My Editorial for Balochistan Times on 5th May, 2019
It was indeed a welcome announcement by Inspector General Police Balochistan Mohsin Hassan Butt wherein he informed that Balochistan’s first women police station would be established in Quetta soon. He further said that most of the legal and social issues that women in Balochistan are facing shall be resolved through establishment of a women police station. He, however, didn’t give further details of the working mechanism of this would-be women police station to be established in the provincial capital.
Viewed factually, the most vulnerable segments of any society are women and children and in societies whose record of human rights preservation is already precarious and bleak, vulnerability of these sections increases manifold. Balochistan is one such land where human rights issues make headlines quite often. However, when it comes to women and children, places such as Balochistan which are already ridden by the sectarian hatred, separatist movements, global terrorism and other sorts of violence, women’s vulnerability as well as sufferings find no limits. Moreover, domestic violence, torture—psychological and physical, and cases of “honour killing”, forced marriages, under-age marriages, defacing of women through acid attacks, hurling derogatory comments, gazing eyes, work place as well as public place harassment are all forms of violence that women in Balochistan have to grapple with on almost daily basis with almost impunity on the part of the culprits.
Yet another cruelty that women often face in Balochistan is deprivation from inheritance at the hands of the male members of the family but reporting of these and many other forms of cruelties seldom takes place at a police station owing to the thana culture that prevails not only in Balochistan but in entire Pakistan. As a result, informal Alternate Dispute Resolution (ADR) are adopted by the families in which women are subject even more injustice. Unfortunately, those men who lead and give verdicts in such ADR gatherings are often illiterate and least educated in the matters of law, human rights principles, be them modern or Islamic, and other principles of justice. As a consequence, logical but painful, women’s sufferings multiply even further.
In fact, making this society a safer place for women, much more efforts are required than declaring a solitary police station as women’s police station or gender segregation of police stations. It is a well known fact that Balochistan is divided into Levies and Police areas formally known as A and B areas. The largest city in the province is Quetta whose population has exceeded 2.2 million people, as per the census reports of 2017. But according to some rough estimates there are only 24 police stations in the city which are insufficient to cater to incidents that take place on daily basis. Moreover, these police stations are still functioning in an archaic manner with still the old colonial infrastructure, barring the Jinnah Town Police Station’s building. The police stations are only a temporary confinement places for the people who are accused of being coming in conflict with law and according to the canons of law and justice, they are ‘innocent until proved guilty’. But the mental and physical torture accused undergo in the police stations is sometimes harsher than the punishment of crime they have committed. And above all, they are mostly a male domain where the tribal prestige of the people of this province never allows them to take their women even if they are in conflict law.
In addition, washroom facilities, proper heating and cooling facilities according to the weather conditions, humane treatment all miss in these police stations. It is natural if we curb human killing, honour killings end by themselves as a by-product and on similar grounds, if we provide conducive and encouraging environments in the police stations to all, be them women, juvenile and the men, no gender segregation of the police stations would be required. It is, therefore, suggested that along with measures already taken, IG police and provincial government should also focus on improving the condition of already existing police stations and work on capacity building of the police so that the masses, with no regard to their gender, get relief