A fiery officer | Political economics



ince on Brewery Road, in Quetta, a policeman asked his driver to stop at a store in the department. As they got out of the vehicle with their daughter to enter the store, an armed person attacked the van. The driver was shot in the chest. The assassin would have liked to kill the officer who had just entered the store. The officer was recently named the first female SHO from any regular police station in Balochistan’s history.

As we walk into the Quetta Police Station, Police Station Officer (SHO) Sobia Khanum sits behind her desk. On the wall behind her hangs a board of incumbents with a dozen male officer names on it and only one female name, the current SHO.

Dressed in her uniform, two metal stars on her shoulders, the day Sub-Inspector Sobia Khanum took up her duties as SHO. She received 10 cases on the first day.

Balochistan has a strong tribal culture and women still struggle to join field missions. The province experienced a lot of turmoil. The civil conflict persisted. From nationalist insurgency to TTP, Balochistan has seen many challenges. Sobia Khanum accepted the job as a challenge, knowing full well what the job entails.

A UNODC report indicates that female police officers make up only about 1.5% of the police force in Pakistan. This number is even lower in Balochistan, where structural and cultural barriers prevent women from participating in the labor force beyond their traditional role as housewives.

“Nothing is impossible if you have the passion and the courage to be different. Of course, not everyone can cope with life’s challenges,” says Khanum.

After graduating in 2009, she passed the police department exam. She showed up first and was recruited as an Assistant Sub-Inspector (ASI). During her service, she also took and passed LLB and MA in Political Science from Balochistan University. “I didn’t tell my family about my job at first because there were only a small number of women in the police at the time,” she adds.

“Nothing is impossible if you have the passion and the courage to be different. Of course, not everyone can cope with life’s challenges,” says Khanum.

In 2013, she investigated a child abduction case. She lured the kidnapper into talking to him using a fake phone number. They arranged a meeting at a local restaurant and the culprit was captured. A 9 mm pistol was recovered from him. After further investigation, Khanum retrieved the child and arrested the mastermind behind the kidnapping. The man she had met at the restaurant had bought a stolen cell phone. The police found the kidnappers thanks to his phone records.

Recounting another prominent case from his career, the officer told TNS, “Prostitution is an unfortunate reality in our country, but we must focus on protecting the rights of all women.” In 2014, she went undercover posing as a sex worker to retrieve a 14-year-old girl her uncle had sold and who had been brought to Quetta from Punjab. “The girl revealed that she had been raped by more than 40 people. We took her to a Dar-ul-Amaan. All the culprits have been arrested and prosecuted,” she said.

As a single mother of two, Sobia Khanum is aware of the challenges life presents, but faces them with confidence.

The Balochistan Police Inspector General is supportive and wants to provide more platforms for women. “When I received the notification of my appointment, I was quite surprised. When I arrived here, the atmosphere was tense, but all my colleagues were very supportive,” says Khanum. “After joining the team, I called all the staff and assured them that we would work as a team,” she says.

In 2013, Sobia Khanum received a call from Saryab Road where a truck suspected of carrying explosives had been stopped. Amid heavy traffic, the officer rode to the scene on a bicycle. As she was looking for the truck, “Capt Razzaq Baloch asked me to move away. He was martyred trying to defuse the bomb. He was a brave officer in the demining squad,” she recalls.

Recalling the targeted murder attempt she survived, SHO Khanum says her driver informed police headquarters and then drove to the BMC, where he was treated. “It’s not easy to risk your life, but my goal is to do my job well,” says the resilient SHO.

“I had the opportunity to work with former DIG Hamid Shakil in many operations. Once we conducted a raid where we found a man hiding under the bed and seized a huge cache of weapons there. place,” she said.

Sobia Khanum believes that the women of Balochistan are competent and able to work in all fields. All they need is more opportunities. “I urge more women to join new fields, to work for themselves and for the welfare of the province and the country.”

The writer is a journalist based in Quetta

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