Over 1,000 people die in traffic accidents on the roads of Karachi every year, according to traffic DIG Amir Ahmed Shaikh. No one investigates these accidents - the district police have no time, he says, and the public merely accepts them as 'fate'. But now, things are set to change.
The traffic police of the South district will no longer have to share a workplace with the district police - they have been allowed to set up their own police station. Earlier this month, traffic DIG Amir Ahmed Shaikh wrote to Sindh IG Ghulam Haider Jamali asking for separate police stations in all of the city's districts. The police chief agreed, granting permission to start off with a separate police station in the South district as a pilot project.
The traffic police will now have the power to launch FIRs in accident cases, not only investigating but also holding the traffic violators and presenting them before the courts.
Talking to The Express Tribune, Shaikh claims that not a single person has been indicted in any road accident case in the metropolis since 1995. "This is the height of ignorance. The condition of the traffic in Karachi is being completely sidelined," he laments. "If we cannot investigate and punish culprits, how can we ever resolve the traffic woes of the city?"
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The problem, he says, was that any action taken by the traffic police ended up being in vain in the district police stations. "Whenever we arrest reckless drivers and hand them over to the district police, they release them after taking a small bribe," he alleges. "Since it's a matter of traffic, the traffic department must have the power to address it."
Under Section 279 of the Pakistan Penal Code, the traffic police will now be able to apprehend reckless drivers who pose a threat to the lives of others. "Now, we will arrest them on our own and keep them behind bars so that people will stop violating traffic rules," pledges Shaikh.
Setting up the station
According to traffic police official Muhammad Idrees, who is the reader to the traffic DIG, the department is in search of a building to house the new station in South district. "We are trying to find a location between Defence and Garden so that residents of both the areas can avail our services," he explains, adding that while the amount of money to be spent on setting up the station has yet to be decided, the station will be established before Eidul Fitr.
"We have already asked the Sindh IG for around 5,000 traffic police personnel and for this station, we will need a staff of over 10 officers," he says. "We will require an SHO, three duty officers, at least two investigative officers and five to six officers to present the accused in court, as well as two police vans."
For all these posts, Idrees asserts that they will have tough criteria. "We don't want pot-bellied officials at our stations," he says straight-forwardly. "They have to be at least five feet and eight inches tall, and smart enough to set an example for the district police!" He adds that since they will be maintaining the traffic instead of operating guns, the department will make sure that they were experts in traffic regulations.
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A privileged district?
When asked why such projects always kick off in the South district with aims of expansion to other parts of the city that fizzle out, Idrees laughs. Acknowledging that schemes from new uniforms to female traffic police officials on the roads were all awarded to the district and then buried here, he accepts this as a mistake on the department's part.
He believes, however, that the more affluent residents of the area welcome these projects. "We cannot just suddenly launch them in New Karachi or Lyari, due to the law and order situation," he reasons.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 8th, 2015.
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