A Brave Female Police Officer

Female officers are a promising addition.

In a society fraught with an anomalous synthesis of ignorance and fanaticism to the core, how a police officer should rise to the thrownup challenge was aptly shown by a brave female police officer, Assistant Superintendent of Police (ASP) Shehr Bano Naqvi, serving at the Gulberg Police Station, Lahore.

On February 25, near Pakistan Chowk (Ichhra) Lahore, a woman on a shopping spree found herself in the eye of the storm on hearing incendiary utterances of fellow shoppers blaming her to have committed a sacrilegious act by wearing an attire having words “Halwa” printed on it. Soon the shoppers got transformed into a crowd ready to penalize her then and there. It was the Arabic font of writing which made the shoppers take the printed words for some deified religious script and which provoked them into laying siege to the restaurant where the woman had taken refuge to save her life.

Police Helpline 15, which was informed of the gravity of situation by some sane bystander, was quick to draw the attention of the Dolphin police force, which reached the spot hurriedly. The Dolphin being the fighting force found itself handicapped in handling the crowd and rescue the accused woman. This was the time when ASP Naqvi entered the scene to negotiate with the crowd to let her take the woman along.

Years ago, there was a magistracy system in place to deal with a raging crowd before the police could be called to preside over the situation. Now, in the absence of any such system, it is left to the police in field to handle a crowd that could be raucous and ferocious to the extent that it can defy and attack the police.

In 2021, in Sialkot district, a group of people did vigilante lynching of a Sri Lankan factory manager Priyantha Kumara Diyawadana after accusing him of having committed an act of blasphemy. He was beaten to death and then his corpse was set ablaze. The gruesome incident might have outraged conscientious Pakistanis but a precious life had been lost. All efforts to project the much-touted soft image of Pakistan was foundered on the slackness of the area police, which remained onlookers and which tried to produce alibis of their absence from the scene. Such is a strength of a frenzy crowd charged with the sentiment of religious contention, respectful or even fearful of none. It is the indecisiveness of the police that permits to cause an act of vigilante – even if it were in the name of religion.

In this case, at least, the police did not succumb. ASP Naqvi garnered strength to address and pacify the crowd and pluck up the courage to take the woman out of the restaurant safely to the police vehicle. At least, someone spoke to the crowd and made an attempt to mollify it. It is easy said than done. For a young female police officer, it was a challenge of lifetime. It was a great feat to wade into the crowd and take the woman through it. The officer’s failure could have cost the woman her life. Moreover, in the rescue mission, there was a risk of being attacked by some fanatic from the crowd, but the risk was worth taking by the officer to save a precious innocent life.

The example entails a precedent for male police officers, who refuse to show up on any such trying occasion. They must learn from the courage of this young female police officer, who put in danger her own life to save another life. This is called leading from the front. Well done!

Then began the next phase: to bring on board religious leaders to comprehend the matter fully before they start issuing religious decrees. At this juncture, the police did a marvelous job in dissolving the matter before an unrest surfaced against the accused woman and even the police. Nevertheless, the woman must also have been reprimanded for displaying even a misconception in a society not prepared for openness. The accused woman was fortunate for being a Muslim; otherwise, a non-Muslim laden with the blame of blasphemy would have presented the worst case scenario. The incident must prompt the police into launching an awareness campaign to make women understand the realities of their society, which is still conservative to border on radicalism. There is festering religious sentiment ever ready to get erupted. One such sentiment consumed the life of Governor of Punjab, Salman Taseer.

Anyway, joining the police department by educated females is vital for curbing male chauvinism in society, but then the wish is that the female police officers would not join the male camp. Instead, they would look after the woman section of society. In the past, the police were to be physically overpowering, but the modern day policing is to use brain and technology to stay ahead of criminals. Female officers are a promising addition. Nevertheless, the significance of Police Helpline 15 and the role of the Dolphin police force cannot be underestimated. Both are examples of dedication to their work. They also deserve appreciation for the work they perform daily to serve people.

Dr Qaisar Rashid 

The writer is a freelance columnist. He can be reached at qaisarrashid @yahoo.com

ePaper - Nawaiwaqt