Perspectives from the *other side* on Software, Management and Life

Monday, November 21, 2005

police - tool for intimidation

So a week back, i ran into this peculiar situation in lahore. I got a call from my wife on friday that our part time maid (girl of around 17 years)had 'disappeared'. She had been cleaning our porch and area near the main gate and was no where to be found.
She then went about contacting the girls parents etc, and i continued on with my office work assuming she had just gone home etc- oblivious to the issues that awaited me.
When i returned in the evening, i inquired as to what had happened, and was told that it seemed serious, the girls parents were, understandably, very angry as she had still not returned home. Then at around 10pm, about half a dozen men along with the girls father rang my house bell. FYI i live in DHA, Lahore. So i go down, meet them and ask what the status was. I then inform them that the only 'logical' thing left to do was to inform the police.
I go back into my house and call the 'garrison' force (its a force with police and military officers for law enforcement in the cantt area. For those who are completely out of the loop, the military in pakistan has these areas in the cities that are 'owned' by the military, a legacy of the british empire). No one picks up, and after two tries i just call '15', the police hotline. i got two busy signals, and then finally someone picked up on the third attempt. I inform the hotline operator of the issue, and he informs me that i should come to the police station.

So i get my car out, and the girls dad is sitting with me. And his neighbours/relatives are behind me in around 3 motor bikes ..... there was a moment when i became concerned given i really did not know if he was the girls dad, she had only been working with us for 2-3 weeks.

So we finally reach the police station - where i am told that i should talk to the SHO. The SHO is generally the senior most officer at a police station. They generally have a mustache that has had significant care taken. They are a breed of their own. Me being fresh from the states, thinking all is well, walk up to him and inform him of the situation. He tells me to write it all on paper (that i do so in english, cause my urdu writing is really horrible by now). I then shake his hand and say my farewell as well as to the girls father + other men of her family etc.
At this the SHO tells me in a stern voice, "where do you think you're going?"

me: "errrr, what do you mean"

SHO, in a patronizing voice: "You have a moral obligation to stay with the girls father until recovery, and also participate in the recovery. The girl was your responsibility"

That comment does hold a little weight, but its delivery had my bloood boiling.

me: "my responsibility, excuse me. You're the police, you get my tax rupees [confession:i havent paid my taxes yet, cause its just been 2 months, and taxes get filed after year end] and so YOU are responsible for everyone safety. I cannot take part in the recovery, because i am a citizen. Its the police that has to recover people. I have done my part, what more do you want"

SHO, who was clearly taken aback by my statement, that too infront of everyone:"You speak english and i responded back in english cause i didnt wanted to advise you without letting these people [pointing to the girls family] know. You just cannot come here and then leave. You must stay with the father until the girl is recovered. What is this, you think you can come here, and then just leave. I asked you to write your application to protect you [implying that he can twist the facts and get my screwed in some case involving the abduction of a girl].

This statement clearly got me worried, a police case with your name is essentially a long term headache in pak.

ok ....

SHO: no, i will not listed to you, you listen to me

me: hey, i dont have to listen to you if you're not bothered to listen to me

SHO: more blah blah

me: Lets stop fighting, it aint helping the victim. tell me the next steps and i'll see what i can do ......

Anyway, lots of things happened afterwards, and i did manage to go back home in 40-50 mins. I called up my parents and other uncles, who in turn called up some military and police officers and essentially got the SHO to back off.
The girls family got the FIR (police case) registered against some driver who had been hanging around with the girl. Turns out, my neighbours helpers had seen the girl voluntarily get on a bike with someone. She had essentially eloped (a point of relief and anger. Relief as i was at ease that atleast it was no abduction case, and anger that she got me in the middle of all this crap). An internal audit at my house showed that Rs7000 had been stolen (ie USD 120).

Some of the lessons learned:

1. Dont hire young maids, they are known for eloping (seriously, i got told about how often this happens only AFTER it had happened)
2. Keep a close eye on maids, lahore has an issue of maids being involved with robber gangs - they use the maids to understand when and where to strike.
3. Always know the roots of the maids, ie which village they come from and their residences. Also get their ID photocopies and have them registered at the police station
4. Money is always stolen in parts. Home workers know that if they steel the complete amount, the theft will be obvious, so they take out certain percentage amounts. I had 23K in my house, out of which just 7K was taken. Lucky me, my wife keeps a strict audit and so we were able to be confident that a theft had taken place.
5. If you have to go to the police, try to first find out if you know someone in the police. Pakistan has a major problem with police corruption
6. If you dont know anyone in the police, try not to get into a verbal argument with the idiots in the police station.
7. Be smart, dont assume people are good (or necessarily bad). Be quick in grasping the situation. I've been told that sometimes money is also exhorted by the girls parents in such situations, even if they're aware that the girl had eloped or was planning to do so for some time.


Blogger Zer0 Frequency said...

Goodness Gracious! Ali, did you really need the "Refresher course" regarding our great Police department!

You shouldn't have gone to them without "BACKUP". :-)

But anyway all is well that ends well!


11:39 AM


Post a Comment

<< Home