Pakistan’s Flying Women

Where eagles don't dare Pakistani women do. Pakistan is a country that has amazed the world by representing moderation, openness and enlightenment, and by empowering women and emancipating them with leadership roles in almost every field, which had earlier been regarded as men-specific. This they did while upholding the Pakistani values and Islamic norms.
Pakistan Armed Forces have the privilege of giving the women a leading role, earmarking their rational representation in the three services, and providing them the opportunity to grow and excel, groom and promote themselves. Likewise, the Pakistani women have proved their capability and potential, bravery and brilliance, especially in Pakistan Air Force and Pakistan Army. They proved their mettle as equally as serving shoulder to shoulder with men. We need to pay a tribute to those who have blazed new paths in their own field and accomplished feats that most men find daunting.
Ayesha Farooq is the one such woman amongst many, who championed the women in the world of flying, and set records in the history of Pakistan aviation. She is regarded as the pioneer who broke the taboos with her unwavering willpower and unflinching determination, and made the history. With her utmost courage and conviction Ayesha Farooq proved that the Pakistani women possess potential and power not only equal to men but can also  compete at the world level.
For Ayesha Farooq, becoming the first and only female combat pilot in Pakistan Air Force wasn’t easy. She faced problems but she waded all through and made it possible. Now without Ayesha the history of Pakistan Air Force remains incomplete. Hailing from Bahawalpur, the part of lesser developed Southern Punjab, Ayesha at the age of only 3 suffered the loss of her father; and ensuing sufferings of life transformed her in to a woman of steel . “I grew up like an elder of my family; from the very start I took over the responsibility of taking care of my mother and my younger sister. From the very beginning I was like a little army man.” The soft spoken iron heart fighter pilot said in an interview that she was inspired by her mother who happened to be a housewife and a widow, who for her, is the ultimate symbol of strength. “My mother raised me to be strong to a point that if one day I was left alone, I would be able to take care of myself,” she said while addressing a crowd at Aga Khan University in Karachi, adding that her achievement comes as a consequence of her mother’s support.
Ayesha Farooq has the unflinching resolve of fighting shoulder to shoulder with men if and when duty calls. She says woman is a sensitive gender no doubt, but her resolve is stronger than rocks. A woman can brave the biggest of storms of life making her own way by all means. We have Ayeshas, Maryams and many others who can make a possible out of every impossible with their inner strength, resoluteness and promise.
We have females whose heroic jumps are just not stuntmen fiction. Fighting real battles in physical battlegrounds is something our women do with ease and passion. A female officer of the Armed Forces, Squadron Leader Bisma Nasim of PAF is the wonder woman. She created history by being the first woman paratrooper not just in Pakistan but in Asia. She has filmed really thrilling videos of her base jumping from a low flying C-130 aircraft, making a soft landing.
Besides Samina Baig, the first Pakistani Everest scaler, one must not miss to mention the name of Namira Saleem, the first Pakistani man or woman to reach North and South Poles. She holds the title of being the first Asian and first Pakistani to skydive over Mount Everest during the historic First Everest Skydives project in 2008. She is the first Pakistani that will travel in to space through the first commercial space flight by Virgin Galactic.
Above all, Pakistan and the PAF are proud of its first female fighter pilot, Marium Mukhtiar, who embraced martyrdom in the line of duty. She was only 23 years old, exactly on November 24, 2015, when the aircraft of the Pilot Officer Marium Mukhtiar Shaikh, PAF F-7PG, developed a mechanical fault during a routine operational training mission and the engine caught fire. Marium had to eject, but before she ejected, she tried her best to let the plane fall down far from the populated area so as to have minimum collateral damage. In the process she couldn’t survive the impact of the crash and died. She spent her early life in Karachi and chose to join the armed forces, the profession of her father, despite having previously pursued civil engineering and the fact that her pursuit was unprecedented. She graduated as a fighter pilot in Pakistan Air Force in 2007 with seven other female Pakistanis who also graduated as pilot officers. On May 6, 2011, she joined the Pakistan Air Force in 132 GD Pilot course.
In 2006, a batch of 30 women joined the Pakistan Armed Forces to pursue their careers in Signals, Public Relations, Computer Science, Education, Legal Branch, and other departments as Captains. In a para jumping competition held on June 24, 2013 at the parachute training school, a batch of another 24 Pakistani women made history and secured distinction of being the first. The women are joining every field; wherever they are, they are flying high and establishing their prowess, shoulder to shoulder with men. This is a whole generation of girls with substance who are presenting and representing the real face of Pakistan – bold, confident and daring, challenging the stereotypes, readying to speak the unspeakable and raring to do the undoable. 

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