KANDAHAR: The top policewoman in Afghanistan’s restive south died yesterday after being shot by assassins, just months after her predecessor was gunned down, in the latest attack to highlight the threat to women in public life.
Nigar, who only used one name, was shot on the street in Lashkar Gah, the capital of Helmand province, on Sunday and died of her wounds in hospital.
“I can confirm that Nigar died in the emergency unit of the hospital this morning,” provincial government spokesman Omar Zawak said. “She died from a bad injury to her neck.”
Her predecessor as the most senior woman police officer in Helmand, Lieutenant Bibi Islam, was seen as a high-profile symbol of how opportunities have improved in Afghanistan since the repressive Taliban regime was ousted in 2001. But before her murder in July, Islam admitted receiving regular death threats from people who disapproved of her career -- including from her own brother.
The deaths in Helmand follow the murder of female police Lieutenant Colonel Malalai Kakar in neighbouring Kandahar province in 2008, and the killing of two successive women’s affairs directors in Laghman province within months last year.
And earlier this month, masked gunmen in the eastern province of Paktika shot dead Indian author Sushmita Banerjee, whose book about her escape from Islamist militants in the 1990s became a Bollywood film.
Nigar, 38, was at first expected to survive her injuries after she was shot on Sunday morning as she walked near the police headquarters in Lashkar Gah. Her killers were riding a motorbike and escaped the scene. She had worked for seven years in the police crime branch in Helmand, a hotbed of the Islamist insurgency that erupted against the US-backed Kabul government after the fall of the Taliban.
She was the mother of a son and a daughter and was based at Lashkar Gah airport after reaching the rank of investigator. Before Helmand, she had been posted in the capital Kabul. After Islam was killed, Nigar told local media that she was not scared of being a policewoman in ultra-conservative Helmand and that she was determined to continue doing a job she loved.