The Flatfoot

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Why the cop manning the traffic in Islamabad’s most congested bottleneck for last many years is so popular and the most known face in the belt? Saqib Mir explains

Islamabad’s Junglat Mundi may be devoid of a forest or the timber market but it is known more as a crippling bottleneck for the vehicular traffic. And the only person who manages that painful mess is Mohammad Shafi Khan, a special police official (SPO).

Muhammad Shafi Khan, Special Police Official (KL Image)

Khan, a tall, skinny man, who is above 60 years of age, is a permanent resident on the street, for most of the day: a whistle between his lips, a cane in his hand and always in motion. Sometimes, he walks up to even a kilometer to see the road through.

” I do not want traffic jam because it can kill a patient,” Khan said. “Sometimes I have to walk about two kilometers to clear the traffic jam.”

A resident of Gopalpora village, almost six kms from his Chowk of posting, Khan boards the last bus to be with his family. Married happily to homemaker Aisha, they have five children. Their three daughters Fancy, Lovely and Rumi are married and settled. Both their sons, Fazil Khan and Shahid Khan, are graduates. The latter has a handicap. They live in a joint family with their uncles Majeed and Mushtaq, both labourers. They also own a small apple orchard.

He had a short stint of posting at Tiger hill in Drass which was a differently new challenge. Then, soldiers would reach the hill using a rope and use the same to get down.

Khan has been a soldier. He has seen a lot of life as he moved places in his career. His first posting was in Ladakh, then he moved to Jammu, Punjab, Rajouri, Sikkim, Rajasthan and finally to Shillong. Khan said he has learnt many lessons as a sepoy. During his posting in Pokhran, Khan said he and many other colleagues decided to walk for staying physically fit. “After we were a few kilometers away into the Thar desert, a sand storm came and we were lost,” Khan remembers. “After 12 days when we were almost exhausted, we saw a light and moved into the village that eventually rescued us.” That experience, Khan says has taught him to live in challenging situations.

He had a short stint of posting at Tiger hill in Drass which was a differently new challenge. Then, soldiers would reach the hill using a rope and use the same to get down. “One day when many of my colleagues fell sick, I brought them down by tying them with a rope,” Khan remembers.

It is this experience that helps Khan to work for longer hours and with complete dedication. “An hour long duty on border is equal to one day of managing traffic here,” he insists.

After retirement he joined state police in 2003 as an SPO. “After retirement I again wished to serve people so I joined J&K Police because it was the best option,” Khan said. Khan’s dedication towards his duty made him a model traffic manager. He was instantly famous.

Khan is post at Janglat Mundi Chowk for last 11 years. It is the most difficult point to man traffic. It seems as if he is immune to weather. He could be seen drenched in rain during wet weather but it never retards his performance. When it snows, it accumulates on him but he never takes it seriously. He rarely sits and is always on the move. He means business so he wants drivers to follow rules and has never even been accused of taking any money, otherwise a routine allegation.

“Sometimes I have to face abuses from the drivers who break traffic rules,” Khan said. “But the local drivers who pass everyday through this Chowk drive according to traffic rules because they knew violation means getting unnecessary attention.”

Interestingly, Khan does not carry a cell phone. “I don’t have any mobile phone mainly because I don’t want to divert my attention from my duty,” Khan said.  “If I attend a phone call, it means diversion and that can trigger a mess around.” That was perhaps why Khan was awarded as the best traffic manager in town in 2017.

Khan reports to his duty even on Sundays and other holidays. He stays at home only when somebody in the village or in his relation passes away or the strike is so harsh that he would not get a lift to his place of posting.

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