PESHAWAR, July 23: The women in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa will be facilitated to lodge a complaint with police by sending just an SMS from their cellular phones instead of visiting a police station, according to officials.

An SMS would be enough to set the government machinery in motion to reach out to the women in distress. The service would start soon and the cellular phone numbers of central police office would be publicised for womenfolk to file a complaint or inform police about any high-handedness.

“The concept behind this initiative is that if a citizen doesn’t have access to help, the state is responsible to provide security and help by reaching out to such citizens in trouble”, said Azam Khan, the secretary of home department, which supervises the police department.

“Looking at the hesitation that women face in availing police help, it seems practical that police should reach out to such complainants,” the official said.

He said that a woman would not have to go through the hassle of visiting a police station. A team of the police station concerned along with women police would go to her in the shortest possible time after receiving her SMS, Mr Khan said.

Due to cultural inhibitions and women-unfriendly atmosphere at the police stations, women usually hesitate from going to police for help even if they are facing some problem and want to file a complaint. The only women police station is located at the police lines in Peshawar which is inaccessible for women. Moreover, the women police station is powerless in many respects as it can’t register an FIR but it is just being used as a lock-up for women accused or resting quarters for policewomen.

“The women police station can’t cater to every such complaint. So the central police office (CPO) would receive the SMS and then direct the police station concerned to respond within hours”, said the official.

He said that women police would be also involved as they would call the complainants and take their feedback on whether they got positive and immediate response of the local police stations or not.

The provincial government of Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf, vowing to reform the thana culture, has also decided to set up women help desks at police stations so that women could be facilitated if they turn up for filing a complaint.

However, women will have to go to a police station for filing a complaint as these help desks will be set up in the police stations. According to rights activists, women find it hard to file even a simple complaint in the male dominated police stations with its typical procedure and mindset which discourages and delays registration of FIR. Women hesitate to file complaints due to cultural inhibitions as well as general atmosphere at the police stations.

However, the provincial home department has come up with some practical solutions so that access to police for help could be improved especially for women and those, who usually find it hard to be heard at such forums.

“In addition to help desks at the police stations for women, police would also go to the doorstep of a woman complainant on just receiving an SMS,” the official said.

Not only women but the men, who have no connection with the powerful and rich people, also find it hard to get their complaints registered at police stations. They often have to wait for hours to simply just get their complaint registered.

Police have been directed to start a token system to get their turn on time. The police stations would be inspected occasionally to see if all those, who have tokens get the service on time or not.

Another practical step by the government to bring reforms at police station level is that the complainants, who want to report a heinous crime like extortion or kidnapping for ransom, would also be facilitated to do so by sending just an SMS to the CPO, which would direct the police station concerned to take action.