KARACHI: When the East Zone Women police station was established in 2009, 35 excited officers roamed around the small office, believing that they would arrest hardened criminals and solve heinous mysteries – but only three remain today.
The reason being that no such powers were granted to the stations and one by one, the female officers got themselves transferred to male police stations near their homes.
Sitting in a quiet office next to the New Town police station near old Sabzi Mandi, SHO Sajda Jamili did not hold back in sharing her disappointment with the job.
“Since we can not register FIRs, we perform security duties for dignitaries,” she grumbled while signing an application. “On other days, we perform clerical tasks.”
The east side story
On paper, there are three women police stations in the South, West and East zones of the city but in reality, the latter two have not been fully functional since their establishment three years ago.
The two stations do not have the authority to register FIRs, conduct investigations or assist victims of violence. This leaves only the South zone women police station to deal with thousands of female victims who feel uneasy sharing information with male officers.
“Look at the roof, it’s caving in! They call this a police station, but there are no lockups and no maal khana,” complained SHO Jamali while gesturing to the poor conditions around her as proof of neglect.
With paint coming off the walls, a broken printer lying in the corner, the Childs Right desk-cabin locked and her uniform hanging in the corner, she lamented, “If by mistake women complainants turn up at this station, I have to call other police stations and plead with them to register their complaint”.
Things are no different at the West Zone police station which was built within the Liaquatabad Police Station. As stray dogs roamed in the veranda, dirty and dingy stairs led to the station on the first floor. “We can not register FIRs,” said a female officer who preferred to remain anonymous. “They (the Liaquatabad station) do not involve us in the cases related to women and carry on with the investigations themselves.”
Delay in transfer of powers
The deputy inspector general police administration, Abdul Khaliq Shaikh, called the delay in transfer of powers to the women stations as ‘bureaucratic bottlenecks’.
“The authority to allow these stations to function and register FIRs lies with the chief minister but the blame for the delay is on the senior police officers who have not pursued the matter.”
He defended the recent induction of 400 women in the Sindh police. “The female officers should not be restricted to the women police stations only. They are required in traffic control, administration and even for investigation.”
According to Shaikh, the South Zone women police station will soon be provided protection equipment such as helmets and bulletproof vests.
The lack of functioning women police stations in the city creates the most problems for female victims who hesitate to confide in a male officer and often choose not to report at all.
“In our society, the male police officers are insensitive and put the female complainants in a tight spot,” said the Aurat Foundation resident director, Mahnaz Rahman, who cited the lack of women police stations as one of the main reasons why victims do not register FIRs. “We need such stations to provide easy access for female victims so that they could step forward.”