“No nation can ever be worthy of its existence that cannot take its women along with the men. No struggle can ever succeed without women participating side by side with men. There are two powers in the world; one is the sword and the other is the pen. There is a great competition and rivalry between the two. There is a third power stronger than both, that of the women.”
— Quaid-i-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah
From attending to wounded soldiers during battles to performing trade in ancient Arabia, history is full of examples of Muslim women playing a vital role in every facet of life. In this regard, Pakistan Army has endeavoured to provide opportunities to women alongside promoting feelings of nationhood. Today, Lady Officers (LOs) can be seen serving their country not only within the borders of Pakistan but also overseas as part of United Nations Peacekeeping. Indeed, Pakistan Army has allowed women to stand shoulder to shoulder with their male colleagues and work towards a better and safer Pakistan.
Pakistan Army prides itself in nurturing the brewing potential of women in multifarious fields, which include Lady Cadet Course (LCC) and Basic Military Training Course (BMTC) of commission Lady Cadets (LCs) as doctors General Duty Medical Officers (GDMOs) and specialists in Army Medical Corps (AMC).
LCC trains LCs for Army Education Corps, ISPR, RV&FC, Corps of Engineers, Corps of Electrical and Mechanical Engineers (EME) and Corps of Signals. The training regime of LCs is configured to address the demanding requirements of field service and revolves around four basic pillars: Character and Personality Development (C&PD), Military Training and Grooming, Physical Conditioning and Intellectual Enrichment.
Pakistan Army’s training philosophy revolves around ‘Sweet in peace, saves blood in war’. LC’s hailing from all regions of Pakistan with diverse demographic and ethnographic background are trained to undergo initial transformational training, which moulds them according to the military culture. This culture is inculcated in LCs from the beginning of their training. C&PD instills in them the core principles and values like ideological alignment, patriotism, social adaptability, managerial skills and public speaking. C&PD aims to train LCs to be physically and mentally enough so that they can handle challenging circumstances without panicking. The purpose of this well-rounded training program is to enhance and accentuate skills and talents of LCs while promoting team spirit and comradeship.
LC Rubab talks about how C&PD transforms an LC into a soldier with immaculate military demeanor saying, “PMA is an unknown and unpredictable world, which was beyond our imagination. From the attire to daily conduct, the designated tasks exist to make us resilient. The initial two months are the transition phase where one gradually transforms from their civilian persona to a military one. The most astonishing part is that one surrenders even without realizing because of the rigorous routine. Training at PMA is very tough because it is all about physical and mental endurance. The academy provides the environment, activities and situations, which are challenging enough to make one physically and mentally strong. The program is designed meticulously to achieve desired results.”
LC Soha also talked about how the training program touches different aspects of an LC’s personality: “I found training at PMA a diverse and challenging experience. It is designed in such a way that it tests our physical and mental capabilities. The first two months were the hardest, because PMA projects a stern image to first termers. Gradually, minds are trained to endure the hardships of training. But tough times give lifelong friends and for me the best part about PMA are my course mates.”
LC Laraib also shared similar sentiments when she said, “Getting inducted into the Pakistan Army after a long, tough and tedious process, I never thought about the training itself. PMA was definitely an unexpected surprise. The training started on a tough note. Initially, it was really difficult to adjust to the routine. Getting up early in the morning, not having enough sleep, no time to eat properly and following a hectic routine was a challenge but it has made me physically and mentally strong.”
To effectively give LCs a military outlook, Military Training and Grooming makes them learn about military history and evolution, organizational standard procedures, drills, current military organization and military culture. This also includes field exercises, field craft, firing practices and obstacle negotiations. LCs are also motivated to join extracurricular activities like horse riding, swimming, cycling, debating and creative writing. LC Adeena thinks that alongside personality grooming and training, this is the aspect of training that fully prepares LCs to serve as officers: “Training at PMA has been an exciting experience; learning battle procedures, defense and attack has been my favourite by far. I cannot say that the journey has been easy but it has definitely been satisfying. It is a matter of great pride for me and I salute the faculty that has been training us. Their motivation, guidance and determination has pushed all of us to become better cadets.”
The most important aspect of their training is physical fitness. Training LCs to be physically and mentally fit for service is of utmost importance. This makes them adaptable to the demanding designations and locations that they would be serving at. This facet of training is further reinforced by addition of sports like handball, football, basketball and badminton. In LC Asma Yaqub’s words, “Training at PMA is a package of mental and physical endurance. It moulds LCs to become officers who are resilient enough to respond to the dynamics of service. The training not only includes physical activities but it tests one’s endurance as well. In my opinion being away from home and family and not being able to see them for a good eight initial weeks is a real test. It is not an exaggeration when I say that the training at PMA tests physical and mental thresholds of cadets, be it men or women.”
Intellectual enrichment of LCs is pursued through academic studies, interaction with military leadership, guest speaker sessions and orientation visits to military installations. This facet equips LCs for national assignments as well as overseas deployment projecting the true outlook of Pakistan.
Training regime at PMA has stood the test of time. This is evident from not only the role played by LOs with respect to national assignments, but is further concreted by acknowledgements by international observers like UN Force Commanders of Peacekeeping Missions that they serve in. The training at PMA plays a vital role in educating the future LOs of Pakistan Army. After passing out, an LO is fully equipped with the knowledge of dealing with difficult situations. The LO is moulded to have clear objectives in life and commitment to the mission. She holds adequate knowledge, professional competence and good communication skills to perform all duties with faith, consistency, integrity and courage. She is taught to work in a team and is bound to ensure the wellbeing of her subordinates. She lives by one code: the country takes precedence over self and accomplishment of task is a matter of faith.
LC Huma aptly encapsulates the nature of the training saying: “I never expected that the training of LCs would be so demanding. It took me a while to understand the flow of things but with the passage of time, I started enjoying it. My course mates and I have made many cherished memories here at PMA and with the help of some tough love of from our platoon commander, we have been able to bear all hardships of training at PMA has definitely pushed all of us out of our comfort zones and has helped us become stronger individuals.” HH
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