Inspiration

Courageous Policewomen of KP and Merged Districts

Women are thought to be too fragile for the frontline while obstacles still remain in achieving gender equality in many organizations not just in Pakistan but across the world. Saving lives under fire and working to provide security sounds like a tough and hefty job for a female but women have made many inroads in the field of protecting and policing. Pakistan is no different in this respect with women joining the police force all across the country.
The number of women in the police force is increasing in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP), like in other departments and amazingly many of these women hail from erstwhile Tribal Areas, where a few years ago women’s employment was frowned upon. The provincial government has inducted thousands of Levies into the police force and used them to employ and train women. Although women are outnumbered by their male counterparts, they have taken on a much more proactive role; they are not only performing their duties but also advising other Pashtun women to take advantage of their skills and education to join the police force without fear.
Jamila Begum is one of the five women among the 4,000-strong police force deployed in Mohmand District. She not only performs her duties behind the desk but also participates in several search operations with her male colleagues, including multiple checking points. According to Jamila, apart from her officers and colleagues, the general public also respects and encourages her and despite living in a tribal society, she has realized that she is not inferior or different from others. Jamila believes that the police force needs more courageous women.
Jamila added, “Hundreds of girls, including me, are working in the KP police. Although their numbers are low, it is gratifying that local people, parents and the society are now showing women great support in pursuing government and non-government jobs.”
On the issue, another policewoman, Nayab, performing her duties in Mohmand District said, “I have been involved with security department for the last two years and I take pride in being part of such a force that brings peace in the province and has sacrificed many lives by playing a pivotal role.” 
Upon asking about the barriers, Nayab said, “I am a local and my father has been part of the force. Because I do not have a brother, so my father proudly got me recruited despite the stereotypical comments from the community, which tried to create hindrances for me.” 
After the FATA merger, she got regular training from the police to protect and serve the people in her district. "Among the KP senior police officers who trained us, were three women who actively took part during the 2009-2010 operations against the terrorists and arrested several terrorists while killing many in encounters,” she added.
Although breaking the glass ceiling is a long process, yet the effort to integrate women into this profession is remarkable. The police department has started working towards closing the gap of lack of women’s representation in the field. To combat with the cliché mindset that women cannot operate heavy machinery, Nayab shared her experience: “There was an officer who conducted my training and told us that she fought with the terrorists alongside male police officers in areas like Badaber, Chamkani and Sarban and she used heavy weapons in addition to normal guns.” Such strong women set a professional pattern that the job of a female is not only limited to house chores and serving the family but if provided with opportunities, they can excel in serving the nation as well.  
Another woman police officer who asked not to disclose her identity said that she works side by side with male colleagues and admires the patronage and encouragement by her seniors. “Seeing the support of colleagues, my sister and cousin have decided to become a part of the police force and are now taking training from the provincial police training center,” she added.
According to her, women are equally important during search operations, because in KP and specifically tribal society, it is unacceptable for a male to go inside a house for the raid when needed. Being a female gives an advantage as none can deny a female police officer to enter their space for enquiry. Moreover, policewomen endure the excessive desert heat, chilly winters and learn to become an equal part of the force. Policewomen’s roles also orbit around assisting in taking care of children and women in prisons while aiding women who are victims of crime. 
When asked about the need of female representation in police forces, Rafia Qasim Baig, first female Bomb Disposal Officer, said, “There are hundreds of women in the provincial police and dozens of them serve as police officers. Some of these brave women amazingly serve as Traffic Police and have gained a lot of fame by performing excellent work in their field.” 
“My mother was not happy when I opted to join the force. When I came to Peshawar to give my interview back in 2009, a suicide bomb attack took place, which scared my mother. It was a dream to serve the country, despite my mother’s unwillingness.” she added.
Rafia Baig further said, “Women in KP and tribal districts are taking a noticeable and stronger role in the field. They are taking an active part in fighting terrorism and brave women like Alia Ahmed (Mingora, Swat) and Shamshad Begum (Hangu) have sacrificed their valuable lives in the line of duty. The biggest help for me are my in-laws, who not only co-operate but also take care of my child when needed.”
The opportunities for women in the police force have increased over time in KP and merged districts, but overall, the statistics remain low. Barriers to achieving the goals of gender equality exist, whereas the representation of women in senior positions also remains low.
In addition for many years the quota for women in government jobs went unoccupied. The recruitment of women in KP police is not driven to fill the gender gap but because of the need to carry out raids or arrest insurgents specifically in tribal areas where men cannot enter a house. The induction of women in police is instrumental but as yet to be a common norm.
By looking at the active participation of women in KP police, the females in tribal districts need to come forward to serve the community. Increasing the number of female representation in police forces in tribal districts also requires attention, as there are several areas where women’s involvement is necessary. The focus must also be placed on stimulating public attitudes towards women in the police force, as many tribal elders oppose the police system. Even then such women are fighting against the odds and performing their job with great zeal and zest. HH


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