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Alumna improving law enforcement in Pakistan through digital innovation and capacity development

Posted: 8 July 2024

Pakistan, Alumni, Impact,

Riffat Bokhari began her Australia Awards journey in 2018 when she received an Australia Awards Scholarship to study a Master of Business Administration from the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (RMIT). Before receiving the Scholarship, Riffat was working as a police officer in Pakistan. She sought out the Scholarship because she felt the need to develop her skills in multiple areas (such as human resource management, financial administration and digital innovation) so as to be able to excel in her performance at work.

“I accepted my Scholarship while nursing my 7-month-old child and being pregnant with my second child,” Riffat says. “I felt very daunted initially, but the overall environment and support I received from my university and the Australian community made the entire process of handling both my family and studies super easy for me, and I have surprised myself with this newfound sense of self-confidence.”

Upon completing her master’s degree, Riffat returned to Pakistan and, equipped with the knowledge she had gained from RMIT, began to enhance her career. She developed and implemented many innovative projects in the police department that increased her capability. She created ‘Punjab Police – Women Safety App’, a free online service that allows easy access to multiple mechanisms for reporting sexual harassment and violence against women. The app also allows users to connect with other emergency helplines and the Police Emergency Response System, allowing the police to respond to an incident much faster. This app has been downloaded by over 300,000 users.

“During my Scholarship, I connected with civil servants from Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Bhutan, Vietnam and African countries,” Riffat says. “While I was able to draw similarities between our experiences, I was also able to see how others did things differently and how those initiatives can be implemented for the Pakistani people.”

Riffat as a scholar at RMIT university.

As Riffat progressed in her career working as the Senior Superintendent of Police at Traffic Police Headquarters, Punjab, she played a pivotal role in increasing the number of driving schools, testing centres and licensing centres in the state. This has led to a significant increase in the number of licensed drivers. Under her guidance, 12.4 million unlicensed drivers obtained driving licenses in 2023 alone, compared to a total of 6.5 million driving licenses issued between 2008 and 2022.

In 2024, Riffat received the Excellence in Performance Award from the International Association of Women Police. This is a prestigious, highly competitive global recognition. Each year, it is awarded to a female police officer who distinguishes herself by her exceptional policing skills that have a significant impact in her agency or area of responsibility.

Riffat continues to strive for betterment of law enforcement in Pakistan through innovative techniques and capacity building. She is focused on mainstreaming gender in the police department, with the goal of increasing women’s participation in the Pakistani police force.

Riffat enjoying her time in Melbourne.

She is glad she sought out the Australia Awards Scholarship, not only for its impact on her career but also for its contribution to her identity. “The time I spent in Australia was one of the best times of my life,” she says.

“It was my first experience of living and studying in a multicultural environment to learn and exchange views with people from diverse backgrounds. It was a 180-degree, lifechanging opportunity. Everyone should apply for an Australia Awards Scholarship.”