Pakistan People’s Party had promised in its 2013 manifesto to ensure that women will be inducted in larger numbers to offset gender imbalances in the police force.
Women were brought into the police force through legislation passed in 1994. Following the law, one police station was immediately established in Sindh and women police officers from constable to sub-inspectors were hired. The law did not auger well with many people, who later went on to challenge it in court. Siding with the dissenters, the court ordered the abolition of the law. However, later an appeal against the decision helped restore the law through a service tribunal.
As of today, the situation of Sindh women police officers is deplorable. Superintendent Police, (SP) City Division Karachi, Shehla Qureshi, told Truth Tracker that the pay scale that ranges from 12 to 22 thousand hardly enables a junior female police officer to make her ends meet. “Most of the pay,” she said, “was spent on transportation fare.” Talking about the facilities given in women police stations she said even the sitting arrangement was not appropriate. “Because women police officers were in short supply,” Shehla elaborated; “each officer was forced to do 12 to 18 hours duty.” However, Qureshi added that the officer was not provided with any room in the police station where she could rest. When asked about the postings and promotion details, she said that there are only three Station Head Officers, One SP, one SP training, one ASP and a few DSP in Sindh. Qureshi added: “Women were not posted as moharar (clerk), beat officers, and petrol officers. There was a dearth of women SHOs, but no recruitment to that effect is being done.” “These are the main issues because of which women feel discouraged about joining the police force.” She requested the Sindh government to computerize the service data of the women police force so that each one of them should know where they stand in terms of merit and seniority. “Punjab and KP have done it, what is stopping the Sindh government from doing so as well?” asked Qureshi.
According to a study carried out in a book ‘Women police unfurled in Pakistan: Perspective, Status and Perspective’ by Saima Manzoor Arain, there is no policy for upgrading their skills in professional areas for the women police officers in Sindh. “Females are considered as waste products and a show piece in the police department.” Highlighting the psycho-socio-cultural issues, the study revealed that the general thinking is that women police officers are ineffective and are usually engaged in family matters. “It is because of this mind-set” argues Arain in her book, “that many women police officers are not posted in areas where they can prove their professional worth by performing efficiently.”
It is appalling to note that despite the fact that women make up half of the country’s population, their representation in the police force is one per cent even though a quota of 10 per cent is reserved for them.
According to the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI)’s report titled ‘Rough Roads to Equality: Women Police in South Asia August 2015’, the total strength of women police officers in Sindh was 902 (0.61 per cent). The total number of police officers had been recorded just over 4,000 out of the total police force of 425,000. SP City Division Karachi Shehla Qureshi told Truth Tracker that this data was still relevant, as there have been no significant changes over the past two years.
Talking about the importance of having women police officers, Qureshi said that 98 per cent of the cases involving women pertain to domestic violence. “The male police officers,” she said, “usually made the women feel victimized by telling her that she should reconcile with the situation. This sermonizing usually leads to a patch-up that aggravates domestic violence against women.” “In the case of a women police officer,” Qureshi explained, “at least a FIR is registered against men, which in many cases has led to a reduction in violence against women even after the patch-up.”
Sharmila Farooqi, Pakistan People Party’s senior leader and a member of the Sindh Assembly agreed that women police officers were not only in short supply but were also paid deplorably low salary. According to Farooqi, “A low pay scale, long working hours, the absence of promotion, and a dearth of women police officers at the top positions have discouraged women from joining the police force.”
“I have suggested to the Chief Minister Sindh that there should be one women’s police station in every district.” She said that in the next session of the Sindh Assembly she would take up this issue. “The situation is so bad that we were unable to meet the quota for women in the police force,” she said. “The only way to motivate women to join the police force is by increasing their pay scale and by improving working conditions,” she added.
“The promotion issue not only affects the police department, but it prevails in nearly every department in Sindh,” said Farooqi. She recommended that the solution lied in establishing a system that governs departmental promotions.
Shazia Mari, the member of National Assembly from PPP, told Truth Tracker that the situation is not as bleak, however, it cannot be called encouraging either. She confirmed that police stations in every district of Sindh did have a women’s desk and that there were eight women police stations in Sindh out of which three were in Karachi and one in Hyderabad, Shaheed Benazirabad, Mirpurkhas, Larkana, and Sukkur. She agreed that the strength of the female quota in Sindh police should be made proportionate to the strength of the overall police force to have a fair representation of the female police officers.
“Currently there is a ban on the recruitment of new women police officers, which has contributed to the shortage of women police force.”
“It is wrong to say that women police officers have not been promoted,” said Mari. “Nine inspectors and 16 sub-inspectors have been promoted to the rank of DSP and Inspectors, in March 2017,” she added. “The existing women cadre in Sindh Police is not enough,” Mari concluded.
Faisal Sabzwari from MQM and a member of the Sindh Assembly sneered at the performance of the Sindh government regarding women police force. “Do you expect the PPP to do anything substantial for women police officers when the condition of the general police force is substandard?” said Sabzwari. He said that reforms and governance were not the real issues of the PPP government.
“I am not surprised to know that the women police force has been neglected in Sindh.” He agreed that given our culture, we direly need more women police officers to provide a comfort level to the women coming to police stations.
Humaira Masihuddin, Lawyer and Criminology Consultant, based in Islamabad, said that it was vital to have women comprising a good number of the police force. She said, “Women do not come to police stations as victims only, they have also been brought to jail as offenders as well.” “Women required a certain kind of handling,” Masihuddin said. “It is unfortunate that deliberate structural obstacles and biases have been created in the system to de-motivate women police officers.”
“We need to, however, keep one thing in mind that it is not about quantity only, it is about the quality of the police force as well. It has been observed that women police officers are not imparted the required modern techniques or skills that would make them efficient and effective police officers,” said Masihuddin.
PPP agrees that it has been unable to balance gender disparity in the police force while being equally ignorant of the deteriorating basic work environment and job satisfaction for women police officers. The promise stands broken.