Sometimes, one needs to play fire with fire and that’s how it works. This is a continuation of the Corruption Tales Series, a tale from Waleed Mirza.
This is the city of Faisalabad. The capital of textiles industry of Pakistan. The Manchester. Every nook and corner one visits finds a surprise in a textile unit working day in and day out; a unit which is housed in a small dingy like apartments.
For me Faisalabad is my second love. But I had to transit back to Karachi every 2 weeks to see my family. I would usually take the trains.
Now comes the interesting part; its 2.30 in July-August, which is the ugly hot season. I’ve travelled like 35 minutes to the city train station and sweating like hell all over. Luggage is light.
I arrive at the station around 3.00 in the afternoon. I access the ticket window, which is caged and tightly secured, where on the other side it was air-conditioned; the railway employees inside the secured hall didn’t have an idea how it feels like to procure a ticket on the outside. I could feel the cool 23 degree centigrade air-conditioned air escaping out of the ticket window with a mouse-hole like opening.
Now comes the fun part. I ask – I want a ticket for Karachi leaving at 5.30. I get a blunt careless reply, come at 5. Window opens half an hour before the train arrives.
I’m sweating, no seating arrangement, the heat, the appalling decrepit train station structure was not very motivating and inspiring to spend another 2 hours or so.
With that answer, I look around and there comes a person, at the ticket window and starts a light moment. That insensitive ticket clerk too jumps in and shows energy, which said, work comes later, first its time-wasting raw-jokes.
In a hush-toned style, I address this person on my side – I need a ticket, can you help? He looks around here and there, he says, come with me.
He takes me to the platform, asks me to treat him a cold-drink, first. This wasn’t surprising as that usually one expects when receiving a favour. The next moment after gulping a few shots, he pulls out his wallet and displays his ‘POLICE’ card. Okay, not surprising, but the next thing he says is like a bomb-exploding under my feet; “I’m in the Police Intelligence, I’m assigned here, to keep an eye on every movement and this place is crawling with people like me.” I was like, oh, first the terror of Punjab Police is so scary, then I’m dealing with one of them, asking them a favour would mean, I will have to compensate him, every time, the next time for this favour (ticket) I was taking now. Even though that favour was being paid.
I hand him the money, which as the face value of the ticket and the surcharge for the ‘favour’ included. So that favour was being controlled by the mafia working with the help of the police network there. Many passengers fall for it.
Now comes another interesting twist to the story – since my nickname is ‘Kaptain Mirza’; yes with a K. That just sparked a neat mischief in my mind at that moment. That police constable asked me; before I tell you more, let me tell you he was a graduate, so playing a mischief with an educated policeman has to be well planned or something that dominates him and his department.
He casually asks me, what do I do, that K of Kaptain Mirza jumps in and I say this, “Friends call me Captain Mirza.” That very moment I saw, his expressions on his face flew away and nervousness taking over. He immediately handed me back the money, saying, I don’t want this money. You can have it all. I said, “No worries brother, I’m a friend of friends and the worst enemy of enemies. I consider you as my friend.” That brought him back to life.
I told him I work for the agencies and I’ve been assigned here in Faisalabad to keep an eye of foreign elements found in the factories. Interesting is, in those days, many agents were being caught, that made me sound relevant.
From that day onwards, I saved that tiring sweaty trips to the train station where I had to waste 2-3 hours to buy a ticket. Since there were only 1 window open where the person would work so casually and sometimes he would retreat for half-hour tea break in the middle; that at one time there would be 100’s of customers waiting uselessly.
How? That very policeman thinking I was in the army, would deliver the tickets to my hotel on every occasion. Sometimes, he would keep the compartment ready, which was reserved for only government and army personnel. I enjoyed the protocol. But the fear was still there.
This happened for like an year or so.
Interesting enough, getting a ticket on Eid days and long-weekend holidays was near to impossible; just a phone call to that policeman produced tickets for me at my hotel within half-an hour.
Oh yes, when I revealed I was in the army, he took to the police station, which was in the vicinity of the knocked down dilapidated train station; which to my surprise was air-conditioned too. He then upon that treated me with chips and cold-drinks.
This is white-collar crime; prevalent and only noticeable if we show our protocol. It lives and survives under the surface and sustaining richly. Question is: who would take notice of such malpractices..?
Perhaps no one. Stories like this, remain in Faisalabad, while the city lights and factories go abuzz day in and day out.