Does the all-female police force in Pakistan work?

The New York Times/ Women in the World: April 29, 2015

Peshawar

While growing up, Ayesha*, now a 28-year-old police official in Peshawar, the capital of Pakistan’s northern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, loved stories of cops and robbers. Not just any cops—the stars of a state-sponsored television show, Pas-e-Aaina (Behind the Mirror), about an all-female police station, which aired in Pakistan in the late 1990s. In the show, men—thieves, rapists, murderers—would be brought before the station head quavering and pleading, and she would mete out justice for the women these men had wronged.

“Inspector Shehla!” Ayesha crowed out the name of her role model. “When I was just 10 years old, I would watch her on the show and I’d think about the kind of job I wanted as an adult. I imagined a place where only men worked, a male profession,” she explained. “I saw myself as the brave, strong girl in their midst—a girl brave enough to work side-by-side with these men.” And, she added smiling, “That’s exactly what happened.”

Ayesha is one of 300 women who are part of the 67,000-strong police force in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, a province that made international headlines last December after a brutal attack on a school in Peshawar by members of the Tehreek-e-Taliban left reportedly left 150—including at least 134 children—dead. Ayesha heads one of seven “women’s complaint desks” set up in the summer of 2013 at police stations in Peshawar, just after former cricketer Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party swept the polls in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa during the May 2013 general elections in Pakistan.

Women, it was believed at the time, would feel more comfortable coming to a female police official to register a complaint, and the establishment of the desks was widely praised as a much-needed reformation of the police system in the province. In 2014 alone, the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan found that 232 women in Pakistan suffered acid attacks or were burned, the majority by someone they knew; 859 committed suicide, often due to domestic abuse, and 461 were killed by their husbands. There are currently 65 such desks across the province hoping to cut down these grave statistics. But has the experiment worked?

Full story here

More photos from Peshawar on my Instagram

Photo: Entrance to the all-female police station in Police Lines, Peshawar

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Who killed Sabeen Mahmud?

The New York Times/ Women in the World: April 26, 2015

SM

That which was squashed by others
Was lifted by this slight one
-Mir Taqi Mir

On Friday April 24th, the city of Karachi lost one of its bravest daughters. Sabeen Mahmud, a rights activist and the owner of The Second Floor (T2F) café, was shot dead shortly after she hosted an event that sought to highlight grave human rights abuses widely attributed to the Pakistan Army and associated militia in the country’s largest province of Balochistan. By Saturday afternoon the café where, since 2007, residents of Karachi could talk about virtually any subject—religion, ethnicity, sexuality, politics or even just the merits of the latest Apple invention—fell silent as Sabeen’s body was brought in by well-wishers, admirers, friends and family members. There were too many shoulders jostling to help carry the weight of the bier holding Sabeen’s slight, forty-year-old frame. She would have been 41 this June and had never been so still for so long in this café, for hers was a manic, irrepressible energy.

I was often irked by Sabeen’s optimism. When I spoke with her last week about a project we were collaborating on, I asked, tired, “How is everything going?” She replied, “Oh its madness! But the best kind.” I wondered how her spirit did not flag—or at least did not appear to—even as she lived in a place that did not always respond kindly to her attempts to fix what was broken and change what was flawed.

Obituary here

Photo: Ali Rez