When Assistant Sub-inspector (ASI) Sameena Sarwar was a young girl, growing up in a village in Gujar Khan, she dreamed of wearing a uniform. “I never accepted societal notions of appropriate behaviour for girls; I rode my bicycle to college, I wanted to prove that anything my brothers could do, I could do better,” she says.
Her dream was realised when she passed the test for Pakistan’s police force and was invited to train at the National Police Academy. “Training at the academy is difficult, but only for those who land in the force accidently,” she says with a grin.
Driven by passion, Sameena trained alongside men at the academy, enjoying every aspect of the training which included marksmanship, physical fitness and courses on prosecution and investigation. “My favourite was rappelling. Descending from a high building with only a harness tied around you is dizzying but exhilarating,” she says.
At 24, she is now the Station House Officer (SHO) at the Islamabad Women Police Station in Sector G-7 with 46 women officials and 6 men under her command.
It is a job with immense responsibility; she lives at the station and has to be on call 24-hours a day. “I oversee the assigning of duties for the other girls here. We are also frequently required to join Rangers for search operations. Every night, I patrol at least two sectors of the capital. Some days, we are sent for duty at parliament or anywhere else where we are needed,” she says.
Sameena recalls her duties at the political sit-ins on Constitution Avenue, in August and September 2014, as her most enjoyable time on the force. “Another ASI and I were directed to go undercover to the sit-ins. We would go to Constitution Avenue in plainclothes and paint party flags on our faces. Then we would spend the rest of the evening chanting slogans and dancing with the women protesters,” she chuckles.
Sameena explains that a woman’s softer touch is essential when dealing with domestic disputes. “Once, a girl came to the police station to register a complaint against her in-laws, who had taken her jewellery. Instead of registering a complaint, I went and met her father-in-law, explaining to him that the legal route would defame the family. They would have to repeatedly go to court. He understood and convinced his wife to return the jewellery.”
“I try my best to ensure that everyone who comes to the station leaves feeling like they have been served. We are a service. Not just a force,” she adds.