Pakistan has an image of not letting women professionally employed and restricting them by religious and cultural beliefs behind walls since long in the west but the trend seems to be changing as this latest development in the defence force of the country - women pilots flying fighter jets depicts exciting new vistas for the younger lot .In the early '80s Pakistani women faced major challenges with regards to literacy, gaining access to employment opportunities at all levels in the economy, promoting change in the perception of women's roles and status, and gaining a public voice both within and outside of the political process. But gradually over the years, the situation has seemingly improved. It has been reported that batches of girls are now being trained to become the first ever fighter pilots in the history of Pakistan Air Force (PAF).
Presently there are 10 women in two batches in the flying wing of the academy and Saba Khan is one of them. Coming from an enlightened Pathan family in Quetta, capital of otherwise conservative Balochistan Province, Saba was initially inspired by one of her uncles who had been in the air force. And she says the first newspaper advertisement seeking female cadets was like a dream come true.
“I always wanted to be a fighter pilot, and eventually with Allah's wish and my parents' full support, I have made it this far” Saba Khan has told an international News Channel.
She firmly believes that the first batch of women would provide the much-needed inspiration for many other girls who dream of joining the forces.
There are other women in Pakistan Air Force as well competing with men in the engineering and aerospace wing. Though the number of these female cadets is much less, many instructors and even some male cadets admit that the girls' presence is quite significant in fact they are said to be performing outstandingly. They participate alongside men in all activities except physical education. Some have outshone the boys during training exercises, and certainly they have proved that women can stand alongside men as members of the PAF. This batch of female pilots is expected to pass out from PAF Academy, Risalpur in April, 2006.
The steps undertaken by PAF represent a 'positive image' of Pakistan and it is trying to provide equal opportunities to women and opening new avenues for them. New policies are being formulated at government level to provide better opportunities to women. Definitely, Pakistan is not a fundamentalist state where women are oppressed and cannot participate in building the country.