Text Speech of Dr. Fehmida Mirza, Honourable Speaker of the National Assembly of Pakistan at the Inaugural Ceremony of the 2nd International Islamic Women Police Conference

Text Speech of Dr. Fehmida Mirza, Honourable Speaker of the National Assembly of Pakistan at the Inaugural Ceremony of the 2nd International Islamic Women Police Conference

Bismillah Irr Rehman Irr Raheem

Excellency Dr. Michael Koch, Ambassador of the Republic of Germany to Pakistan!

Mr. Khwaja Mohammad Akbar, Federal Secretary, Ministry of Interior!

Dr. Wasim Kausar, Director General National Police Bureau!

Dr. Khola Iram,

Principal Adviser GIZ on Gender Responsive Policing Project!

Honourable International and local Delegates,

Lady Police Officers,

Excellencies, Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen!

Assalam-o-Alaikum and very good morning to all of you.

I am pleased to join you all at the inauguration of the 2nd International Islamic Women Police Conference, jointly organised by the National Police Bureau and the German Agency for International Development, GIZ.

I avail this opportunity to welcome the distinguished Muslim women police officers and experts from many important countries of the Far East, Middle East, South and Central Asia, Africa and Europe.

Your presence in Islamabad for the coming four days will indeed provide all participants of this Conference an opportunity to share ideas, identify best practices and gain from mutual experiences on a subject which is not only critical but also common in the Muslim World in terms of social, cultural and religious similarities.

Dear Guests!

The role of women in peace-building and security cannot be over-emphasised. In fact, this has re-emerged as a pivotal area of concern in the recent times in wake of the current global scenario.

The wave of change, triggered by the fall of the iron curtain, has continued to reshape our respective societies during the last two decades. On one hand, it escalated global movements of democracy to write new chapters of people’s power in Europe, South Asia, East Timor and Africa while also giving a fresh direction to the Middle East through the recent Arab Spring.

And on the other, it has also caused the re-surfacing of tensions among states, communities and clans. The fact that there has been more bloodshed, mass-displacement and forced migrations as a result of armed conflicts, sectarian and ethnic violence and acts of genocide during the last two decades than the entire previous century is a bitter reminder to all of us that the world around us continues to be a dangerous place to live.

And in this respect Ladies and Gentlemen! Women and children have come out as the most vulnerable of all segments of society. Gender-based crimes have not only remained a common war tactics in the conflict-ridden areas but have also been on increase in the so-called peaceful localities.

It is in this wider international context that we have seen rapid developments in international law to address the complex issues of peace and security on gender lines. Since 2000, the United Nations Security Council has passed numerous Resolutions, such as 1325, 1820, 1888 and 1889, which have sought tangible steps from the Member states to protect the rights of women and children during and after conflicts. It is equally important to note that in doing so; these Resolutions have also called for a meaningful role of women in conflict prevention and resolution. And this surely includes policing.

In fact, the UN has launched a global effort since August 2009 to recruit more female police officers into national police services, setting a goal of 20% by 2014.

The Muslim World, naturally, cannot remain oblivious to all such developments. On the contrary, being the most volatile regions of the world, our societies are in dire need of such reforms.

This gender-friendly approach is also essential to collectively address the rising trends of extremism and bigotry in our respective countries.

It is high time that the true and emancipated message of our great religion Islam be spread, which not only ensures all rights of women but also provides for their effective protection.

Islam does not believe in segregating people but calls for their integration.

Islam is a message of harmony and not conflict.

It gives women freedom to work for the benefit of the human society and expects from every righteous man and woman to establish a just order in Allah’s lands to ensure peace and prosperity.

As a leading face of Islam, I have always felt the responsibility to propagate this message and dispel the negative image, false-fully created through the narrow interpretations of our great religion.

And in doing so, nothing has inspired me more than the sight of a smartly-turned lady Police Officer, confidently and efficiently discharging her duties with courage and determination.

This image has to be protected and propagated if we wish to join the comity of nations as self-respecting and forward-looking people.

It is in this spirit that Shaheed Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto embarked upon the idea of setting up independent Women Police Stations across Pakistan during her second stint as Prime Minister in 1994.

As a true leader, she knew it well that the ideals of women’s empowerment would but remain a mere dream if they were not provided with a viable mechanism for women’s security and safety through a guaranteed access to speedy justice.

While inaugurating the first-ever such Women Police Station in Islamabad in 1994, she said and I quote:

“Women Police Stations are a step towards justice. Today women are being treated as if they were the accused. I want you, the women of my country, to be recruited in the police so that you may catch the criminals and the accused yourself.”

It is unfortunate to note that such a wonderful idea was later discarded by the successive regimes. No further recruitment of women took place and women police stations lost their utility in the absence of any power to register or investigate a case. What is more, the much-publicised Police Order 2000 did not even carry a passing reference about them.

However, having said that, my own experience as a politician and a 3rd-time representative of my pre dominantly rural constituency had taught me well the importance and utility of women policing. As a legislator, I am privy to the fact that no matter how much women-centric legislation we may enact, but if we fail to sensitize our police force on gender-lines, we will never be able to practically implement such laws.

