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Policing male-dominated society with confidence

By: Xari Jalil

LAHORE: Constable Ambreen Akhtar has been working at the Lohari police station as naib moharrar for the one month and sits in a room that is old, decrepit and with paint peeling off.

It appears to be a relaxed environment for her to work in. Her senior and other colleagues interact freely with her, always inserting some ‘office humour’.

Since her posting here, Ms Akhtar has adjusted well in the new place, and has felt no kind of typical chauvinistic behaviour from any of her colleagues.

In the beginning, she faced some problems being the only woman in the police station.

“In the beginning, there was no separate toilet for women,” she says.

Now, there is a toilet which is locked and she has its key.

Otherwise, she says, however decrepit the building is, there are no other problems.

“There are all kinds of people in every workplace,” she goes on. “This is the male-dominated sector, and there are some men who are sleazy and cannot stop being personal and flirtatious with any young woman who takes care of her appearance. But at the same time there are other men who once exposed to the presence of women have the ability to accept them in the force, and to treat them as friends.”

Unlike Lohari, her colleagues at the Shahdara police station were not friendly. She says she had to face chauvinism to such an extent that she requested to be transferred.

Head Moharrar Rafaqat, who sits at the same table, speaks about the importance of women in police.

“There should be at least three women in a police station,” he says. “At first when we had to raid a place where women are present, we had to wait for hours after requesting Police Lines to send us some woman police officers.

“Now if there is a raid, we take Akhtar with us. And as a worker she has excellent timings, and does not take irregular off either.”

Ms Akhtar says that she heard some other women officers who were fresh graduates, earlier stationed there, had left an impression of being ‘weak’ officials.

“I heard that they would cry a lot. I believe that there is a great need for a lot more professionalism coming from women themselves. A lot of them are still very immature and are not suited for such a job. Or else they should drop their fragility and try to become more thick skinned.”

Again Rafaqat says the women who work at police stations are much more adept at practical work and are more efficient in policing matters than those who come from Police Lines.

“It is a hard and grueling task to work in a police station, even though most women come in during the day,” he says. He says that the Lohari Gate police station does not receive too many applications – maybe a couple daily – and especially not of heinous crimes.

“I was a platoon monitor in the passing parade and I’ve excelled in almost everything I was trained for over there,” she says of her training.

“But the problem is people sometimes just don’t look at women in a good way. Outside they see an only woman walking into a police station full of men. When on field they don’t see a police woman in uniform, they see a woman who is a potential target for their sleaziness. But there must be enough confidence and strength in yourself that you ignore such things and act with authority. Once they see your authority, they back down themselves.”

Some of the tough duties that Ms Akhtar has recently done were to be part of Data Sahib urs, polling station and Chehlum procession duties.

She belongs to the very first batch of women moharrar which graduated from the Chung Police Institute.

When she walks into the workplace, Ms Akhtar leaves behind her personal matters.

“I’ve always been lucky enough to have my parents’ support. They even came to meet me at work and left impressed. My father could not believe I was his little girl,” she smiles.

“I myself have a little girl of over two years and my only objective in life now is to take care of her all by myself. This is what propels me the most although I was always interested in joining the police force.”

In professional life, she gives importance to her personal safety.

“It’s a mean world out there and there are no second chances,” she says. “So we, especially the women, must be very careful about everything we do and how we come across. Everything must be carefully thought out. At times it seems unfair but that is the reality of it.”