A Personal Account By DSP Shahzadi Gulfam
This was the news for which I had been secretly waiting ever since I started my peace missions. I had been nominated for award of The International Women's Association of Prague (IWAP) for the year 2011. I was declared the best woman police officer working with UN peacekeeping missions all over the world in 2011! I felt proud being a Pakistani.
I will never forget the year 1997. Applications were sought from police officers for peace keeping mission in Bosnia Herzegovina under the United Nations. The idea of working at the international level with officers of different countries intrigued me. With twelve years of experience behind me, I was quite confident that if I were to be selected, it would not only bring good name for my country (as there is concern at the UN about low representation of women from Pakistan in such missions) but would also provide me a golden opportunity to have an invaluable experience in international policing.
It was a chance of a life time for me but I was told in hushed voices that there was almost no possibility for a woman police officer to get selected. I applied anyway. With that selection I earned a unique distinction of being the first ever Pakistani woman police officer going abroad for a UN peace keeping mission. The feeling was overwhelming!
We were given a very short briefing about our duties there and with this scanty knowledge of an alien country we landed in Zagreb. My first posting was a patrolling officer at Ilica. In those days, Bosnia was a country caught in a deadly war and civil unrest. The innocent civilian population was paying the price. Crimes against humanity were rampant and as a patrolling officer it was my duty to help and rescue people who were caught in lethal crossfire. Horrible stories of atrocities againsthumanity , and witnessing the same with my own eyes was heart-wrenching, but at the same time rescuing them gave me deep satisfaction. In addition to being a patrolling officer, I was also given an assignment in the recruitment center (there are no female desk officers from Pakistan), in the background certification department. I also undertook community policing in a designated area under my command. My first mission in Bosnia ended in 1998. This experience changed my life inmany ways. A very powerful voice called out from deep within me and said over and over again, “peace,” and, “live and let live.”
In 1998, I was selected for my second peace mission. This time I was sent to Kosovo, a country in the grips of civil war. Keeping in view my
past experience in Bosnia, I was posted at Selection and Recruitment
Center. My duty was to visit schools, colleges, educational institutions across various towns and cities to deliver motivational speeches to girls and encourage them to join the police force. As alarge chunk of population over there was Muslim, so the idea to put me in front for this task really worked and quite a significant number of girls came forward to join the department. The second part of my duty was to train new recruits in the police academy. My tour of Kosovo was extended till the year 2001.
My tour of duty in Kosovo enriched me in many ways. I learned to work in collaboration with police officials of different countries along with new and innovative tactics to bring peace to a war shattered civil society. I also learned how to win the trust of mentally and physically traumatised innocent civilians.
In 2007, I was provided with another opportunity to proceed on my third peace keeping mission, this time to East Timor. I was posted as logistics officer in Dili District. This tour was later extended to one-and-a-half year. This time, I mostly did office and administrative work. I learned many new skills from my foreign colleagues which broadened my work horizon.
In January 2009, I was sent for a short middle management course in Venchi, Italy and while I was there, I was selected for my fourth mission, again to East Timor. In 2010, I reported to Mr. Dino Duoro in East Timor, who was in charge of Vulnerable Persons Unit (VPU). He was magnificent and thoroughly professional. My duties under his able command were to assist in providing legal and medical help to vulnerable persons, who were mostly physically and mentally traumatised women from broken homes, prostitutes, severely abused children, and victims of human trafficking. I used to interview them, undertake initial investigations, called for legal and medical help and then hand over the completed cases to courts of law. Again, the work was not only complicated but also gut wrenching. Day in and day out, listening to the stories of the victims, I used to wonder how low a person could fall to abuse another person. On many occasions, this used to bring tears in my eyes but it was only our strict discipline and training which helped me to maintain my composure and focus. I used to feel a deep inner satisfaction when I helped the victims employing all resources at my disposal so they could get a new and better start in life. Mr. Dino Duoro assessed my work and appointed me as team leader at VPU. I felt honoured but I must admit that my promotion was more a result of reflection of impeccable leadership of Mr. Duoro than of my personal abilities.
In 2011, I received an official email from the UN headquarters. This was the news for which I had been secretly waiting ever since I started my peace missions. I had been nominated for award of The International Women's Association of Prague (IWAP) for the year 2011. I was declared the best woman police officer working with UN peacekeeping missions all over the world in 2011! I felt proud being a Pakistani when my fellow officers started congratulating me on my achievement. The news was an explosion of joy for my family back in Pakistan. Against all odds, my father had always provided me unconditional support to achieve my dreams.
Travel to the USA to receive my award was like a dream. When my name was called upon to receive the honour in that magnificent hall in Augusta, Kentucky, I felt so proud of my country, Pakistan, whose green flag was part of my uniform. The hall was full of police officers from many countries and the stage was honoured with the senior most officials from the UN. I delivered a short speech. At the end of it, amidst a thunderous applause, I came back to my seat overwhelmed with emotion. After this I went on my fourth and last UN mission that concluded at the end of 2012.
I have spent most of my life serving my country to the best of my abilities. But I cannot repay what my country has given to me. It has given us not only an identity but also a deep sense of pride. All the recognition and honour I have ever received is due to my country. I am proud of being a Pakistani and owe whatever I have to this sacred land.HH
The writer is a serving police officer.
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