Islamabad: Despite rising demands and pro-women laws calling for greater contribution of women, Pakistani women are playing minimal role in society, particularly in the field of security.
Women make up less than 2 per cent of the total Pakistani police force, though a 10 per cent quota is reserved for them, according to a latest report.
This deplorable number was revealed in a recent report compiled by the National Police Bureau (NPB). According to the report, there are 391,364 police personnel across the country, of which only 5,731 are women, which means women represent 1.46 per cent of the total police force in Pakistan.
The region with the highest female participation is Gilgit-Baltistan where 3.4 per cent are women in the police force.
The worst performing region is country’s largest province Balochistan where the percentage of women in the police force is as low as 0.48 per cent.
“The situation in Balochistan is disappointing,” an official was quoted as saying by Dawn newspaper. “Only 156 policewomen are working in the largest province, where the strength of the force stands at 32,850.” The grim situation of the province is evident by the fact “there is only one inspector, one sub-inspector and one female assistant sub-inspector in the force as a majority of the women are serving as constables”.
It is not only the cultural norms and traditions that restrict women, in fact a lack of encouragement “from within the government institutions” contributes to the low ratio of women in the force, National Police Bureau officials say.
In the capital city, Islamabad, the situation was moderately better but hardly agreeable as just 278 women personnel were working there, which makes up scarcely 2.8% of the force.
In Punjab and Sindh accounts for 2,804 and 1,498 women making up 1.8 per cent and 1.5 per cent of the police force, respectively. In Pakistan-administered Kashmir, there are only 129 women serving in the 8,325-strong force, representing 1.6 per cent of the total force. In the province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, the ration of women police is as low as 1 per cent with just 683 policewomen in a force of 68,106 personnel.
Regardless of the fact that fewer women serve in Pakistan police force, the good news is that their strength has steadily improved from 0.94 per cent in 2015 to 1.46 per cent now. “The situation is not satisfactory but is certainly improving,” the Director-General of NPB Iqbal Mahmood says.
Senior police officers and legal experts believe that women police officers can portray soft image of police and improve access of women victims of violence to police services. Dr Khola Iram, a Gender and Police consultant, said that increasing number of women in police can help transform the negative police culture in Pakistan and build trust of public in police.
Shining examples of women police officers
It is heartening to note that although there are few women representing Pakistan police force but the department comprises of conscientious, educated, and poised women.
Assistant Superintendent of Police (ASP) Arsla Saleem, serving in Islamabad Police force, says police is not an easy profession for women as they have to bear discrimination at times. “I wear uniform as a police officer but not a woman,” she says, defining how she deals with the issues.
The first woman SHO in Karachi city, Syeda Ghazala, had to wait for 20 years to get promotion. She feels proud to have served this long as her presence in the police encouraged women to visit police station and report cases, which they might not record with male officials. “Women come up to me and say they are not hesitant to approach the police station,” she beams.
Naz has seen the KP police force transform from a team with only 19 women, to one with more than 600 currently. In her early days as police officer, women who wanted to join police force were looked down upon. But now the same relatives, who felt embarrassed, introduce her with pride to friends and relatives. “It isn’t a negative concept for them anymore,” she says.
District Superintendent Police Aneela Naz has served for 19 years in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Police, equally taking part in all police operations alongside her male colleagues.