Pakistan police officer Shehrbano praised for rescuing woman from mob - GulfToday

Pakistan police officer Shehrbano praised for rescuing woman from mob


Syeda Shehrbano Naqvi poses for a photo at her office in Lahore.

Tariq Butt, Correspondent / AFP

A police officer who saved a woman accused of blasphemy from a mob of 200 men in eastern Pakistan has described how she had to negotiate with the crowd to lead her to safety.

Meanwhile, senators on Tuesday called for strict action against those levelling "false allegations” of blasphemy and decried "ignorance” after a young woman wearing a shirt with Arabic calligraphy was saved from a mob attack in Lahore.

On Sunday, a mob had gathered outside a shop in Lahore’s Ichra Bazar after someone alleged that a woman’s shirt had Quranic verses printed on it. The charged zealots insisted on a "blasphemy” charge.

A video clip on social media showed the girl hiding in a shop and shivering with fear. Sensing the sensitivity of the issue, some police officials present at the site called in their higher-ups.


Syeda Shehrbano Naqvi, an assistant superintendent with Punjab police, was among the first officers on the scene on Sunday. "The crowd was pretty charged, and they were chanting slogans. They were talking about how people who commit blasphemy must be punished," Shehrbano told AFP.

A video shared on social media showed the woman sitting in a corner of a cafe protecting her face with her hands.

Crowds were later heard chanting: "The only punishment for blasphemy is beheading." "There was a confusion and nobody was willing to listen to us. We feared that if the dialogue didn't begin, the woman's life would be in danger," Shehrbano added.

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In the end, Shehrbano appealed with the crowd to let police determine whether Pakistan's blasphemy laws had been breached.
Officers then formed a human chain to help lead the woman out of the restaurant. The woman was in fact wearing a shirt with the Arabic word for "beautiful" written on it.

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"We have experienced at least two such events before in Lahore. Religious crowds are always pretty charged and we had no idea what we were going to deal with," Shehrbano said.

The officer has since been recommended for an award by the chief of Punjab police.

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On Monday, Maryam Nawaz, the first woman to be chief minister of a Pakistani province, took her oath as the head of Punjab's province assembly.
In her inaugural address, she highlighted Shehrbano’s actions: "I want to praise the lady officer who has saved the life of a woman."

Police have not made any arrests of those involved in the mob aggression, while the victim gave a video statement apologising for causing offence.

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The Senate echoed with criticism of the incident. Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) Senator Rubina Khalid said that it was "utter ignorance” that some people could not differentiate between Quranic verses and Arabic letters. "If the police had not reached on time the mob would have done something worse. "We need to think about where we are heading. There should be a debate on this,” she demanded.

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The senator also took exception to the woman’s "forceful apology”. The same day the incident was reported, a video had emerged of the young woman apologising for her outfit. "Why was she made to record a public apology for something she didn’t do?” the senator asked.

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