Recovering my stolen car from the police
After spending so much money, I thought that it might have been easier to recover the car from the thief himself!
There is no worse experience than buying your own stolen car back and from none other than the police itself.
Such has been the experience that my friend and I went through when the Islamabad police informed us that my friend’s car, which was stolen months back, had been recovered. Looking for a car stolen in Pakistan is like looking for a needle in a haystack. Recovering it from the authorities, once it has been found, is an even bigger hassle.
Little did we know, enroute to Islamabad from Lahore, that to recover the car it will not just be a simple procedure. The ‘procedure’ in fact took hours of haggling, begging, negotiating, ‘mithai’ (sweetmeats) and many round trips between Lahore and Islamabad.
It makes one wonder if acquiring an-already-paid-for car back was worth the money, time and effort.
In a pompous ceremony, my friend received his car keys from Interior Minister, Rehman Malik who praised the police for their job well done.
It, however, didn’t end there.
The extensive research put in by the police is commendable. All the requisite details of the car's owner were well-known by them. They had managed to find out that my friend - the owner - had no political connections, no military affiliations and no other powerful person of consequence to call to hasten the ‘process’; thus, the perfect catch.
“How about some ‘mithai’ for this happy moment, after all we worked really hard to recover your lost bride?” said the inspector with a smirk on his face.
Mithai, I was willing to give, but the Rs30,000 in cash that was asked for along with that was unexpected. The police officers had the registration papers of the car and hence had the upper hand. The car could easily have been impounded, due to the ‘loss of papers’ or just be put with the other cars with bureaucratic red tape.
The ball was now in our court, and as helpless as we were, we spent an entire week negotiating over the phone from Lahore and finally settled at Rs20,000. After a few days, much to our relief, we were invited by the police to collect the car, for which we made a second trip to Islamabad, convinced that this time around that we would be driving back to Lahore in the car.
What we had failed to realise was that this was the beginning of a much lengthier ‘process’. Apparently, the inspectors job was only to forward the registration papers of the car to the local magistrate, for which the Rs20,000 were allegedly required.
Now, however, the car release file was in the hands of the magistrate who had blatantly refused to entertain us without a proper ‘guarantor’. Scrambling as much as we could, within the little time we had, desperately searching for a guarantor we found one a couple of days later. Unfortunately, much to our dismay and confusion, the magistrate refused again to entertain us as we had seemingly skipped another significant ‘procedural step’ required for him to honour our claim.
A bit bewildered we asked for some guidance for which we got yet another puzzle to solve.
Instead of accommodating our claim the magistrate plainly stated,
“Forget about the original guarantor; get a fake one for your car.”
Coming from the protector of law, to bring a fake guarantee was more than just puzzling. He advised us to arrange for one of the patwaris (clerks), camped outside the court, to rent fake property documents as guarantee. The entire process - as comical as it may seem in retrospect - was at the time quite a frustrating haul. It was beyond us to understand why exactly, with a legitimate guarantor at hand, the magistrate would want us to hire a fake one from the roadside. One of the reasons mentioned to us at the courts was that perhaps the magistrate had some under-the-table dealings with the men outside, and hence we were pointed in that direction- a point that we had conveniently dismissed until now.
Following through the demands of the magistrate and returning to court, we were again faced with a delay of over two weeks- this time, because we had bypassed another ‘fundamental step’ in the process; commissioning a lawyer.
At a friend’s recommendation, we went about our business contacting the suggested lawyer who showed immediate displeasure at the web we had unknowingly weaved around ourselves.
“You have messed up the entire case by following the rules, I will now have to do the impossible to get the case back to the proper system.”
Proper system; this term's definition still evades us.
The lawyer, however, was an intelligent man who seemed well acquainted with the ‘system’ prescribed by the authorities. He was kind enough to give us a brief tutorial on the differences between the law and the system. According to him, the law may say whatever it does; that does not concern us. What concerns us and what we must follow is the system. By this time we were experienced enough to understand the wisdom behind his words.
Finally settling the lawyers fee at Rs35,000 for work in which his presence was barely required, we received a call, a week later, and made our third trip to Islamabad. This time however, much to our surprise, we finally got the car, but there was still more to come.
A day after we arrived in Lahore, we got a call from an inspector of the Lahore Police informing us that the process we went through in Islamabad was completely unnecessary and that we would have to undergo the ‘real process’ in Lahore itself “with a small fee of Rs50,000 only.”
At this point, we didn’t know whether to laugh at our misery or cry at the sheer absurdity of the situation!
After another grueling month of undergoing the ‘process’, dealing with the ‘system’ and spending thousands of rupees to recover our own car from the police we were forced to ponder over whether it would have been simpler to negotiate a deal with the thief instead. He, in our opinion, would have settled for much less and with no time lost. It would have, perhaps, saved our time and energy from being spent in understanding the ‘system’.
The car hasn't been cleared yet because the case is with the Lahore police, and they have taken their 'service fee' of Rs5,000. The car was recovered almost three months ago, but the process of simply handing over the keys is still going on. The total cost of the recovering this car from the government has been Rs100,000 for a car worth Rs500,000.
What this entire process made me realise, however, was that this process was in fact not corrupt!
Well, hear me out; if you look closely you will see that when corruption reaches its absolute peak, it becomes a system, a way of business, as the lawyer had explained to us. This sort of corruption, contrary to what Imran Khan suggests, cannot be eradicated just by having honest people at the top. This system exists due to the loopholes in our law, and due to the mentality of our people, and can only be changed through rigorous amendments at the grassroots level, the absolute beginning of everything; schools and colleges.
As clichéd as it may sound, education is the only cure to this epidemic. Training in ethics, values and good morals is the only way to combat the ‘system’ and the law has to be revised in a way to mend all the loopholes we so willingly jump through to get our work done, albeit inadvertently.
Only when these acts are shunned by a sizable majority will we be able to overcome its effects and only if we start today will the future succeed in seeing the results. The law must prevail over the so-called ‘system’, and that is what will end what people call corruption in Pakistan.
Read more by Hussain here or follow him on Twitter @HNadim87