The Dirty Harry(Not James Bond) of Kabul

Sounds to me he is more like the dirty harry so gave him that name


Bold Afghan cop inspires admiration, mistrust, fear

Bravery, bluster keep general on front lines in fight against terror

KABUL, Afghanistan — The general pushed through traffic jams like a wrecking ball. His driver, hands scarred by a suicide bomber, honked the horn incessantly and rammed the green police pickup within inches of other vehicles.

But most drivers moved only when they recognized the general in the passenger’s seat: Ali Shah Paktiawal, his eyes bulging slightly, his loaded 9 mm Smith & Wesson pistol on the dashboard in front of him.

Paktiawal looked out the window at the people, wondering who might want to kill him. Some smiled and waved. Some looked scared. Both reactions are common for the city’s head of criminal investigations, known for doing whatever it takes to get his man, including things that would never fly in Chicago.

“If I had an armored car, believe me, no one would be able to escape me,” said Paktiawal, who did not wear a bulletproof vest, despite two sitting on the floor. “I would follow the Taliban into the provinces.”

Paktiawal, 41, shows just what the Afghan police are up against. He has arrested a potential suicide bomber drinking tea at the Kabul zoo. He’s been the victim of as many as a dozen assassination attempts. He’s been poisoned, shot at and nearly blown up.

Like the rest of the nation’s 82,000 police, Paktiawal is on the front lines of the country’s war against terrorism. Throughout Afghanistan, 1,394 police were killed in 2007 and the first half of 2008—four times the number of slain Afghan army soldiers.

But police have also been plagued with constant complaints of corruption, of demanding bribes even from drivers at traffic circles. Such corruption, analysts say, causes Afghans to dislike their government and in some cases prefer the swift justice of the Taliban, driven from power in late 2001. The U.S. has recently taken on more responsibility for training Afghan police, and American soldiers are now trying to reform the force, district by district.

‘James Bond of Kabul’

In some ways, Paktiawal, rough-edged and potty-mouthed, is the best that the Afghan police can offer. Many government employees are known for coming in late and leaving early. Not Paktiawal. He said he has not been home in 40 days, though his wife and three children live less than 2 miles away. Instead, he sleeps in a bed at the office and works late into the night.

A weekly Afghan magazine has dubbed Paktiawal “the James Bond of Kabul,” because he seems to be everywhere at once.

Paktiawal likes to be first on the scene, busting in doors, charging into crime scenes in front of lower-ranked officers. During one hostage crisis in Kabul, he berated the police for not going inside. “Do I have to do everything myself?” he announced, before kicking in the front door, freeing the captive and arresting the hostage-taker.

The 20 police assigned to guard Paktiawal say they work long hours in dangerous conditions. Hamed Hodkhail, 23, whose nickname is Bulldozer, showed off three bullet scars. “Everyone wants to kill him,” Hodkhail said. “I have to protect him.”

But Paktiawal also shows just how far the Afghan police have to go. Sometimes, his zeal leads to problems. Paktiawal has occasionally jailed people simply because they were near a crime. When a mass grave was discovered near Kabul, he was the first person to leap inside, pulling out bones and arranging skulls in a neat row for Afghan journalists to film.

Human-rights observers were horrified at the destruction of evidence.

When journalist Masood Forogh Herawy showed up at a raid, a surprised Paktiawal pointed a gun at his head.

“He said, ‘If you move, I will kill you,’ ” Herawy recalled. “I said, ‘Sir, it’s Masood.’ He’s very close with me, he’s very friendly with me. He swore at me a bit and let me go.”

Paktiawal has a hard time doing nothing. In his office, he talks on his desk phone while he answers a cell phone. He talks on the speaker phone while he eats his lunch and signs various papers shoved in front of him. He is constantly ringing a bell, whose notes of Beethoven summon an officer from next door. “Hey boy,” Paktiawal will shout, or maybe, if an officer fails to carry out his orders, “You are miserable.”

A typical five minutes with Paktiawal goes something like this: Phone call, interrupted by another phone call. Beethoven. Barked order. A visit with a crime victim. Beethoven. A demand for the detective known as The Neck Tie. A flurry of paper signing. A journalist.

A woman from the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission recently visited. After meeting her briefly, Paktiawal sat down beneath the two largest photographs of President Hamid Karzai that any Afghan official is known to have.

“I know your human rights is against killing,” Paktiawal told the woman. “But if it’s a thief, a murderer, a terrorist, a kidnapper, and they run, and I tell him to stop and he doesn’t—shoot and kill. S and K. Finished.” He clucked his tongue. The men sitting in the armchairs in his office laughed. This justice made sense in Afghanistan.

‘Law is law’

Victims also come—at this police station, Paktiawal’s office is the front counter. A 15-year-old girl sobbed as she explained that she ran away from her 13-year-old husband because his family beat her. A man tried to persuade Paktiawal not to prosecute two police officers who had stolen his money and two cell phones, because they had returned them.

Paktiawal repeated his mantra—”law is law”—and insisted that the police be prosecuted, and that the girl’s family not be allowed to sort out her marriage outside of court.

Meanwhile, Paktiawal issued orders to arrest a member of parliament accused of protecting his son, who was accused of raping a 12-year-old girl. He received a phone call from the girl’s father, who came to Kabul to meet with Karzai.

“Right is right, wrong is wrong,” Paktiawal told the man, who was scared. “I don’t care who he is. Don’t be afraid, I will support you. Be a man.”


3 Responses

  1. […] Cables, Docks & Kits News » News News The Dirty Harry(Not James Bond) of Kabul2008-08-09 22:13:49Swift in late 2001. The US has recently taken on more responsibility for training […]

  2. […] & Protectors News » News News The Dirty Harry(Not James Bond) of Kabul2008-08-10 21:21:36Their Such corruption, analysts say, causes Afghans to dislike their government […]

  3. […] Phones News » News News The Dirty Harry(Not James Bond) of Kabul2008-08-13 18:25:40Be prosecute two police officers who had stolen his money and two police officers […]

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