ISLAMABAD: More than two dozen students signed up for a self-defense course launched by Islamabad police earlier this month, with most participants saying the murder that grabbed headlines last year from the daughter of a Pakistani diplomat was the reason they decided to join the program.
The decapitated body of Noor Mukadam, 27, was found in Islamabad on July 20, 2021. Police have charged Zahir Jaffer with the murder, the victim’s childhood friend who comes from one of Pakistan’s wealthiest families .
The case grabbed headlines unlike any other recent crime against women in Pakistan. Jaffer was sentenced to death last February.
Investigators say Jaffer lured Mukadam, the daughter of Pakistan’s former envoy to South Korea, to his home, detained her there for two days and then brutally murdered her.
Participants in the two-week self-defense course, which began July 18 and promises to introduce trainees to small arms, shooting practice and unarmed combat, said Mukadam’s brutal killing left them attracted to training.
“I thought of Noor Mukadam when I heard about the police self-defense course and decided to learn how to protect myself in difficult situations,” said Sineen Jan, a student from Islamabad. , to Arab News.
In May 2021, Islamabad Police established a Gender Protection Unit to deal with cases of harassment and violence against women. The special police division has since registered 547 cases of gender-based violence, 164 complaints of harassment and 116 threats of abuse against women.
Hundreds of women are killed in Pakistan each year and thousands more are victims of brutal violence, but few cases receive sustained media attention and only a small fraction of perpetrators are punished.
Maria Mahmood, chief superintendent of police overseeing the course, said the aim of the program was to equip women with essential skills to help them deal with difficult and threatening situations.
The majority of program participants, she added, were between the ages of 18 and 30.
“As police officials, we are responsible for public safety,” Mahmood said.
“We are trying to give people the opportunity to go to training where women and girls can come and learn self defense because it will not only build their confidence but also give them an idea of how to handle difficult situations. “
Incidents such as the murder of Mukadam raised awareness among women, she said, and many now wanted to learn self-defense techniques.
“As women occupy more public spaces, they are forced out of their comfort zone for work, education and other daily needs,” she said.
“When they are out of their homes, they may face situations where they need to protect themselves.”
Mahmood hoped the self-defense course would also bridge the gap between Pakistani women and the police and create a greater level of trust between them.
“Several cases of gender-based violence have been reported to the police in recent months,” the policewoman said.
“That’s why we are doing our best to have a mechanism to address this issue where women and girls are not afraid to come to the police to report incidents that threaten their safety.”
Jan, the student from Islamabad, said that in a few days of training, the women had “learned a lot about how to defend themselves in public”.
She added that the program, which cost 20,000 Pakistani rupees ($84) per person, also included lessons in swimming, horseback riding, archery and physical training.
Sana Khalid Khan, a lawyer from Islamabad, said the course improved her physical strength and instilled a sense of empowerment by giving her a better understanding of legal procedures related to women’s safety in Pakistan.
“Women aren’t strong mentally and don’t know how to solve many problems,” she said.
“This training allows us in particular to face these challenges.
Fatima Nawaz, a student from Islamabad, said women should learn to defend themselves instead of waiting for others to come to their rescue.
“I believe the police can defend us, but there are times when they are unreachable, so we have to equip ourselves and know how to fight for our protection,” she told Arab News.
“Things changed after the Noor Mukadam murder case,” she said.
“People are more aware now that crime can happen anywhere and is not confined to a specific location or scenario.”