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First women police station of the region in Rawalakot. Image Credit: Supplied

Islamabad: An all-women staffed police station has been launched in the northern city of Rawalakot to empower women and widen access to justice.

The 11-member police station was formally inaugurated on October 25. Sub-Inspector Zahida Hanif is leading as the station house officer (SHO). There are two sub-inspectors, four head constables and five lady constables at the Rawalakot police station, the first women police station in Pakistan-administered Kashmir.

Pakistan all women police station
All-women police station SHO Zahida Hanif. Image Credit: Supplied.

Talking to Gulf News, SHO Zahida Hanif said that it was an “immensely proud moment” for her to serve as the SHO of the region’s first all-women police station. “All our female police officers are excited to achieve this recognition and feel more empowered” in their current roles.

“This is the first time in my 26-year career as a police officer that I feel so confident and more in control,” she said expressing her delight. She was thankful for the support from the men colleagues throughout. “All credit is due to our senior officers especially Inspector General of Police (IGP) Dr Sohail Habib Tajik whose efforts were instrumental in establishing the Rawalakot women police station.”

The station would focus on investigating complaints cases of harassment of women in workplaces or educational institutions, cyberstalking, child abuse, domestic issues mainly violence, civil issues such as property disputes, Dr Tajik said.

The all-women police station will also help change the public attitude towards the police and widen women’s access to criminal justice by making them feel safer and secure to report violence and access services in the presence of female officers. One of the biggest challenges in the community is that women do not report cases of domestic violence as they don’t feel comfortable approaching these all-men police stations, SHO Zahida explained.

Sub-Inspector Zahida says she joined the police service in 1995, fulfilling her lifelong dream of becoming a police offer to make the neighbourhoods better and safer. “I was encouraged by my family especially my father to join the service.” In her new role, she aims to ensure women’s access to justice and also encourage young girls to join the police force.

Women make up only 160 of the approximate strength of 8,000 police officers in AJK. Zahida believes that the women police officers at the Rawalakot station “will serve as role models for the local women and girls to consider a career in policing.”