Although Western donors have funded anti-corruption programs and agencies, many Afghan institutions not only tolerate corruption but implicitly encourage it. Saboor has become a famous figure, but few Afghans are likely to follow his example.
“If they don’t take bribes, they will suffer like Saboor,” said Mohammad Shafiq Hamdam, chairman of the Anti-Corruption Network, an Afghan watchdog that joined with other civil-society groups to bestow the award last month.
To see Saboor in action in Kabul’s Sherpur traffic circle is to understand why he came to the government’s attention. While his colleagues take frequent breaks and look for ways to extort drivers, Saboor leaps in front of cars that try to charge past his stop sign and blows his whistle at those threatening to accelerate before their turn.
In a city with poor roads and more than a million cars, where traffic lights were installed and promptly ignored, Saboor is famous for both his incorruptibility and his theatrics. He’s known to thousands of Afghans as “Uncle Traffic” or “Uncle Saboor.”