Sunday, August 15, 2010
Be Nice to Police Wallas!
"Be Nice to Police Wallas." I know any Pakistani or person who has every felt wronged by our esteemed law enforcement agency will have a severe intestinal spinning reaction to this statement, but just bear with me. We Really Should be Nice to the Police, especially in Pakistan. Now, based on overwhelming consensus, most are corrupt and there may be a shortage of traditional honesty in the ranks, but one can contend that even the corrupt ones deserve to be treated with respect, and for the few occasions where one actually encounters an honest cop, they ought to appreciate the rarity.
Why? because frankly, they do a lot for us which we either ignore or don't appreciate their work as they are merely 'doing their jobs'.CEO's get big bonuses for good performances, police wallas get.....squat. The truth is that, we, the Pakistani populace is part of the problem. If this was a business, we'd be the annoying customers who everyone unequivocally hates. Let's be honest, we all love to bitch and whine about our corrupt bribe taking gun toting Cops, but we fail to consider the circumstances that they operate in. All in all, their lives suck.
Perpetually disrespected: Let's face it, no one respects the work that cops really do in terms of maintaining law and order. We have some cultural mindset defect that at the first sign of trouble we want the Rangers to be brought into the city to save us with their big guns and heavy equipment. My driver even mentioned at a recent traffic jam near the Sheraton that if the rangers were brought in to manage traffic that traffic jams would become extinct.
I'm a particular fan of the traffic police who ensure the smooth-ish flow of traffic on Karachi's law breaking roads, with the only tools at their disposal being their flapping arms and their ability to fearlessly navigate a stream of fast paced cars that insist on hitting their breaks less than a few feet away from them. And yet they stand solid in front of cars with little regard to their own well being. If this was any other profession we'd consider this grounds for dismissal on the grounds of mental health.
Bare bones authority is their modus operand um: the police get overruled on a whim by everyone. Why? Because they have no desire to get fired for correctly fining a person for breaking the law, just because the violators are well connected. In fact all you have to do is throw a few big names (the term General Saahib works quite well) and then they'll usually let you go. Driving an expensive imported car helps too. The only people they actually really bother are the poor and middle class, who aren't exactly flush with cash.
Considering how little they get paid and food prices sky rocketing on a whim coupled with how dangerous their jobs are, I do to some degree sympathize with them, as much as I hate corruption on a personal level, it's difficult to imagine how else they would make their ends meet. After all, it's not like they live the Espresso Life. In fact, it's quite the opposite.
Perpetually scared for your life. Naturally, Gangsters, mobsters, looters, Taliban and the other pillaging thugs of Pakistan like nothing better than to have the police butt out of their affairs. Which the police is largely happy to do via soft understandings which may or may not include exchanges of cash/services complete with the logic that it's better for the various Mafia's to wipe each other out. Add to the fact that the mafia is usually better armed than the cops are.
It isn't uncommon for the Police to be lynched by the very mob that they are trying to protect: The Common mob is particularly prone to target the police in their protests...and this is when they are trying to ensure everyone (well mostly everyone) gets out alive.
Let's face it, even at the most mundane level the police have some hazardous working conditions. The guys who work the street have it bad, they have the pleasure to stand in the sun all day directing traffic, kicking away beggars, or patrolling our trash infested streets, waiting for something bad to happen (well something bad enough for them to care about). I sure hope the traffic cops at least get free laundry service. Keeping those uniforms white after a day sweating in the sun or getting drenched by the rains must be an inevitable failure of an enterprise.
The guys in their offices have it even worse, if anyone has been inside a police station they'll be impressed by the ingenuity of the place. Termite riddled Desks are held together with super glue, cement bricks act as support for rickety furniture. Poor interior decoration coupled with a lack of good looking women leads to a poor work atmosphere. The criminals don't help much either. An inherent lack of attractive women lead to terrible morale. Look at all of the foreign banks, pretty women = terrific morale....pity the performances don't match.
We live in a country where a Pizza hut delivery guy gets to your house before the police. Now the number of brand new police Toyota Corollas and Suzuki Mehrans are highly misleading. Majority of our cops still travel in junk grade bikes and various antique pickups that are better suited for transporting livestock (the livestock don't complain).
To Protect and Serve. Why should they even we can't find it in our hearts to treat them with a modicum of decency. They, police wallas deserve to be treated with atleast a modicum of decency, otherwise they'll continue to have have minimal professional pride and become more prone to corruption. After all, on a human level, being able to afford nice stuff makes them feel better. Maybe we'd treat them differently if we realized that they are not so different from the rest of us.
A version of this piece was published on Dawn.com