PESHAWAR: A senior Pakistani woman police officer who recently received the Officer of the Year award from the International Association of Women Police (IAWP) in New Zealand has been recognized for her work on gender-based violence and for increasing the number of women reporting crimes as well as encouraging female participation in community policing.
The award was given in Auckland earlier this week to Sonia Shamroz Khan, currently posted as District Police Officer (DPO) in Battagram in Pakistan’s deeply conservative Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.
Before her current assignment, she had served in the picturesque tourist resort of Chitral for two years where she took the initiative of setting up complaint cells to deal with gender-based crimes and forced marriages.
In a telephone interview from New Zealand, Khan said she was given the award at a ceremony attended by diplomats and nearly 350 women from 75 countries.
“I am the first Asian and second Muslim woman to receive this Officer of the Year award for my policing and services to the community,” she said. “My presence encouraged female complainants to speak up and share their problems which led to enhanced reporting of women related issues at local police stations.”
Khan has dedicated her award to her parents, the police force and survivors of gender-based violence.
“We succeeded in resolving the grievances of women in Chitral,” Khan said. “An increase in women reporting [crimes], fighting against gender-based violence and female participation in community policing were main reasons behind why I got this award.”
Khan said suicides among women were on the rise In Chitral when she served there due to gender-based violence and underage marriages. The cop had to fight on “various fronts” to get women protection cells activated, which saw more and more women coming forward to report their problems to the police.
“While serving in Chitral, I played a lead role in passing a resolution in the local government to streamline marriages of local women with non-local men,” Khan said. “I established a formal procedure which required non-locals to undergo a verification procedure which considerably reduced marriage-related complaints and the problem of underage weddings.”
Khan said has been able to achieve so much despite initial resistance from family.
“My family is conservative and my relatives did not want me to join the police initially in 2013,” she said. “But gradually these challenges turned into opportunities when I started getting positive feedback and the output of my work was recognized.”
Khan has also been praised by her colleagues for fostering stronger connections between law enforcement and community members.
Speaking to Arab News, Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP) Saeed Akhtar Khan said his colleague had played a major role in dealing with women’s issues and family disputes.
“The performance of Sonia Shamroz Khan is in front of you,” he said. “She has played an unparalleled role in bridging the gap between police and local communities.”
Her presence in the law enforcement agency had also “inspired” other women to join the police force as well as play their part to fight crime within their communities, the SSP said.
Naila Altaf, a women rights activist and member of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s Commission on the Status of Women for Kurram district, said Khan’s award was a “matter of pride for us all.”
“We have another woman police officer deputed in Kurram tribal district,” she said. “Bringing in more women police officers into the force is a source of inspiration for women to step forward and report cases of violence without hesitation.”