Pak's women changing trends, 'flying' high

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Bangalore, July 15: There is a reason for joy in Pakistan, especially for the women. The country's outlook in changing with more and more of them joining the military and the armed forces.

It is, in fact, a matter of great pride that women here are actually performing heroic tasks that have been stereotypical for the men, till now. Although, there are reports of immense contribution of women in the military and the paramilitary services in other countries, Pakistan has been lagging behind in this front especially because of its taboo and conservations against women.

Pak-women achieving great air-feats

The first such news that took the world by surprise is that of Pakistan's first female fighter pilot-Ayesha Farooq. Hailing from Bahawalpur, a historic city of the Punjab province, this 26-year old, slim-framed lady had to fight all odds for her rights.

"In our society most girls don't even think about doing things as flying an aircraft," she says. "My mother, who is uneducated, was shocked when I told that I wish to be a fighter pilot, but I had my way," smiles Ayesha.

In a male dominating profession, it was neither easy for her nor for the 19 other women who have been training to be the first batch of women fighter-pilots in Pakistan air force.

But, Ayesha believes that she has been supported a lot by her male colleagues: "I don't feel any different. We do the same activities, the same precision bombing. Of course, it was not a bed of roses all the time. I did get unfavorable remarks, but I had my goal in mind and the support of my colleagues," she said.

Similar news of Pakistan's first batch of women paratroopers has almost ruptured the mind-set of the world toward the women of the country. "Pakistan Army, in another landmark achievement, successfully completed the first ever Lady Officers Para Trooping Course at Para Training School," said a statement from the army's Inter-Services Public Relations. Besides challenging and extreme physical tests that these women had to undergo, there was training on exit, flight and landing techniques-something that is not everyone's cup of tea.

Asif these feats were not enough, some of these women were also rewarded as the best amongst the best for their fitness, stamina and performance.

Captain Sadia was the first women officer who jumped from an MI-17 helicopter, while Captain Kiran Ashraf was declared the best paratrooper of the batch. The lady officers were awarded with the Para Wings insignia at a ceremony by Major General Abid Rafique, general officer commanding Special Service Group, the army said.

Asked why this sudden increase in women recruits? Wing Commander of Squadron 20 Nasim Abbas answers,"More and more ladies are joining now. it is less of a taboo now. There's been a shift in the nation's, the society's, way of thinking."

Another woman fighter-pilot recruit Anam Hassan (24) adds a valid point,"In Pakistan, it's very important to defend our front lines because of terrorism and it's very important for everyone to be part of it." Something that Ayesha also said, hinting at an increase in the Taliban militancy and a rise in the sectarian violence.

Although, there are around 4,000 women recruits in Pakistan's armed forces, they are restricted to desk work and medical support. The country, reportedly has 316 women in the air force, as compared to just 100 five years ago. However, over the past decade women have become air marshals, leading fast planes, unlike the usual cargo liners that ferry equipment and officers to the frontiers.

In a country where a 16-year old is shot at for advocating education, women breaking the type-set taboo is a news that is worth celebrating worldwide. It is, in fact, an example for all of us to learn that

"The revolution is not an apple that falls when it is ripe. You have to make it fall" (Che Guevara). Perhaps, a ticket to the fighter planes for these women is a ticket for women's rights in the country.

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