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Govt, military drivers flouting rules of the road

Govt, military drivers flouting rules of the road

Mar 14, 2011 - 10:09


KABULinfo-icon (PANinfo-icon): Drivers for security and government officials are flouting the rules of the road in Kabul and some even flee the scene when they are involved in a traffic accident, police say.

 “Government officials use their sirenswithout any reason and drive the wrong way down one-way roads,” said Col. Mohammad Akber Chakary, the administrative chief of Kabul’s traffic department.

“We have repeatedly asked them to abide by the traffic rules, but they still continue,” he said.

The worst offenders were those from the defence ministry, the interior ministry and the National Directorate of Security, the intelligence agency.

“Many times, after accidents, the drivers run away,” he said.  

On June 8 last year, an army vehicle collided with a civilian car in Kabul. The driver of the car and a passenger were killed and three others were injured. The soldier driving the Afghan army vehicle escaped, he said.

Then on July 25, security guards for Mullahinfo-icon Tarakhail shot dead two people, and injured seven, when they got in a traffic accident near Puli Khashti mosqueinfo-icon, he said.

Chakary said they try to get the number plate of the car involved in the incident, but sometimes they have blank plates.

Another problem in prosecuting official drivers who think they are above the law is that the civilians involved are reluctant to complain, said Col. Amir Mohammad, the head of traffic police in the 8th police district , which covers central Kabul’s Karte Naw district.

 “We see a number of accidents caused by the drivers of officials and powerful individuals. “However, if the affected individuals don’t complain, we don’t save such accidents in our database.”

He said people did not complain for a number of different reasons, but did not explain what those were.

 “The traffic department has sent many letters to various government departments advising their drivers on traffic rules,” he said.

Saed Ismail, a taxi driver, said he was blamed and his car impounded after an Afghan army driver smashed into a bicycle on a one-way road. “Traffic police are not able to make government officials follow the rules of the road,” he said.

However, Lt. Saif Udin, who drives for the Afghan National Army (ANA), said the navigation was the responsibility of the head of patrol, the person who sits in the front passenger’s seat. “We never act rashly unless we are told to by the head of patrol.

 “If we have an emergency situation, we are allowed to drive up one-way roads; if not, we must respect traffic rules like everyone else.

However, he acknowledged that many drivers were “recommended” and were not familiar with traffic rules.

A female driver, who did not want to give her name, said those driving military vehicles had no sense of responsibility. “If the vehicle belonged to them, they would never drive that fast,” she said.

“Drivers know the military vehicle doesn’t belong to them. If they have an accident, they are in military uniform and can threaten civilians.

“Many times traffic police are on the side of the military drivers, even if they are guilty, because they are powerful and working for high-ranking officials,” she added.

Col. Mohammad Zahir, head of criminal investigation, said the ability of government officials to get away with traffic accidents showed the weakness of the traffic department.     

“Traffic police have weapons and advanced equipment. The offenders should not be able to escape.”

He said traffic police were allowed to use their weapon if someone was trying to escape a traffic accident.

“Traffic police should fire a warning shot. If the accident is very serious, then they should fire in a way to prevent the criminal's escape.

“This is why they have armed traffic police, and in some squares we have appointed police to help them,” he added.

Gen. Zahir Azimi, a spokesman for the Ministry of Defence, said all military and civilian drivers should abide by traffic rules and regulations.

He acknowledged that some ANA drivers were involved in accidents and had fled, but said later, they had been identified and interrogated.

 “Those who are recruited to the ANA as a driver are tested first in an ANA technical school. If they pass, they are assigned to their duties,” Azimi said.

The defence ministry has rules and regulations about ANA drivers who are involved in traffic accidents. If guilty, they are prosecuted.

However, he did not respond to a question about how many ANA drivers were in jail because of traffic accidents.

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