Rising through the ranks
“It was a big day for me when I came to know about my recruitment to the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Police, but I was scared too,” says Constable Irum Khan. “I applied secretly and at the end I faced the expected reaction from my father and other family members.”
Constable Khan comes from Swabi, a district in Pakistan’s Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) province where strong cultural mores prevent women from working outside the home. Khan broke from this longstanding tradition and joined the KP police force in 2008.
It took many hours of argument to persuade her father. However Khan was supported by her eldest uncle who recognized that times were changing, and convinced her father to change his mind. Khan’s father eventually became her strongest supporter. “My other family members believed that I would be harassed in the police force. They stopped interacting with us, but my father said that I shouldn’t care and that I didn’t need to discontinue my profession,” she says, smiling.
Irum Khan rose swiftly through the ranks. She gained first position in the B1 promotion examination, and is now Head Constable at a model police station established with support from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). These police stations have been upgraded with new equipment and renovated premises, training for police officers, and the introduction of community policing, gender-responsive policing and women’s desks staffed by female officers. By focusing on police services for women, the initiative aims to help reach women who are often unable to access services in this conservative society.
A total of 2,581 police officers (including 441 women) have been trained on gender-responsive and policing, supervisory and communications skills, crime scene investigation and management and basic IT. With 41 model police stations already functioning, UNDP is in the process of establishing 12 more with support from the European Union, United States Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs and the UK Department for International Affairs, to improve access to justice and build bridges between communities and those sworn to protect them.
In this role, Constable Khan has handled many cases of domestic violence that might otherwise have gone unreported. Her work has been widely recognized and she has received appreciation certificates from the Inspector-General of Police in KP province. She feels that the training provided through the UNDP programme has been critical to her success.
Khan plans to build on her academic and professional development. “I worked hard to pass the examination, now I will go to the Police Training School, Hangu. Meanwhile I will also get admission for my bachelor’s degree to improve my chances of promotion in the future,” she says. She has become particularly interested in investigation, and wants to advance in this area of policing. She hopes that, with training support from UNDP and its partners, she will have opportunity to build her skills and achieve a high position in her chosen field.