They can treat all the wounded soldiers but they can’t go to the battlefield. Not yet at least.
Thousands of women have been inducted in the Pakistan armed forces over the last five years but there is no policy to induct them in the infantry and armour department yet.
Dressed in crisp khaki sari, hair tied back, and straight posture, female officers in the armed forces, however, believe they are ready to face all challenges, including those in the trenches.
Women outside of the armed forces face even greater challenges than those in the army, said a female officer while talking to The Express Tribune.
“My uniform and rank make another person think twice before harassing me,” she said.
“Women in other fields are more vulnerable and have to struggle to seek justice when harassed at workplace or elsewhere,” she added.
She said she joined the army due to ‘job security’ in pursuit of a secure life but the day she donned her uniform, a ‘sense of responsibility to fight for my country took over.’
Accommodating the women
While the women in the armed forces have to undergo the same hurdles as men, some rules and regulations are amended to accommodate them.
“We have to keep in mind the socioeconomic setup, norms of the society and abilities,” said a female official.
While men have to clear high-school level, women need to have a postgraduate degree and be older than 28 before they can appear for the exam.
They subsequently undergo training for six months while the men train for two years before they get a rank.
Women were inducted in the Pakistan army in 2006 – prior to that they were inducted only in the medical department.
More than 3,000 women appear in the test every year while a total of 41 were selected in the first batch. The number has grown steadily since.
“They are treated as equals and they have proven to be better than men in various areas,” said an ISPR official.
At present, there are almost 3,500 female officers serving in the Pakistan Army. Of them, approximately 2,400 serve in the armed forces nursing service with 600 female doctors serving at all ranks between captain and major general.
About 350 officers are working in other military branches including ISPR, communication, military college of signals and military college of engineering.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 18th, 2011.