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Only Woman on Kandahar Police Force Plays Crucial Role

Four years after the fall of the Taleban, Afghanistan is trying to cast off the fundamentalism that once barred women from public life. And in the former Taleban stronghold of Kandahar there is evidence that things are starting to change. The city has a policewoman, the only one in Kandahar, and she also runs the women's jail. Her name is Captain Malalai Kaker.

Captain Malalai Kaker became Kandahar's only policewoman 20 years ago, following the wishes of her father who was also a policeman. She runs the women's prison and also accompanies officers on raids, so she can search parts of houses where there may be women.

She never discusses her work with her husband or children. She says she does not want to worry them. She has killed three would-be assassins.

Her career was cut short during the Taleban era, when her family was forced to flee to Pakistan overnight when she heard reports that Taleban officials were heading to her home to arrest her for the crime of being a policewoman.

Captain Malalaki Kaker says, "During the rule of the Taleban, I was not working and women's rights were crushed. Personally, I didn't want to work with the Taleban."

Now she is back on the job. Like all women in Kandahar, the 35-year-old police captain wears the all-enveloping burkha whenever she leaves home. Although it has its disadvantages, she says that the burkha makes a useful disguise while on the trail of criminals.

One of Mrs. Kaker's main tasks as the city's only female officer is to deal with domestic abuse cases. She believes that as many as one in four wives in the city are regularly beaten by their husbands, with arranged marriages partly to blame for unhappy matches turning violent.