Women Police Officers Lead the Security Training for Mitigating Electoral Violence


Zahida Bokhari, Assistant Superintendent of Police, actively takes part in training the police force for general elections on 11 May 2013. Photo: UNDP Pakistan/Torsum Khan

"Women comprise almost 50 percent of Pakistan's population, now we need to be 50 percent of the police force as well. We must ensure gender justice," said Zahida Bukhari, Assistant Superintendent of Police.

Examining crime scenes, dispersing mobs and patrolling the city at night, it's all part of the job for Zahida Bukhari, 32, Assistant Superintendent of Police. She is the first ever lady officer in the police service from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province. Currently based in Islamabad, Zahida supervises some 300 security officials in two police stations. Her motivation to join the police was the challenge it presented. Juggling police work with family life is not easy particularly for a working mother. However, Zahida makes sure she spends quality time with her ten months old son. This can be challenging especially if you are working 18 hours day and Zahida says, "policing is my passion, not a profession."

Highlights

  • More than 330,000 polling staff trained in Punjab.
  • More than 17,000 police officials trained in election security.
  • Around 40 million people reached through a voter education campaign via the media, social media and civil society organizations.
  • Elections results database created containing results from polling stations.
  • Currently UNDP is assisting ECP to conduct lessons-learning from the May elections.

In her opinion, the main security challenges for these elections include elements of terrorism, sectarianism and extremism. Zahida is the lead trainer for the security training on mitigating electoral violence in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province. She said, "Security training should be a mandatory part of every election held in Pakistan." More than 14,000 security officials are being trained in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province alone, including 500 police women. As part of her elections responsibility, Zahida is training master trainers across Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province and making sure they are equipped to further impart training to security officials. She said that the training sessions are unique as for the first time, the security officials are greatly aware of their election responsibilities. These include safeguarding the polling stations on 11 May and doing their duty with honesty, impartiality and transparency.

Security officials will be placed in more than 70,000 polling stations throughout Pakistan. The officials have realized their job is to provide security to the staff of Election Commission of Pakistan and voters on elections day. "They have nothing to do with checking identication of the voters or ballot boxes," Zahida said.

The lead trainers have given guidelines to security officials to make certain better coordination with the electoral staff of the Election Commission of Pakistan before, during and after the elections. Zahida feels the success of these trainings depends on how trainees apply the knowledge shared in the manual on elections day. Zahida said, "I will be satised on 11 May when our security officials display absolute familiarity with electoral laws and code of conduct as specied in the constitution of Pakistan."

UNDP is providing assistance to the election commission in areas including training of polling staff and security personnel, results management and voter education through a three-year electoral cycle support project supported by the Governments of Australia, Norway, Japan, United States, Switzerland and the European Union. With the support of UNDP, ECP has launched a voter-education campaign targeted at inclusion of youth and women, as well as a new elections results management system for upcoming national and provincial elections.

UNDP is assisting the police force to train its security officials in an effort to mitigate electoral violence and increase public security for the May 11 general elections. This is the first time ever in Pakistan that security officials are training for elections. More than 18,000 security officials are being trained in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Balochistan, Punjab, Sindh, FATA and Islamabad Capital Territory who will be engaged throughout the country on elections day.