Women in the Pakistan Armed Forces

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Women in the Pakistan Armed Forces are the female soldiers who serve in the Pakistan Armed Forces.[1][2] Women have been taking part in Pakistani military since 1947, after the establishment of Pakistan. As of 13 June 2013 around 4,000 women are serving in the Pakistan Armed Forces.[3][4] In 2006, the first women fighter pilot batch joined the combat aerial mission command of PAF.[5][6] The Pakistan Navy prohibits women from serving in the combat missions, especially in the submarine force command. Rather they are appointed and serve in operations involving military logistics, staff development and senior administrative offices, particularly in the regional and central headquarters.[7] There has been a rise in the numbers of women joining the combat PAF in recent years.[8]

Feminism in the military[edit]

In the 1930s and early 1940s, Muslim women who would go on to opt for Pakistan played an extremely vital role in the success of the Pakistan Movement. The founding mothers of Pakistan include Fatima Jinnah, Begum Ra'ana and Shireen Jinnah.

Women in Pakistan Army[edit]

In 1948, the first lady of Pakistan Begum Ra'ana took the lead in starting the women's voluntary service in 1948 to support the medical and logistics for the Pakistan Armed Forces engage in the Indo-Pakistani war of 1947.[10] This led to the formation of a women's unit in the Pakistan Army Corps of Medical; a first attempt was also made in introducing the combat training program for women but such attempts were dismissed by General Frank Messervy.[10] In 1949, the first lady took personal initiatives and established her own Pakistan Army Women National Guard (WNG) with a few combat courses introduced. The unit's first OC and chief controller was Begum Ra'ana, with the rank of brigadier.[10]

In the 20th century, women were restricted from participating in active duty combat operations, although a sizable unit of women soldiers was deployed in hostile areas to support the medical operations only.

In 2002, Shahida Malik was promoted to two-star rank and was the first female Major General. Shahida Badshah was the second woman to be promoted to Major General.

In 2015, brigadier Nigar Johar, became the first woman to command in the history of the Pakistan Army. She was given command of multidisciplinary tertiary care hospital. In 2017 she became the third woman in Pakistan to reach the rank of major general. She belongs to the Army Medical Corps.[11] She has been appointed as the Vice Principal of Army Medical College Rawalpindi as a Major General.[12]

Lieutenant Colonel Shahida Akram Bhurgri, of Pakistan Army Medical Corps, is the first female doctor from Sindh to be commissioned in the Pakistan Army.

Apart from the Indo-Pakistani War of 1971 and the post-1971 war, due to a growing need for ground forces, women were needed in roles in the field.[13] The manpower shortages spurred the army to allow women to take part in fields related to medicine and engineering. Since its establishment, women have been historically barred from battle in the Pakistan Army, serving in a variety of technical and administrative support roles.[13] Since 2004, women have been trained in warfare, but are not part of any fighting formations.[14] Women who are appointed to high-ranking positions usually participate in medical operation planning.[15]

On 14 July 2013, 24 female officers in the Pakistan Army, mostly doctors and software engineers, successfully completed a paratroopers' course at the Parachute Training School, becoming the first group of women to do so in the military's history.[16]

Women in Pakistan Air Force[edit]

In 2003, the PAF started a new combat programme by inducting women to be trained as fighter pilots.[17] In 2006, the first batch of women fighter pilots joined the combat services of the PAF.[17] The then vice chief of army staff General Ahsan Saleem Hyat handed certificates of honour to the successful men and women cadets in the PAF Academy.[17] Women fighter pilots the F-7 fighter jets and are trained in carrying out the bombing and aerial combat missions.[18]

The women in PAF also operate a feminist organization, the Pakistan Air Force Women Association (PAFWA), to promote women to join the PAF as combat pilots and to promote women's health in the Air Force.[19]

Flight Lieutenant Ayesha Farooq was the first Pakistani fighter pilot.

Flying Officer Marium Mukhtiar was the first female pilot of the PAF to die in a routine exercise.[20]


  1. ^ Front Desk. "Pakistan women officers visit NATO Headquarters". North Atlantic Treaty Organization. NATO Newsroom and North Atlantic Treaty Organization. Retrieved September 2, 2012.
  2. ^ ISPR Officials (September 2, 2012). "Pakistan: Woman in running to become first 3 star general". Indian Express. New Delhi: Indian Express Group of Newspapers. p. 1.
  3. ^ "Pakistan fighter pilot wins battle of sexes, now she's ready for war". The Express Tribune. 13 June 2013. Retrieved 15 April 2015.
  4. ^ "Pakistan Army". Retrieved 09/02/2012. Check date values in: |accessdate= (help)
  5. ^ Abbas, Zafar (30 March 2006). "Pakistan gets women combat pilots". BBC News. Islamabad: BBC News, Islamabad. p. 1. Retrieved September 2, 2012.
  6. ^ Staff editorial report (April 26, 2006). "Pakistan army to turns to women for combat". Indian Defence Journal. Indian Defence Journal. Retrieved September 2, 2012.
  7. ^ Staff report (July 5, 2011). "Splendid passing-out parade held for smartly turned out naval officers". Tribune Express. Pakistan Naval Academy: Tribune Express. p. 1. Retrieved September 2, 2012.
  8. ^ Amie Ferris-Rotman (13 June 2013). "Pakistan fighter pilot wins battle of sexes, now she's ready for war". Yahoo News Pakistan. Retrieved 13 June 2013.
  9. ^ Life devoted to human welfare, Dawn, Muneeza Shamsie, 11/06/82
  10. ^ a b c Press. "Women In Pakistan Army". Story of Pakistan. Retrieved 3 September 2012.
  11. ^ Dawn.com (14 February 2017). "Nigar Johar becomes the third female major general in Pakistan's history". dawn.com. Retrieved 6 April 2018.
  12. ^ Dawn.com (14 February 2017). "Nigar Johar becomes the third female major general in Pakistan's history". dawn.com. Retrieved 6 April 2018.
  13. ^ a b ISPR, Inter-Services Public Relations. "Making The Mark - Women In Pakistan - Part 1". Government of Pakistan. Retrieved 3 September 2012.
  14. ^ ISPR, Inter-Services Public Relations. "Marking the Mark". Government of Pakistan (P2). Retrieved 3 September 2012.
  15. ^ NATO. "General Gaskin met Pakistani Women Officers to discuss the need to strengthen NATO-Pakistan military cooperation". NATO. Retrieved 3 September 2012.
  16. ^ "Pakistan Army: First female paratroopers make history". The Express Tribune. 14 July 2013. Retrieved 14 July 2013.
  17. ^ a b c Zaffar Abbas (30 March 2006). "Pakistan gets women combat pilots". BBC Pakistan. Retrieved 9 September 2012. The Pakistani Air Force (PAF) has inducted four women as fighter pilots for the first time.
  18. ^ "PAF Female Pilots complete Operational Conversion on F-7P fighter aircraft". Inter-Services Public Relations. Retrieved 9 September 2012.
  19. ^ "Pakistan Air Force Women Association. (PAFWA)". Pakistan Air Force (PAF). Retrieved 9 September 2012.
  20. ^ "Flying officer Mariam Mukhtar dies in F-7 Jet crash". The Nation. 24 November 2015.