Record Numbers of Pakistani Women Join US Military Training Programs

Over the past two years, Pakistan has led the region in sending women officers to the United States for specialized military training
Pakistan has seen a significant 150% surge in the number of female officers receiving military training in the United States over the past decade, according to a report from the US State Department’s Bureau of Political-Military Affairs.

“Since 2013, there has been a notable increase in the participation of Pakistani female military personnel in the International Military Education and Training Program (IMET),” the report stated.

Sponsored by the State Department, this program aims to foster military relationships between partner nations by funding international military students to attend American military training and education courses.

The report further stated, “From 2020 to 2023, 55 women attended IMET courses, more than doubling the twenty-two participants from 2013 to 2019. Moreover, Pakistan has been the leading country in the region for the past two years in sending female military officers for courses in the United States.”

According to the report, “Pakistani women officers have been actively involved in specialized training programs that cover a wide range of subjects, such as anti-terrorism, anti-piracy, military justice, information technology, cyber strategies, public affairs, gender-based violence, and medical-related topics.”

In Pakistan, these individuals have proven to be the first drops of rain, jumping head-first into military training and education courses to advance their professional development

“In Pakistan, these individuals have proven to be the first drops of rain, jumping head-first into military training and education courses to advance their professional development while laying the groundwork for more women to follow,” the report said.

Female officers receiving training in the US come from various branches of Pakistan’s Army, Navy, and Air Force.

The Pakistan Army started inducting women as commissioned officers in 1948, followed by the Pakistan Air Force in 1993 and the Pakistan Navy in 1996. Despite facing cultural and societal barriers, Pakistani women have made significant strides in the military, breaking gender stereotypes and proving their capabilities in various operational and leadership roles.

The female soldiers undergo the same rigorous selection process as their male counterparts when joining the Army, Navy, and Air Force. In training academies, they face the same tough training stages as male cadets.

The Army Training Academy is located in Kakul, a city in the Abbottabad district, while the Air Force Training Academy is in Risalpur, a city in the Khyber Pakhtun Khwa district, and the Navy Training Academy is in Karachi.

In 2003, the Pakistan Air Force (PAF) launched a new combat program, initiating the training of women as fighter pilots. By 2006, the first batch of women fighter pilots had joined the combat services of the PAF.

There are currently 34 women pilots in the PAF, including Squadron Leader Ayesha Farooq, who holds the distinction of being Pakistan’s first female fighter pilot. She currently serves as the adjutant of a flying wing within the PAF fighter jet fleet.

Ayesha Farooq, Pakistan’s pioneering female fighter pilot, gazes skyward before sealing the cockpit of her fighter jet. (Courtesy Pakistan Air Force)

The Pakistan Navy restricts women from serving in combat roles but permits them to contribute to various other essential branches such as information technology, engineering, medical, education, logistics, and public relations.