Major Wajiha Arshad — Recipient of Commandant’s Cane, LCC 2007
It has never been easy to write about myself explicitly but what motivated me today were the few nostalgic moments I experienced during a visit to Pakistan Military Academy (PMA). Sitting in front of bright sparkling eyes staring at me with millions of queries, a glimpse at lady cadets under training in PMA took me twelve years back sitting at the same place where they were that day.
The story I guess dates back to 90s when I was growing up and visited the hospital once with my mother and refused my name to be written as a ‘daughter of’! Though I am proud of my father and his upbringing and morals he transferred, however, I always wanted to be referred to with my own name. The individual identity craze grew up with me through school, college and then university. Unknowingly life was taking me actually towards the identity I had dreamt of and sought, for.
Being a part of the Pakistani society, which has over the years progressed steadily, yet the orthodox mindset and parenthood push our children to certain specified and labeled professions like teacher, doctor or engineer.
In hindsight, I always wanted to breakthrough this shell of preconceived and pre-imposed typical roles given to our girls. Studying in Quaid-i-Azam University was an eye opener and helped me understand the multicultural and ethnic versatility of our society, which paved ways for a completely different person coming out of the shell. To add onto my fortune and opportunity, in 2006 we (I and two of my other close friends) saw the advertisement of Pak Army offering ladies to join as officers and we decided to apply.
My journey kicked off in November 2006, as a lady cadet belonging to the first ever ladies course trained at PMA. The winters of Kakul, Abottabad gave jitters and second thoughts to my strong determination and my mother’s apprehensions about me joining the Army seemed to be taking over as well. However, as time passed and we got acclimatized and tuned to the pace of the Academy, there was no looking back. For an ordinary girl like me with no significant physical activity throughout the teenage years, the training did pose several challenges. There were moments of distress but the robust routine kept us on our toes and in a way helped in keeping focus.
I personally salute the faculty we were trained by, their motivation, guidance and determination in getting us through. Their work is still reflected in my everyday professional routine and will continue to have its impact on my life. I believe Pakistan Army is a dynamic institution and imparts training that caters to personal and professional growth of cadets. An officer is a product of their training; seniors who guide through, juniors they work with and the troops they are a part of. I myself would have been nothing if it wasn’t for the training faculty at PMA, senior officers I learned from during my service, course mates and comrades I spent time with and juniors I work with.
Passing out of the PMA was a matter of great pride for me. I passed out as a Course Under-Officer, presented with Physical Efficiency Medal and awarded with the highest honor – the Commandant’s Cane as the best Lady Cadet of first Ladies Cadet Course in April 2007.
Passing out of the PMA was a matter of great pride for me. I passed out as a Course Under-Officer, presented with Physical Efficiency Medal and awarded with the highest honor – the Commandant’s Cane as the best Lady Cadet of first Ladies Cadet Course in April 2007. Since then with the blessings of Almighty, my parents’ prayers and family’s support, there has been no looking back.
‘Rollercoaster ride’ may sound pretty casual to define the twelve years of my service so far, though it reflects the slight ups and downs, challenges and learning, I experienced. The society and the general mindset are usually considered to hinder our women, from adopting unusual professional attire. As a lady officer, with challenges being part and parcel of my profession, there were moments where I had to push myself more to make space.
Pakistan Army and being a part of Inter Services Public Relations Directorate (ISPR) as a Public Relations Officer (PRO) has given me vast exposure to the world I never thought of, to the world I had never seen and to the corners of world I never had an idea about. Initially being posted as a Platoon Commander at PMA and to serve the most prestigious training institution, is a feather in my cap, I will always cherish. Furthermore, as a Public Relations Officer in Quetta Corps was entirely a diverse experience. I also got the chance to enhance my military and academic qualification, which had been a surprise to many of my friends outside the army circle who did not know about the world class opportunities given in our training institutions, equally to men and women.
Crossing borders and interacting with Armed Forces across the world has yet been another revealing experience. I was a part of Young Officers Conference held in December 2016 in Shijiazhuang, China and Media Exchange Program held in Rome, Italy in March 2018. These experiences widened horizons of my thinking. The current posting as a Public Relations Officer of Bahawalpur Corps is the icing on the cake and has given me the chance to serve, see and learn in the beautiful Southern Punjab region of my beloved country.
Today I strongly believe: The journeys – where they start or end may not matter much, what matters are the experiences and lessons one gains, travelling through! HH
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