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Army, Navy hesitant to consider women for combat, operation corps

By Azeem Samar

Karachi: While there is growing trend of inducting women to different branches of the armed forces, paramilitary forces, and law-enforcement agencies, the Pakistan Army and Navy have not yet considered recruiting females to their backbone branches including the fighting and operations corps. Such a suggestion, it is felt, is a difficult proposition that doesn’t offer many benefits but accrues heavy operational and economic costs for the fighting capabilities of the two forces.

Inter Services Public Relations (ISPR) Director General, Maj. General Athar Abbas, told The News: “The army high-command doesn’t think that recruiting women in the main strike arms would increase operational and fighting efficiency and capabilities of these corps.”

Contrary to Pakistan Army and Navy, women have been working in various main branches of Pakistan Air Force (PAF), including as general-duty pilots, aeronautical engineers, and in various ground support branches of the PAF.

Squadron Leader Muhammad Nadeem Khan, public relations officer (PRO) of the PAF, said that women had been inducted in almost all main branches of PAF, and their recruitment has been made a regular feature by the PAF to take place on annual basis.

Similar is the case with Sindh Rangers, where 21 women were recently inducted. A new wing was established for them, and they were given various junior commissioned and non-commissioned ranks. Their passing-out parade was held on January 05, 2009 at the Sindh Rangers Training Centre at Super Highway.

Lt Gen (retd) Abdul Qadir Baloch, who had also served as Sindh Rangers Director-General, said that it would not be feasible to deploy the newly recruited women at the borders, for which the paramilitary force of rangers is primarily meant. “They would be best utilised in administration-related, signals, communications, logistics, and other support work which are mainly based in cantonments,” he said.

Baloch said that at present, there had been no thinking amongst the army hierarchy to recruit women to its main fighting corps. He did not rule out the possibility of such thinking developing in future but thought that it remains a remote possibility.

Chief spokesman for Pakistan Navy, Captain Asif Majeed Butt, gave credence to such an opinion, maintaining that even advanced countries like the United States had been actively considering stopping recruiting women to their main operations side of their navies due to rising economic and social costs, as well as technical implications. He said that inducting women in operations branch of the navy meant that extensive changes should be brought out in interior settings of battleships, including separate messing and lodging facilities for seafaring female officers. Such modifications would entail heavy costs for the navy, he said.

There are also social and cultural implications for would-be seafaring female officers, as they would have to remain thousands of miles away from their homes in sea for several months at a stretch for voyages and maritime warfare missions. “Even in the navies of developed countries, ladies are mostly inducted instead of commissioning them in the mainstream navigation or logistics branches,” said Butt. To a question about possibility of induction of female pilots in the naval aviation branch, he said that it would be an unlikely proposition as the Pakistan Navy does not have basic aviation training facilities, and has to send its pilots to the training schools of Pakistan Air Force and Army Aviation Corps.

Commander Salman Ali, PRO of the Pakistan Navy in Karachi, said that the induction of women officers through short-service commission in branches of medicine, education, computers and IT branches of the Navy had now become a regular annual feature. The female naval officials, through the short-service commission, were awarded ranks of sub-lieutenant or lieutenant depending on their qualification. He said that after certain years of service, female officers were given the option of taking the exam of their peculiar naval branch in order to regularise and make permanent their short-service commission.

Meanwhile, Maj. General Athar Abbas said that female officers had been working in ISPR, Medical, Education, Signals, Computers and Communications arms of the Pakistan Army. He said that females had been inducted in a selected few corps and branches of the army where presence of lady officers would help in enhancing operational efficiency of these arms.

Abbas said that selected female candidates for various branches of Pakistan Army were given six-month training at Pakistan Military Academy, Kakul for short-service commission in the army. “It is these support branches of the army where women were inducted mainly for office and administration related work. This process started some two years ago, when the armed forces started recruiting women officers in various branches,” he said. “May be at some advance stage we would weigh the option of recruiting women in backbone fighting corps but this is certainly not the stage,” he said.
Source: The News

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