Stepping into the world of foot tracker

Published September 20, 2007

MUZAFFARGARH, Sept 19: Modern-day DNA testing and forensic science might have undermined his importance, but Gul Muhammad Karlo is still confident of his skills of finding a thief out of hundreds of people.

Gul’s skill involves foot tracking and stalking a thief out just through reading footmarks and for that he is rightly called a foot tracker or Khoji.

Gul, of Mauza Fazil Karlo, holds 20 years experience of foot tracking. When a theft is committed in rural areas, Gul is called by victims for finding out thieves.

On Saturday (Sept 16, 2007), Gul was called to resolve a theft committed at the house of Malik Sikandar Abbas at Basti Tibbi near Railway Station Budh. On Sept 14 morning, when he woke up he found his ceiling broke open and valuables from his rooms missing.

The first thing he did was he covered the marks of footsteps around the rooms and in the yard. He contacted Saddar police station in Muzaffargarh the same day and get lodged a complaint. But not relying on the police to trace the culprits, Sikandar called Gul, the known foot tracker of the area, to trace thieves.

At Basti Tibbi, around three dozen people of the area were present when Gul came there to prove their innocence.

Gul examined the footsteps covered by Sikandar. Later, he was locked in a room. Away from the room, a yard was mopped and people of the area were asked to walk a few steps barefooted and a few steps wearing shoes in groups of four. Arrangements for walks were done in a way that the foot tracker could not see the walkers.

After a group walked in the identification yard, Gul was called to examine their footmarks. Gul suspected the footmarks of a man at number three in the column and he asked the theft victim to keep this man under watch.

Later in the second group, the suspect walked at number one position in the group. When Gul was called to examine the marks, he pointed to the footmarks of the walker at number one position. The practice was repeated six times and the suspect was included in every walk, but Gul always came up with the same result. Even though the suspect changed his gait and shoes but Gul remained unmistakable every time. As the suspect was a close relative of the victim, so he did not agree to Gul’s ruling. However, everybody was impressed by his skill of finding the steps of the same man without any mistake.

“In foot tracking the first thing I notice is the step marks of thieves covered by a theft victim,” Gul said about his skills.

“Later, when I compare those marks with the marks of other people, I read gait, lines on the lower part of the foot and level of elasticity of foot.”

Gul learnt the art of foot tracking 20 years ago from his Ustad (mentor) Muhammad Nawaz Khandoya.

He says that teacher started his training through teaching him the footsteps of cattle. Later, he accompanied him on several foot tracking missions in south Punjab as his Ustad was the most reliable and sought-after tracker in those days. Ustad Khandoya died five years ago.

“After doing a lot of tracking mission, I have learnt the footmarks of many thieves by heart. Sometime I see a footmark, and the face of the suspect flashes through my eyes. Without going through hassle of examining other people’s foot marks, I just whisper the name of the suspect in the victim’s ear,” he said.

Gul said it was his accurate results, that wherever he was invited to trace a theft, mostly gangsters threatened him with consequences if he named them.

He claimed he had braved so many threats because “in all circumstances a theft victim should be helped out”.

Gul says that he had to do his job with utmost care because his mistake could make an innocent a notorious in the area.

He said that he was invited to the Adil Pir area in Rajanpur many times a month as thefts were rampant there. He claimed many thieves had offered huge bribe to him for not naming them.

He says sometimes the police also invite him to help them chase thieves.

“But I don’t expect anything from them,” he said.

Gul charges Rs2,000 per trip and completes his job in two hours. He says nowadays he is hardly invited to 10 or so thief-identification missions.

He says that 10 years ago he would take on over 30 foot tracking tasks and earned a handsome amount. But now with road robberies on the rise, the trend of theft had gone down thus decreasing his income, he said.

“As I’m witness to so many theft cases, I regret that thieves of old times have gone to hibernation,” says Gul.

He said in old days thieves were such harmless people that they would only steal valuables worth just hundreds and leave the house without disturbing the family.

“Now, robbers hold people on gunpoint, rob them of everything they carry with them and kill them at will.”

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