ISLAMABAD, Pakistan, Maria Mehmood chose to become a police officer in 2005 when Pakistan, her motherland, was combatting serious threat of terrorism.

Mehmood is the first woman in the conservative Pakistani society who opted to join the country's police forces.

In the 13 years, she accepted all challenges in the post and, now, the senior superintendent police feels that she had made a perfect career choice for herself.

"I faced many challenges from the society when I joined the police forces, but I successfully overcame them all and now after all these years, I feel that the society on the whole is becoming more understanding and tolerant towards women working in uniform," she told Xinhua recently.

In Pakistan, about 6,000 women working at different ranks in the police forces, striving together with men for maintaining law and order situation in the terrorism affected country.

Though the number of female police officers and rankers in the country's police force only takes about 2 percent, the government is planning to induct more women into the forces gradually.

In December last year, the government of the country's south Sindh Province increased women quota in the uniform from 2 percent to 5 percent and local watchers are crediting it as a very positive step towards women empowerment.

Pakistan is not a safe country for army soldiers and police members.

The law enforcement forces, including police and army, have worked to bring down terrorism in the country through tough combating, but despite all efforts and strategies, there were still over 400 major and minor terror attacks in the country last year.

Pakistan's northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province had been at the frontline in combatting terrorism for being the closest settled area to the lawless tribal agencies.

Deputy Superintendent Police Rozia Altaf is one of the few policewomen in the area who have tried to maintain the law and order there, together with her male counterparts.

She said that posting of women officers on operational seats is a milestone that will lead to illustrious career progression for the in-service female officers.

Altaf told Xinhua that sometimes she got scared before leaving for some "dangerous" assignment, but when she put on her uniform all her fears got vanished.

"I ask my mother to pray for my safety whenever I leave for some crime scene. I know every minute of my job is risky, but I love my job every single day," Altaf said.

Despite all risks, many less educated women in the country want to join the police forces at low ranks, though there are not many vacant posts for them, but contrary to it, the highly educated women do not choose this profession after passing competitive exam which is the only way for young graduates to get an officer rank in the police service.

Women rights activist Farzana Bari told Xinhua that women's quota should be at least 10 percent in the police forces so that female volunteers from all provinces of the country could get a chance.

"Policewomen are not considered at an equal standing like men. That is the reason that highly educated women opt for other groups. They don't get main stream postings, they don't get chance to showcase their full talents, they don't get equal privileges like men," Bari said.

Nadia Riaz, a female police constable in a small town in the country's east Punjab Province, said that owing to peculiar conservative parameters of the society, police service sometimes is considered as a taboo for women.

"When I joined police eight years ago, people looked down upon me. However, over the years, their attitude towards me and my profession is becoming better, but the overall mindset has not been changed yet," Riaz told Xinhua.

She said that when people especially women came to police stations and saw policewomen, they will feel more comfortable to share their problems, but on the other hand, sometimes, the society doesn't give much respect to policewomen which they deserve.

Altaf commented that there are many laws to protect women in the country, but the society is male-dominated and many women hesitate to discuss issues like domestic violence, sexual harassment and others with male police officers.

"If there are more women officers in the police stations, the incidents of domestic violence at homes will reduce to a great level," Altaf said.

The profession sometimes takes a toll at the personal lives of the policewomen, as people believe that they are way too busy in field duties and catching the criminals that they don't get time to see their families and raise their kids.

"Many policewomen do not get good suitors, because of the scary profession and they prefer lecturers or doctors over them as they believe it is the respectable job for women," Mehmood told Xinhua.

Shehla Qureshi, first female police officer of Sindh Province, said that the impediments pertaining to women training and inadequacy of infrastructure should be addressed to help enhance productive outcome of the female cops.

She said that though there is still a long way ahead to traverse on mainstreaming of female cops in police service, it is heartening that women police officials are witnessing inclusiveness by the police authorities.

In her opinion, better-equipped service structure will not only accentuate capacity building of the in-service female officials but also attract other females to swell ranks of police forces to the serve the country.

Source: Nam News Network