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Pakistani police officers ordered to slim down

By Reza Sayah, CNN
October 2, 2012 -- Updated 0724 GMT (1524 HKT)
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Punjab police department has ordered tens of thousands of officers to shape up
  • Department's 175,000 officers ordered to shrink their waists to maximum of 40 inches
  • Pakistan's police officers are often on the front line in fight against violent extremists

Lahore, Pakistan (CNN) -- Police officer Muhammad Azad spends an hour a day running laps because he is running out of time.

If he doesn't trim two inches off his 42-inch waist soon, the police department in the northern Pakistani state of Punjab could demote or even fire him.

That's something Azad can't afford because his $210 monthly salary is the only way he provides for his wife and two children.

"I'm trying to lose as much weight as possible," a sweaty Azad said right after finishing a set of jumping jacks. "This is our order, and I'm going to follow it."

The Punjab police department ordered Azad and tens of thousands of his fellow officers to shape up because police officials said they couldn't find enough fit officers to fill jobs at 40 new state-of-the-art police stations that are scheduled to open by the end of the year.

"We saw many of our officers were getting a little big around the waist, so they are bound to do this," said Deputy Police Chief Sheikh Iftikhar.

We saw many of our officers were getting a little big around the waist.
Punjab deputy police chief

The directive calls for the department's 175,000 officers to shrink their waists to a maximum of 40 inches. The police chief will be doing unannounced fitness tests throughout the month, officials said.

The stakes are high. Pakistan's police officers are often on the front line in the fight against violent extremist groups that have increasingly moved to urban areas and major cities.

"They are responsible police officers. They can do it," Iftikhar said, when asked if the police force will shape up.

The police department is helping.

At police headquarters in Lahore, officials have hired a brawny champion ex-wrestler to take fitness trainees through two-hour workouts that start in the weight room and finish in an outdoor exercise yard where officers do aerobics and other fat-burning workouts.

The last time Azad exercised was in 1991. His form is far from perfect, and the exercise equipment is old and rusty, but he is determined to shrink his waist and keep his job.

"Our hearts are made of stone," he said. "No matter what we're asked, we'll do it."

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