Just a few years ago, traffic warden Rasheed Khan was a regular Facebook user known only to his friends and family. Little did he know that soon his regular updates on work activities would resonate with so many fans — 83,000 to be exact.
With his well-oiled moustache that has become an identifiable marker of his identity, Khan is not only a local social media hero but is also a familiar face for many on the streets of Peshawar.
Until recently, Khan was oblivious to his popularity. When asked about his strategy to increase followers, he says: “I don’t know. It just started happening.”
On the response he gets on Facebook, Khan says most people who comment on his posts are appreciative of his work as a traffic warden, which greatly encourages him to do better. But there are also some, he says, who leave negative comments like calling him a 'dramaybaaz' or ‘publicity seeker'.
“I don’t do all this to get followers, fame or appreciation from anyone. I started doing it with no such thing in my mind, but have always and will continue to spread awareness among the masses and show them a better side of our country's traffic police; who are otherwise notoriously known as being corrupt.”
Currently working as a Sub-Inspector, Khan has served in the traffic police for more than 20 years. In this time, he has received more than 18 awards, shields and appreciation certificates — a testament to his performance.
He sees himself as a representative of the traffic police and says he enjoys interacting with citizens. His Facebook posts aim to spread awareness among the public regarding traffic rules, as well as portraying a positive image of the traffic police.
Khan often records his encounters with Peshawar citizens through a hidden body camera which is officially provided to him, and posts the videos on his Facebook profile.
His recordings often include incidents where VIP citizens violate traffic rules; his own refusal to accept bribes and other instances where he engages with citizens. Going by his Facebook engagement, it seems his fans are eager to see influential people held accountable for violating traffic rules.
He also posts videos and photos that show wardens helping people on the roads, like changing vehicle tires for someone or helping the elderly cross the road.
Recalling a memorable moment from last year where he stopped a rickshaw driver he narrates, “When I approached the driver, I was shocked to see that he was disabled. One of his legs was missing. It made me very emotional, but I was also very impressed to see a person earning for his family despite being disabled.“
Khan changed his mind, and instead of giving him a challan, offered him a gift of Rs500 in cash. Every Ramazan, wardens in Peshawar are given a stock of gifts from the department and told to give it away to people as a goodwill gesture.
One such video shows him refusing a bribe offered to him by an offender looking to get out of a fine. It garnered 12,000 shares.
He says people driving on the roads are generally cooperative when they're dealt with decently by traffic wardens; except for lawyers, who curiously act out when fined on violating traffic rules.
Sometimes the electronic media also picks up videos from his Facebook profile and presents it as 'breaking news.' The following video was broadcast by several TV channels, including Samaa TV.
When former Inspector General KP Police Nasir Durrani came across Khan's videos on TV, he summoned him to his office and lauded the good work he's doing and awarded him with an 'Appreciation Certificate.'
Receiving the award was one of the most unforgettable moments of Khan's life and career. He recalls, "That was extremely surprising for me as neither did I work honestly for any reward, nor did I expect any such appreciation for what is my duty.”
On his current salary of Rs50,000 only, Khan provides for his wife and four children, in addition to running his charity organisation 'Umeed Falahi Tanzeem Pakistan', which helps the poor, widows, disabled and others who need financial support.
Currently, the organisation helps 433 deserving households and individuals in various districts of KP like Peshawar, Nowshera, Mansehra, Swabi, Mardan etc. Khan says he dedicates his only day-off, Sundays, to the charity, and that his wife helps him.
Khan is celebrated by colleagues and senior officials alike. And in view of his popular presence on Facebook, his senior officers often ask him to post a public service message or a post regarding traffic rules which they want widely disseminated.