Neatly dressed in the trademark white uniform and a traffic police cap on her head, inspector Fahmida Abbasi stands proud as Sindh’s first ever female section officer - or SO as they are often called - of traffic.
The section officer’s job is to maintain and organise the flow of traffic and deal with stubborn violators who always try to justify their violations, making the job just as challenging as to that of a SHO of the operational police. Fahmida, a woman of strong physique and character, took on the charge of the Karachi traffic police Defence chowki on June 17 and at 11pm, when the majority of middle-aged women were busy shopping for Eid, she was directing her staff to clear the Korangi Road for a VIP movement. “Defence Kala Pul!” she shouted into the wireless piece. “Everyone take your positions on the road and make sure that they are clear. Senior officials are visiting.” And with those words, she left her office and took to the roads herself.
Road to the SO
Fahmida is inspired by her grandfather, Muhammad Hussain Abbasi, who was also in the Sindh police and was awarded with a double barrel shotgun by former president Ayub Khan for his services. She joined the Sindh police as a sub-inspector in 1993 and remained in the police administrative wings at a number of stations. She was later promoted to welfare DSP on own pay scale at the central police office in Karachi. Before taking charge as the Defence SO, she was serving as the testing hall incharge at the Clifton driving licence branch.
Setting an example
The police department has appointed her as the SO on an ‘experimental basis’ and hence the future of many budding female section officers may lie on her shoulders. “There is no doubt that this position comes with a lot of responsibilities,” she said. “However, I will try my best to do what is expected of me so that they are encouraged to give other girls a chance as well.”
As the section officer, her first action was to clean up the check post and to have all the wireless sets fixed, along with the traffic signals from the Kala Pul to the Akhtar Colony.”I lecture my staff on their language and tell them that they should always be on their best behaviour,” she said. She has learnt all this not only through her experience but also through the 25 different training sessions that she has attended, ranging from public dealing to management and administration.
Her main challenge will be to improve on the image of the traffic police in defence, whose residents often complain of frequent VIP movements and lack of roadside parking. Rather than thinking of her gender as a weakness, she has made it her strength. “People respect me when I stop them to check their vehicles and are often more accepting of their mistakes,” she said.
She believes every woman can be a section officer if she has the passion for it. “I have faced many challenges but I have met and overcome all of them through my passion for the job and the support of my family.”
Fahmida often stays on the job till 2am, either controlling traffic directly on the road or from inside her office, depending on what is required. “Traffic flow is increased till Eid and it is therefore a challenge but it will soon return to normal,” she said. “At this time of the year, traffic gets heavy after 11pm and we have to stay on the roads to ensure that they don’t get blocked.”
The first female section officer is happy with her job and the importance of the role is not lost on her. “I am here not only to protect the property of the people but also their lives.”
Published in The Express Tribune, July 21st, 2014.