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Last Updated: Friday, 20 June, 2003, 11:13 GMT 12:13 UK
Women police ready to fight
By Zulfiqar Ali
BBC correspondent in Muzaffarabad

Women police officers in Pakistan-administered Kashmir are being prepared to take on more of the work that has been reserved for male officers.

Women police cadets after training in Muzaffarabad
The newly trained officers can help combat crimes against women
A group of 21 women have just completed a 36-week course in the police training school in Muzaffarabad, the capital of Pakistan-administered Kashmir.

Among the skills they were taught were martial arts.

Physical combat training was introduced into the force here in 1992 - but only for male police officers.

Now - in addition to the routine police training - women are also given instruction in Taekwondo.

Many of the cadets were recruited late last year while some joined the force several years ago.

I met the group wearing navy blue uniforms with brilliant white gaiters on the area outside the police training school in Muzaffarabad, where they were trained.

"Apart from the routine police training we were given physical combat training," said 24 year-old police cadet Jabeen Khan.

Bare hands

She says the training has enabled her to counter attacks from people armed with knives, sticks and even firearms.

We were able to do any job assigned to us
Afsana Bashir
Police cadet
Ms Khan said she also learned techniques to disarm, disable and overpower several suspects at once with her bare hands.

She is the mother of two boys and joined the police force in 1997, one year after her marriage.

Her family encouraged her and looked after the children while she was away for training.

She brings the number of women officers in Pakistan-administered Kashmir to almost 60.

Her course was the first time in 11 years women were trained together with men - an unusual move for such a conservative region.

The police authorities say they hope to recruit more women.

Afsana Bashir, another 20 year-old cadet, said the training was tough but it was thrilling.

"We all felt confident, strong and physically and mentally fit after 36 weeks training. We were able to do any job assigned to us," she said.

Ms Bashir comes from a village in the southern Kotli district the home of the prime minister of Pakistan-administered Kashmir Sardar Sakindar Hayat Khan.

'Shy'

The principal of the police training school, Deputy Superintendent Abrar Haidar, said women showed more interest and dedication than their male colleagues.

"They were slightly shy in the beginning, but opened up later on," he said.

He added that the training has instilled confidence, boldness and courage in them.

Chief instructor in the police training school, Sub-Inspector Khawaja - Mohammad Saddique, who gave training in Taekwondo, said it was a tough course but the women met the challenge. He added that male and female cadets were given the same training.

Deputy Inspector General at the police headquarters in Kashmir, Faheem Ahmad Khan, said well-trained, well-equipped women officers were needed to help investigate offences against women.

He said women were being included in these teams to help investigate crimes against women where the victim may feel uncomfortable with a male officer.

He hopes the presence of women in investigation teams will encourage women complainants to approach the police without hesitation.

In the past the role of a police woman was confined to office work and occasional riot control. They would also carry out body searches on women if needed.


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