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Police officer Syeda Ghazala, gets ready to leave for patrolling in Karachi. - Photo AP
Police officer Syeda Ghazala, gets ready to leave for patrolling in Karachi. - Photo AP

KARACHI. Just days into her job running a police station in the country’s largest city, Syeda Ghazala had to put her training to the test: she opened fire with her .22-caliber pistol at a man who shot at police when they tried to pull him over during a routine traffic stop.

It's not clear whether it was Ghazala's shots that wounded the man before he was arrested, but as the first woman to run a police station in violent Karachi, she'll likely have many more chances to hit her mark.

When Ghazala joined the police force two decades ago, she never dreamed that one day she would head a police station staffed by roughly 100 police officers - all men.

Her recent promotion is part of efforts by the local police to increase the number of women in the force and in positions of authority.

Shortly after she assumed her new job, the city appointed a second woman to head another police station. The appointments represent a significant step for women's empowerment.

“The mindset of people is changing gradually, and now they (have) started to consider women in leading roles. My husband opposed my decision to join the police force 20 years ago,” said the 44-year-old mother of four. But by the time this job rolled around, he had come full circle and encouraged her to go for it. “It was a big challenge. I was a little bit hesitant to accept it.”

The station house is in Clifton, a posh area home to the elite of this sprawling metropolis of more than 18 million people. But in a city prone to family feuds, political unrest and extremist violence - where 166 officers were killed in the line of duty last year - it's by no means an easy assignment.

Crimes ranging from petty theft and muggings to terrorism or murder are all part of a day's work, Ghazala says.

Running a station is a high-profile job in the police, one that requires the officer to constantly interact with the public and fellow officers. It's also a key path to advancement.

Senior police officer Abdul Khaliq Sheikh, said he and others in the top brass hope Ghazala's appointment leads to more women joining the force.

“Our society accepts only stereotype roles for women. There is a perception that women are suitable only for particular professions like teaching,” he said.

The police force is also training the first batch of female commandos, a group of 44 women going through a physically intensive course involving rappelling from towers or helicopters and shooting an assortment of weapons.

Currently, the two in Karachi are the only women running police stations in Pakistan. In Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, where women make up less than one percent of the roughly 75,000-member police force, women only run stations specifically designed to help female crime victims.

In Balochistan province, there are only 90 women on the police force and no women station heads. In Punjab, only one woman has ever run a station house, back in 2005, but currently no women hold the position.

Ghazala said most people she has encountered in her new job have been supportive, and she's become a bit of a celebrity in the neighborhood. She said during her career she's only had a few instances where she's felt discrimination.

When she got the highest marks in a training course required for promotion, some of the men objected, saying that in Islam women couldn't lead men. But she said the commander simply told the men they should have gotten better grades.

“It was the only moment somebody objected to me as a woman,” she said. “Otherwise, all my career, fellow and senior officers encouraged me a lot.”

Comments (34) Closed

aamir Jun 15, 2014 02:55pm

Good ma'am. Good to see you serve the nation. God bless you.

khanm Jun 15, 2014 03:37pm

Defying stereotypes in chaotic Karachi... It is time to go MONO... time to take the bull by the horn. wish you all the best..

Ahmed Jun 15, 2014 04:12pm

Go Ghazala catch them!

Muhammad Jun 15, 2014 04:22pm

All the Best. God speed.

mba Jun 15, 2014 04:54pm

Congratulations and Good luck. We certainly need more women-power everywhere in Pakistan.

Cut & Paste Jun 15, 2014 04:56pm

Copied please atleast name the source of the news

Al Jun 15, 2014 05:28pm

So delighted, Syeda! As a minority Christian, I wish you all the best in your difficult task! Above all, STAYY SAFE!

akram Jun 15, 2014 05:33pm

Pakistan will develop implementation of the law much faster if they accelerate the induction of women in to the police at higher levels. The evidence from other countries is that it reduces corruption, and leads to a more responsive force.

Subhash Jun 15, 2014 06:20pm

A great step. Wishing all the best to Ms Ghazala.

Landikotal wala Jun 15, 2014 06:20pm

Great uplifting article. So good to know there are women police officers. Doing great too.

shamir baloch Jun 15, 2014 06:56pm

syeda Ghazala Congrulations and best of luck, we need more of like you in police.

