MULTAN: Pakistan is a place that has been ranked as the second worst in the entire world in terms of gender equality by the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report 2016.
Luckily for the country, there are some people whose actions may one day help shake off this image. Meet Assistant Sub Inspector (ASI) Ismael and his wife ASI Zaneera Kanwal Malik, a couple for whom the word ‘inequality’ seems to bear little or no meaning. In a show of mutual respect—and above all admiration—the two salute each other each morning before leaving for work in their native town of Layyah district near Multan.
ASI Ismael is 31 and a resident of TDA colony in Layyah district. For the moment, he serves as a controller for the Criminal Tracking System at the DPO office. “It was my wife who first started saluting me in the morning, but then I thought both genders are equal. I should also be saluting Zaneera for her services to the nation and the sacrifices she has made to continue her duty.”
Zaneera and Ismael have been in service for 10 and 11 years, respectively, during which several of their peers have lost their lives in the line of duty. They are both well aware that danger is part and parcel of their profession. “She thinks that any one of us may embrace martyrdom during a search operation or while battling criminals. Therefore, we salute each other every morning before leaving for work as a way to remember that duty always comes first.”
ASI Zaneera Kanwal Malik, 30, is currently working in the Complain Cell of the Layyah DPO. She says that ever since tying the knot with Ismael a year-and-a-half ago, she has been saluting her husband before leaving for work every day.
For her, it is a way of expressing gratitude to the man who has given her the freedom and the choice to follow her own career path in this patriarchal society. “He has supported me throughout my career and I salute him to show the honour, respect and gratitude I have for him. “After the salute, we pray for each other’s safety till the next meeting,” she adds.
Zaneera maintains the view that men and women have an equal responsibility to serve the nation. She considers herself to be one of the lucky ones with a husband who supports her views.
Sadly, these two ASIs serve as a rare example of gender parity in Pakistan. The World Economic Forum’s global gender gap ranked Pakistan at a dismal 143 out of 144 countries with a score of 0.556. The country ranked just above Yemen and lagged far behind neighbouring India and Bangladesh which ranked at 87 and 72, respectively. Even war-torn Syria fared better than Pakistan at a rank of 142.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 11th, 2017.