Pakistani woman police officer saves the life of a woman threatened by a mob in Lahore

Police Service of Pakistan/Flickr
March 18, 2024

Gulberg SDPO Sheharbano Naqvi responded to a violent mob in Lahore’s Ichhra Bazaar, which had surrounded a woman dining with her husband at a local restaurant. The mob had accused the woman of blasphemy for wearing a dress allegedly carrying some Quranic text. At great personal risk, Naqvi saved the woman from an angry mob.

Naqvi has since said it is important to recruit women at various ranks in the Police Department to ensure better service delivery and performance. “Though there is now a healthy trend of more women joining the police force, the table is still full of men,” she says. In the Police Department, she says, women currently make up only 2 to 3 percent, “which is quite inadequate. There is a dire need to increase this number… women must not be less than 50 percent.”

As women make up half the population of the country, Naqvi argues, more women are needed to provide necessary and equitable government services such as in policing, law and security.

She went on to state that women police officers are better administrators as they know how to manage in different situations for better service delivery in a male-dominated Police Department. “They also know how to derive strength from their seniors and male counterparts to establish their authority,” she adds.

She says there is considerable evidence that women not only have a profound impact on the culture of policing, but also bring their own set of skills to a traditionally male-dominated culture, “and that is definitely very helpful.”

“Women are better skilled at using communication to help defuse potentially volatile situations,” she says.

“The higher the women are placed in ranks, the better they can serve the society as well as the Police Department.”

She says there is now an encouraging number of senior lady police officers in the department. There are many ASPs and SSPs, she says, adding that “if the trends continue, in a few years you will see senior female officers everywhere in the Police Departments across Pakistan.”

Referring to the Ichhra incident, she says “Unfortunately, we are living in a time when common people have stopped raising their voices; the extremists, on the other hand, have gained strength.”

“As a society we have degenerated,” the SDPO says.

“When I was rushing to save the woman that day, I noticed that only five-minute walk away, people were behaving as if nothing out of the ordinary was happening.”

She says another area where lady police officers can make a significant difference is in addressing violence against women and sex crimes.

For this act of bravery, Naqvi has been recommended for the Quaid-i-Azam Police Medal.

Women make up less than 3 percent of Pakistan’s police force. Despite quotas in place, institutional barriers and societal prejudice have made career progression an increasingly uphill battle for most women. Male-dominated policing continues to be pervasive, leaning heavily towards physical traits, such as height, weight and brute strength. Moreover, the police force lacks gender-responsive infrastructure, policies and processes. Many police facilities even lack female restrooms, and there is little support available for women’s transportation when assigned to a field job.

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