As Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa police fights its fierce battle against militancy, women officers stand shoulder-to-shoulder with their male colleagues. Some, like Shazia Gul, pay the ultimate price for their courage.
Her family was fully aware of the perils of the job, but for them her wish to die for the country was enough reason to pledge all their support.
And die in the line of duty, she did. Shazia Gul, 25, became the first policewoman to die in the ongoing fight against militancy in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa when she was killed in a bomb blast on May 10, 2011, in the cantonment city of Nowshera, about 35 kilometers (22 miles) east of provincial capital Peshawar.
The one-kilogramme bomb, which went off outside the District and Sessions Court in one of the province’s largest cities, killed her, a police constable and an unidentified passerby on the spot. According to police records, 10 others were wounded. The bomb had been planted in a canister at the main entrance to the court.
Situated close to several military installations and government buildings, the court is considered vulnerable to militant attacks and therefore secured by dozens of policemen who stop passersby at checkpoints and give them pat-downs.
For Shazia, who attentively stood guard outside the court, it was another day in her strife-torn town. The police had stopped a van for a routine security check in the court’s parking lot. The blast occurred as Shazia inspected the bag of a woman passenger of the van.
Shazia was born in Pir Piyai, a small village in Nowshera District, in 1986. Her father Sher Dad Khan was a retired army officer who had fought in the 1965 and 1971 wars.
“It was my husband’s wish that Shazia become a police officer,” Shazia’s mother, Najma Bibi, says.
An apt profession, it seems, for Shazia had inherited her father’s gallantry and patriotism. “Pakistan is our homeland and we will live and die for it,” she would often say.
After she finished training in Hangu, she was recruited by the provincial police force on May 22, 2005, in Nowshera. Choosing a vocation women are rarely allowed to, Shazia was enthusiastic about her work despite the dangers that came with it.
This was due in no small part to the upbringing she received at home and her fervent belief in the nobility of her mission. “I’m proud of my daughter. She was a woman of courage who embraced martyrdom for her country and set an example for others,” says Najma, as she wipes tears.
As fearless as she was, Shazia was also considerate. Her colleague Rozeena remembers Shazia as a kind person who never fought with anyone.
Shazia, who had been married barely two years, left behind her nine-month-old son Zainullah and her visibly heartbroken but proud husband Muhammad Fayyaz.
“She was very brave and very caring,” Fayyaz says. “I knew the perils of her job but I never asked her to leave because she wanted to live and die for others. And Allah fulfilled her wish,” he says, breaking down.
Shazia’s mother embodies the courage that explains why it was her daughter who broke societal barriers, fighting more than just gender discrimination on the job.
Her daughter isn’t the only sacrifice this mother living in the eye of the storm has made. In 2009, she lost her son Misri Khan, an employee of the paramilitary Frontier Constabulary force, who was killed in an attack in Ghallanai, Mohmand Agency.
In Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, every other family has a similar story to tell. The wave of terrorism that has engulfed the country, shattering peace and destroying families, has hit this province the hardest. Thousands have lost loved ones and, because of the very nature of their work, law enforcers have borne the brunt of the attacks.
But these militants, who have wreaked destruction in the name of religion, have failed to sway the common man in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa. The belief that terrorists have no faith is widespread in the province.
“Their only agenda is to spread devastation and destruction,” says Najma. “The Quran teaches us that killing one human being is equivalent to killing the whole of humanity, but these people are brutally killing innocent men and women, especially police personnel.”
Shazia now rests in her ancestral graveyard in Charbagh village.
A courageous officer, an obedient daughter, a loving wife and a caring mother, Shazia’s sacrifice is emblematic of the valour of police officers in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa who are determined to defeat the plague of militancy, come what may.
Published in The Express Tribune, Sunday Magazine, May 13th, 2012.
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