News / Asia

Kabul Traffic Cop Pays Price For Playing It Straight

Kabul traffic cop Abdul Saboor Khan
Kabul traffic cop Abdul Saboor Khan
It’s another day…in another week…and, another year at the Sherpur traffic circle for Kabul, Afghanistan traffic cop Abdul Saboor Khan.
 
Thousands of cars and trucks whiz by every day, directed by Khan’s whistle and his ever-moving arms. He has made quite a theatrical performance out of his job, one that has gained him notoriety – for several reasons.
 
“When they hear my whistle, they say ‘Saboor Khan’ is here on duty,” he says.  “When I am on the road, many people are happy and say thank God you are here. People love the way I organize my tasks. They pay attention when I move my hands and feet,” Saboor Khan told VOA.
 
When someone disobeys his instructions and gets stopped, one thing doesn’t work. In a society where “give something – get something in return” is often the norm, Khan has made himself a notable exception. He refuses to be bribed out of taking action against the driver making the infraction.
 
“I don’t do any corruption,” he says. “I work hard and work a lot. Thanks to my hard work, I earn a good salary and God helps me survive on that money. And there are many people who appreciate me,” he says.
 
Khan has paid a steep price for refusing to be corrupt. After 24 years on the job, Khan has only been given one promotion he says which was then withheld.
 
“I am known as one of the most honest traffic cops in Afghanistan, in Kabul,” Khan said. “But the promotion they signed for me, they refuse to give me.”
 
Khan’s salary is the equivalent of US$200 a month. And since he doesn’t take bribes to supplement his pay, he lives in a five room house shared with 28 other people.
 
While his wallet is thin, his career has been thick with accolades.  Khan’s honesty has been commended by everyone from officials of the now-ousted Afghan Taliban regime to international organizations including the United Nations, which made a mini-documentary about him.
 
Financial watchdog group Global Integrity’s Executive Director, Nathaniel Heller, describes the life Khan has because of his refusal to be corrupt.
 
“It’s a massive personal sacrifice,” he says. “That’s the first thing to sort of embrace –  that he, or someone like him, is doing this at huge risk, and at huge cost, both professionally, and sometimes this turns into personal and family blow-back.  Your cousin gets fired, suddenly, for no reason. Sometimes, there is physical safety involved.”

Heller added “Folks who are taking the high road do so at extreme risk and at extreme cost. It’s just a tough slog, and it’s a credit to people like them [Khan] to at least demonstrate what the other example [honesty] looks like.”

Despite all that has gone against him - Khan says that he has even had his toes crushed by cars driving over his feet - he’s out there the next day, and the day after that, in a dusty place where one’s lungs get filled with choking car exhaust. But to Khan, it’s a matter of principles.  And that’s the clean air he breathes.

Jeffrey Young

Jeffrey Young came to the “Corruption” beat after years of doing news analysis, primarily on global strategic issues such as nuclear proliferation.  During most of 2013, he was on special assignment in Baghdad and elsewhere with the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction (SIGIR).  Previous VOA activities include VOA-TV, where he created the “How America Works” and “How America Elects” series, and the “Focus” news analysis unit.

You May Like

Disappointing Report on China's Economy Shakes Markets

In London and New York shares lost 3 percent, while Paris and Germany dropped around 2.4 percent More

DRC Tries Mega-Farms to Feed Population

Park at Boukanga Lonzo currently has 5,000 hectares under cultivation, crops stretching as far as eye can see, and is start of ambitious large-scale agriculture plan More

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Areas are spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, source of livelihood for fishermen and herders who have called the marshes home for generations More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Myra Chambers from: USA
March 21, 2014 12:02 PM
This is a glosa man. This is integrity.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOAi
X
August 31, 2015 2:17 AM
Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOA

Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Iraq's southern wetlands are in crisis. These areas are the spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, and source of livelihood for fishermen and herders. Faith Lapidus has more.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Rebuilding New Orleans' Music Scene

Ten years after Hurricane Katrina inundated New Orleans, threatening to wash away its vibrant musical heritage along with its neighborhoods, the beat goes on. As Bronwyn Benito and Faith Lapidus report, a Musicians' Village is preserving the city's unique sound.
Video

Video In Russia, Auto Industry in Tailspin

Industry insiders say country relies too heavily on imports as inflation cuts too many consumers out of the market. Daniel Schearf has more from Moscow.
Video

Video Scientist Calls Use of Fetal Tissue in Medical Research Essential

An anti-abortion group responsible for secret recordings of workers at a women's health care organization claims the workers shown are offering baby parts for sale, a charge the organization strongly denies. While the selling of fetal tissue is against the law in the United States, abortion and the use of donated fetal tissue for medical research are both legal. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.

VOA Blogs