Written By: Maj Wajiha Arshad
Women empowerment is taken in true letter and spirit in Pakistan by enhancing and improving the social, economic, political and legal strengths of the women and to ensure fair opportunities for the women in all walks of life. Ever-increasing responsibilities and lesser opportunities in the past have always been a great challenge for Pakistani women. However, they by now have been successful in reaching almost all professional fields including politics, sports, education sector, police, judiciary, bureaucracy, business, banking, and many others. In addition, women have been actively joining military since the establishment of Pakistan. How can one forget the first lady of Pakistan Begum Ra'ana who took the lead in starting the women’s voluntary service in 1948 to support the medical and logistics for the Pakistan Armed Forces engaged in the Indo-Pakistan war of 1948. Taking the quote of Quaid-i-Azam Muhammed Ali Jinnah sincerely, “No struggle can ever succeed without women participating side by side with men,” Pakistan Armed Forces induct women regularly in various branches of the military.
Being a proud daughter of this motherland I feel honored to be part of the women who are serving in Pakistan Armed Forces. In 2006, the first women fighter pilots batch joined the combat aerial mission command of PAF. Similarly with the induction of 13 Lady Officers’ courses in Army since 2006, a total of 405 lady officers other than Army Medical Corps are serving in various Arms/Services. In order to train these officers in handling routine office matters and to integrate them in to the overall system of the Field Army, a Junior Staff Course of 6 weeks duration was run from April 17 to May 27, 2017 in Army School of Logistics, Kuldana.
Military training in Pakistan Army inhabits a significant place in the career of an officer. Apart from physical training in order to perform their jobs competently, officers are required to communicate, write, interpret and implement effectively. The personal growth of an officer in the military is second-to-none. This growth is of course magnified depending on the training an officer undergoes before joining and during the service. The institution, Army School of Logistics, holds a rich history of training officers of Pakistan Army. In 1952, Army School of Administration was established at Kuldana. In the seventies, the formation of logistic areas and expansion in the Army underlined the need to impart formalized training to logistics staff in an organized manner. In 1974, Army School of Logistics was established at Abbottabad in addition to the Army School of Administration. In 1976, both the institutions were merged and school was re-designated as Army School of Logistics at Kuldana.
The realization of importance of Junior Staff Course was further enhanced on reaching Kuldana and getting awareness about the course we had to undergo. In 1982, Junior Staff Course was introduced to train Staff Officers. Total 28 courses were organised from 1982-1991 (1675 Officers qualified). And now it has been restarted and is being carried out exclusively for the lady officers. Aspiring to reach the level of the first female Major General, Shahida Malik, the second, Major General Shahida Badshah, and Major General Nigar Johar, the third woman in Pakistan Army to reach the rank of Army two stars, this particular course is taken to be as one of the milestones for the long journey ahead.
The 20 student lady officers who joined this course came from different Arms: the Signals Corps, the Electrical and Mechanical Engineering Corps, Psychologists, Army Education Corps, Inter Services Public Relations Directorate, C4I and Judge Advocate General Branch. With this diverse background the officers didn't have much of an idea about the course as it was being commenced for the very first time for lady officers. As per student mindset I took suggestions and guidance from senior officers around, which in addition to help, further supplemented the apprehensions.
Winding roads of Kuldana, warm welcome arranged by the school and seeing old friends after a long time relieved the nerves slightly. I was fascinated after reading that Kuldana means “way or high place” in the vernacular and was also known as “British Infantry Line” in the 19th century. The British carved some essence of England in Murree, making Kuldana their home away from home. There is a long scroll of names of renowned British Regiments that camped here since 1860s. However, once the course kicked off, there was hardly a moment to take our eyes off the books and look around to enjoy the epic beauty of Kuldana as we tried to keep up with the pace of studies.
During the course of six weeks we underwent training related to staff duties, administration in field and military writing. Commandant Army School of Logistics, Brigadier Kashif Zafar and faculty guided the lady officers in a positive way and helped to cultivate a better professional understanding by organizing this course in efficacious manner. The tutorials, individual exercises and exams kept us on toes. On the way back home after long days of studies the scenic beauty of Kuldana had a soothing effect on us. Although on reaching home, we always had a long list of tasks to be done for the next day. The course made me realise how military prepares its officers for multi-tasking, acting under immense pressure and keeping the wits under control with a balanced approach. Besides hectic routine and immense pressure of studies we were able to manage time to keep up with the course.
Faculty of the school extended great support and provided opportunity to the students to visit and interact with staff of field formations and experience the real environment. These visits were even more fruitful for lady officers who seldom get the opportunity to visit formations. Moreover, these visits were educative, productive and informative. The school proudly bearing the hallmark for logisticians has endeavored to impart comprehensive knowledge of tactics and logistics base along with necessary staff work to the student officers. This has helped to improve knowledge of lady officers about the tactical and logistic problems faced in the mountains during both defensive and offensive operations. In pursuance of knowledge, a three day visit to Muzaffarabad was conducted for lady officers.
Once the last week of this course started, the idea of departing from the strong bond developed with coursemates gave jitters. The course ended imparting great knowledge and lovely memories of closing ceremony. All the lady officers successfully qualified the course and proudly received certificates with Major Tahira being awarded the first position. The group studies, late night dinners during exam preparations and joint struggles for staying awake with extra cups of tea and black coffee brought us together as never before. I personally feel honored to be a part of another pioneer course; one was the first ladies batch that passed out from Pakistan Military Academy ten years back in 2007, and, now first Lady Officers Junior Staff Course in 2017.