Therefore, when the first-ever cross-party Caucus of Women Parliamentarians was formed under my patronage in the Federal Parliament in 2009, its earliest step was to highlight the plight of women policing in Pakistan.

I personally visited the first Women Police Station in Islamabad while many of my colleagues inspected these Stations in other parts of the country. As a result, the Caucus published first-of-its kind Parliamentary Report, which not only brought to light their prevailing status but also proposed important wide-ranging recommendations in making women policing an essential, integrated and effective part of the overall law-enforcing mechanism in Pakistan.

It goes to the credit of this effort by the Caucus that as a result of its Report on Women Policing in Pakistan, the federal and provincial governments agreed to take key steps for improving the existing infrastructure. New Women Police Stations were opened in numerous cities and I myself had the pleasure of inaugurating and inspecting some of these Stations in Karachi and Badin.

I would, therefore, like to recommend to the organisers of this important moot to also include and refer to the observations and recommendations of this Report during the Working Sessions of your Conference.

In addition to it, I would also draw your attention to the Declaration of the National Convention of Women Parliamentarians, which was held in Islamabad in May last year. This important gathering of all women parliamentarians from the Federal Parliament, the four provincial assemblies, the legislative assemblies of Gilgit Baltistan and Azad Jammu and Kashmir, along-with representations from the countries of the SAARC region, raised a strong voice in demanding a substantive role of women in critical areas of peace-building, security and reconciliation. This Declaration hence provides a guideline for governments to address these vital issues on gender lines.

Ladies and Gentlemen!

No democracy can claim to be truly representative of its people if it does not include its women. The present Parliament adheres to this notion, which is reflected in its over three-year performance.

I am indeed proud to have presided over a House that has so far legislated on more than a dozen Bills, pertaining to women and children. On one hand, the House passed the historic 18th Amendment in the Constitution, which paved the way for Universal Education through the inclusion of Article 25-A, while on the other, it has also specifically dealt with issues like gender-based violence and crimes.

The Act on Protection Against Harassment at Workplace is now being fully implemented all over the country while the National Assembly only last week passed the Anti-Women Practices Bill, which comprehensively aims at checking the socio-cultural taboos, which hamper the progress of our women.

This is in addition to many other key interventions such as the Acid Crimes Bill. This will, nevertheless be a challenge for our law-enforcing agencies, especially the police to fully implement them once these bills become laws after their passage from the Senate.

This, in my view, can only be done if the gender-sensitization programmes in policing are taken more seriously. The collaboration of the German Development Agency GIZ and National Police Bureau in this respect is indeed commendable and I congratulate Mr. Heinrich Juergen, the Country Director of GIZ for the success of the Joint Project on Gender Responsive Policing.

I would also suggest our German friends to look into the possibilities of extending the scope of their project and also work directly with the provincial police departments. I offer them my complete support for any such venture in the district of Badin, Sindh, where I am personally monitoring and patronising women policing. At the same time, your cooperation with the Women’s Parliamentary Caucus for numerous other projects will also be whole-heartedly welcomed.

Nevertheless, by holding this important Conference under this project, all stake-holders have achieved a major milestone. This sharing of experiences is key to finding practical answers to various similar problems. For example, we must all learn from the success story of our brotherly country Bangladesh, which today has the highest number of women officers in UN peace-keeping missions.

The impressive accounts of women policing in Iran or in Indonesia can also provide an effective guidelines for all of us. And in this list, let me also add India and Brazil, where the idea of independent Women Police Stations has really proved effective in curbing gender-based crimes.

On this note, I would also like to advise all concerned, especially the National Police Bureau, that it must be ensured that women police officers are not marginalised within their department. They should not be segregated into administrative positions or restricted to specialized police units based on their gender.

This would perpetuate the traditional mindsets and the police culture would not change with regard to accepting women as colleagues and equal partners in combating crime and maintaining law and order.

It’s high time we accept the change with an open heart and mind by giving women their rightful place in the society.

And on this note, let me leave you with a moving episode from the life and teachings of our great leader, the Quaid-e-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah. You are all aware that

Throughout his long struggle for Pakistan, our Quaid was always assisted by his closest confidant, his younger sister, Mohtarma Fatima Jinnah.

She also accompanied him to the legendary Sibi Darbar in 1947.It was the traditional gathering of all the noted tribal chieftains of the province of Baluchistan and many believed that Miss Jinnah would be kept in the rear in order to please the conservative mindset of that area.

But this was not what the Quaid had always stood for. So to the shock of many, he specifically instructed Mohtarma Fatima Jinnah to sit next to him as he chaired the ceremony. His remarks on that occasion remain a living message even today for all of us. He said and I quote:

“Muslim women must take their place in the history of Pakistan.”

I thank you all.

Pakistan Paindabad

For more information, contact:
Karamat Hussain Niazi
National Assembly of Pakistan
Parliament House, Islamabad
Tel: +9251 922 1082 -83
Fax: +9251 922 1106

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