the Sindh government reach what appears to be a crucial agreement on the way forward for Careem’s smooth operations in the province.

During the hearing, the government’s counsel told the court that Careem will now obtain permits under the Motor Vehicles Ordinance, 1965, in order to continue operating as a service provider.

He also reported that the Sindh government and the transport ministry have prepared a draft legislation that will address the issue of ride-hailing services with the aim to bring them under the ambit of the law.

Careem seemed to have no objections to the new arrangement.

“From the very first day, Careem has wanted all the service providers who use its platform to be fully regulated,” said Junaid Iqbal, managing director of Careem, while taking to a private news channel.

“The contention was that the government wanted Careem to take route permits in its name and operate like a transportation service provider,” he said.

With this agreement, however: “Careem will remain a digital marketplace. This distinction and this new concept is now accepted by the [provincial] governments and they are working with us to build new frameworks which will govern digital marketplaces,” he said.

He also stressed on the need to revamp the law in light of newer technologies that are making inroads into the Pakistani marketplace.

Careem’s services were temporarily ‘banned’ on January 30, when a notification issued to traffic regulatory authorities in Punjab alleged that Careem and Uber were operating outside the scope of law and should be barred from operating.

The notification stated that the two companies had been offering transport services “without registering the private cars with any regulatory body.”

Following the commotion in Punjab, Sindh Transport Secretary Taha Farooqi also said he had written to the provincial deputy inspector general of traffic, Asif Aijaz, asking for a similar ban on Uber and Careem.

However, shortly after what appeared to be a wide-ranging crackdown on Careem and Uber, the ride-hailing services were back on the roads.

Iqbal preferred to view the bans as “initial hiccups”.

“I must say that beyond the initial hiccups, both the Sindh and Punjab governments have been more than progressive and cooperative.

“Careem is working closely with them to explore which best practices from around the world can be adopted here. It’s actually a very enriching experience for us to learn from some of the great minds which are a part of our bureaucracy. My personal aim is to help build a framework which paves the way for all kinds of digital marketplaces, specially the likes of AirBnB,” explained Iqbal.

As to what impact this would have on Careem’s operations country-wide, the company’s MD replied: “As for the impact — it will add another layer of process for new joining captains — but this is where both Sindh and Punjab governments are keen to develop a one window operation.”

The next hearing of the case has been scheduled at the Sindh High Court on April 27.