KUNDUZ CITY (Pajhwok): Pajhwok Afghan News findings show traffic police in northern Kunduz province force rickshaw drivers into paying bribes. In case of refusal, they are not allowed to work. Civil society activists, members of the provincial council, analysis and residents of Kunduz, in video interviews, told Pajhwok that traffic personnel took 50 afs from each rickshaw driver on a daily basis.
If this amount of money is received from 2,000 rickshaws at four entry points daily, the total comes to 100,000 afghanis. “About 2,000 rickshaws move in Imam Sahib, Khanabad, Kabul and Walayat Jada daily,” Pajhwok’s findings indicate. According to the Kunduz Traffic head, of the 15,000 rickshaws, 3,200 have number plates while the rest are unregistered. There are also 8,500 other vehicles without number plates. About 12,500 other vehicles have number plates.
Some rickshaw drivers alleged traffic police took bribes. They punctured rickshaw tyres or did not let them ply roads if a driver refused to pay them. Mohammad Omar, 45, a rickshaw driver, said: “Most of us pay 50 to 100 afghanis to traffic police daily. Bribery should be prevented, because we are unable to pay.” Fazal Rahman, another driver, endorsed Omar’s view and claimed traffic sergeants, if not bribed, did allow them to work.
“Government officials and our security personnel see traffic police taking bribes, but no one has taken action against them,” he complained. Paying 50 afghanis daily to get permission of work, he said: “As we pay the traffic police, they allow us to work, if we don’t pay, they don’t allow us to take passengers.” Sardar Mohammad, another driver, said he had bought a rickshaw on credit. He is the only breadwinner for his family.
“Some individuals have rented out rickshaws to drivers and receive money from them on a monthly basis. Unfortunately, their daily income is not enough to pay for the owners and resolve their family problems.” Abdul Ahmad, another driver, said: “The traffic personnel harass us, puncture tires of our rickshaws and take money from us on different pretexts.” He asked the authorities to listen to the rickshaw drivers and stop bribery by traffic police. Several other drivers held similar views and asked the authorities to address that their problem. Although traffic officials did not want to comment on the issue, some of them admitted fleecing drivers due to low monthly salaries and heavy daily expenses
Pajhwok has taken pictures of a scene in front of the Badam Sarai area of Kunduz City, where a traffic official was taking money from a rickshaw driver. However, Kunduz police denied bribes were received from drivers. However, they promised preventing the illicit practice.
Ghulam Hazrat, a resident of Kunduz City, blamed traffic police for causing snarl-ups on roads. “When traffic police stop a rickshaw to collect money, others are also forced to stop, closing the road for hours.” Ehsanullah Bayan, a shopkeeper on the Walayat road, estimated that approximately 1,000 rickshaws plied Kunduz City roads on a daily basis. If traffic personnel took 50 afghanis from each rickshaw, he said, they got a lot of money. He added: “Traffic officials have a chief. Rickshaw drivers are forced to pay traffic officials, who transfer the money illegally collected to their higher-ups.”
Inayatullah Khaliq, director of the Kunduz Civil Society Partnership Network, alleged bribes had been demanded by traffic police for years, but no department had taken steps to stop the unlawful practice. He claimed: “Traffic police impound rickshaws but allow them to ply on city roads after receiving backhanders from drivers.”
Amruddin Wali, a member of the provincial council, complained ports and roads had not been identified by traffic police for passenger vehicles to help drivers identify the routes. He accused traffic officials of paving the way for bribery for their colleagues, who shared money with them. He called on the government to apply the law to all and prevent bribery.
Police spokesman Inamuddin Rahmani told Pajhwok those who harassed people, especially drivers, would be punished. He promised: “Any police officer indulging in unlawful things, harassing drivers on roads, at gates to and inside the city and trying to take bribes from them will be dealt with in accordance with the law.”
Places for rickshaw parking had already been identified, he explained, but some drivers continue to disobey police orders and park their three wheelers in crowded areas where traffic rules needed to be enforced. Rahmani called on rickshaw drivers to refer to them the officials who harassed and sought bribes from them. Kunduz residents claim hundreds of unregistered and non-custom-paid vehicles freely move around the city. There is hurdle to their movement.