Seven minutes with a swindler
I saw him coming towards me as I stopped my car at the traffic light. It was 2.30pm on Wednesday, March 20th. Belly protruding out from his belt, his face stamped with a mixture of an obsequious smile and the excitement of the benefits that he could reap, he tapped the glass window of my car and said something in a mumbled and ambiguous tone.
I felt rather uncomfortable at this uncalled-for intervention. I lowered the car window, bracing myself to cope with a member of the country’s most infamous organization, known for its incompetent, ineffectual and shady activities. But before I could make a meaningful reality check, he pleaded that he might be allowed to come inside the car. I assumed he wanted a lift. Being a habitual lift provider to all and sundry, I saw no problem with this one. Before I knew it, he was sitting on the front seat by my side.
We had hardly traveled some 50 yards, when I received a rather strange piece of opening conversation. “I am a graduate, I have done B.A.,” he said. “That seems good, but why do you mention this to me?” I asked. “Can you please tell some higher-ups in Police, to pass me in the B1 exam so that I could be promoted?” I was certainly in no position or mood to provide such a service and I politely apologized for my lack of contacts with any senior police officer.
Then came the bombshell that demolished me completely. “I am going to my village next week, and it would be appropriate if you give me Rs. 500,” he said in a tone that was delicately balanced between a demand and a request, so as to be able to work with both kinds of victims. I could imagine members of this profession routinely demanding bribe or extorting money (their daily ritual), but certainly not begging while in uniform or on duty. This was simply too much .
I stopped the car, and brought this sad episode to an abrupt end by asking him to leave. He shook hands and walked out, with no regret, repent or remorse, eyes already scanning the road for a more appropriate victim. The seven minutes of this distasteful encounter, left me completely shattered and devastated for the next many days. It was a realization that, Police Constable Ghulam Mujtaba Soomro, peti number 358 reflected only the tip of the iceberg that is now the only distinguishing feature of our police force and the state machinery.