Abdul Majid Khan Jun 15, 2014 07:23pm

Beynazir Bhutto was PM of Pakistan, the highest administrative post in Pakistan. There are many women head or on very senior positions in the ministries, judiciary, army and Air force. Hundreds Thousands men and police men work under them. Why men and Policemen do not and did not raise objection to work under a women and resigned from their posts. Shariah is commonly misused by Mullahs and others for their advantage.

CYMA Jun 15, 2014 07:54pm

Way to go Girl!!!!!!! Girl Power....

Some PAkistani Jun 15, 2014 08:05pm

A shining example of a generation tired of living in fear. Unfortunately, the government fails to equip our men/women properly. The enemy has AK47s while the officer responding has a 22 millimeter hand gun. Good luck and be safe.

Tariq K Sami Jun 15, 2014 08:10pm

Yes Ma'am.

Aftab Alam Khan Jun 15, 2014 08:38pm

She would definitely deliver in view of her 20 years experience in Police department.

Bilal Jun 15, 2014 09:17pm

Anybody remembers the drama serial on PTV "Pas e Aina" ? There was a lady police officer who solved cases. What was the actress's name?

Hornet Jun 15, 2014 09:34pm

@Muhammad . We are proud of you Ghazala. You are taking the bull by the horn. Allah Bless you with courage. Ameen

Ayub Jun 15, 2014 09:48pm

At last!! Perhaps we can leave the dark ages behind. May Allah keep you safe & guide you always.

Husain Jan Jun 15, 2014 10:22pm

@Ahmed Catch "them"...whom ? Those criminals and activists affiliated with major political parties ? The real test for this policewoman would be to (try and ) catch and then refuse to release them under pressure from high ups.

Shaan Jun 15, 2014 10:46pm

Congratulations and Good Luck !! I am very proud of you. Also, women know how to lead a household very well. They can do a very good job in managing bigger "households" like communities and cities as well. I am an American man of Pakistani descent and very proud when I see Women in Pakistan getting such empowerment.

sarwar Jun 16, 2014 12:54am

wish you best of luck

IKE Jun 16, 2014 01:10am

Now that Congrats are over. Women, in police or army, air force or navy or in any other service will be celebrated for short time. That short time is almost over. Performance will be the next thing that we the people demand. I personally do not care if an SHO is a man or woman, but I do care if he/she can perform and is corruption free or not.

Asif Hussain Jun 16, 2014 02:13am

Let us hope that women are less corrupt than men. They must be paid a decent salary to avoid corruption and as they put their life in harms way.

Man from Uncle Jun 16, 2014 06:51am

How much to file an FIR? or will it be free of charge.

Sheikh Parviz Jun 16, 2014 07:24am

Congrats Syeda. You make all us Pakistanis proud

habibullah Jun 16, 2014 08:54am

There are lot of countries, prime office has been occupied through election including twice by Benazir. HAZARAT AYSHA played role of commanding war known as War on Camels against her own son-in-law HAZART ALI so wish you good luck and pray harder for your life to Syeda Gazala.

zafarov Jun 16, 2014 09:39am

How wonderful! This represents a very positive step to eradicate misogyny and the injustices of our patriarchal society.

Asif Hussain Jun 16, 2014 10:28am

Let us hope that women bring more honesty than men to this post. It will also help to pay these people decent wages to prevent bribery, after all they do face much danger and put their life on line.

ABL Jun 16, 2014 10:43am

This is like finding a 'good news' from a pile of horrible news from my beloved country. A beacon of hope and motivation.

A Rehman Jun 16, 2014 11:53am

Its time to stop boasting about non sense. Women rappelling from towers and helicopters, guys wake up. Its just cosmetics and far from reality. I have all the serious doubts about their on ground performance. Would have been much better if the same budget could be spent on lads or men who could be of real benefit in all times of emergency. By these showcase moves, believe me, we are not transforming into USA, we shall remain what we are and must plan accordingly.

Inam-Ullah Khan Jun 16, 2014 01:54pm

Excellent! We all from Pskistan must be proud to have such courageous Ladies in our ranks to lead the Nation in a right and progressive direction. I think, if our government and its concerned officials appriciate such an endeavour, may our Country be able to overcome the intensity of current violence and crime rate in a short period of the required time. Thanks

A Rehman Jun 16, 2014 02:33pm

Beware Karachiites, there is a woman with a gun on the road.

Patriot Muslim Jun 16, 2014 03:39pm

@A Rehman Very rightly said, women have physical weaknesses and physically she cannot be at par with males. Just seeing from the outside is ok, but when u have to handle a bunch of women in manly fields, the choice is obviously men.