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Tuesday, 23 July, 2002, 12:08 GMT 13:08 UK
Female marshals in Pakistan's skies
Pakistani female sky marshals in training
Female sky marshals are being deployed this week

For the first time in Pakistani history women have been trained for combat.

Nine female cadets have been taught to kick, punch and if necessary kill a plane hijacker with their bare hands.


We would like other Pakistani women to join us - we want them to be strong

Nadia Farheen, sky marshal
They are part of the first batch of about 50 sky marshals due to be deployed on Pakistani flights from this week.

The authorities hope the scheme will build confidence among passengers and the international community.

"We are all proud of what we've achieved and we would like other Pakistani women to join us - we want them to be strong," said Nadia Farheen, one of the new recruits.

Family approval

She volunteered for the 10 week training course only after seeking permission from her family.

Sky Marshals being trained
'Tough training' for the sky marshals

All the female sky marshals are unmarried and in their early 20s but Nadia says even if she does get married in the future she will continue her new career.

"There's no restriction from the authorities," she explained.

"It was a very tough course," said Major Syed Hamid Raza of the Pakistan army, who gave instruction in unarmed combat and anti-hijack techniques, "but the women came up to standard".

The training involved an exercise on board an airliner where the crew pretended to be passengers in a hostage situation.

"The ladies did very well and snatched the arms from the hijacker," said Major Hamid.

Physical endurance

One female cadet did not make it through the training - the authorities say she simply was not physically fit enough.

"I believe this will instil confidence in all passengers and especially international companies operating here," said Brigadier Javed Iqbal Sattar, commander of the Airport Security Force.

A new training school has been inaugurated in Karachi and more instructors are being trained to meet the heightened security demands in the wake of 11 September.

Brigadier Iqbal said that every flight within Pakistan will have a sky marshal on board from now on and that the female marshals will be deployed at random on those flights.

The women will be dressed to look like passengers while the men have been told that their hair should not be too "military looking" lest they stand out from the crowd.

See also:

11 Jul 02 | England
24 Dec 01 | Asia-Pacific
13 Sep 01 | Americas
27 Sep 01 | In Depth
21 Sep 01 | UK
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