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I'm ready for war, says first female Pakistani pilot Ayesha Farooq

Monday, 2 September 2013 - 9:00am IST | Place: ISLAMABAD | Agency: Daily Telegraph
India and Pakistan remain in a stand-off over the territory of Kashmir. Twice since partition it has caused all-out wars and the dispute is flaring once again. Both sides have claimed they have been attacked with artillery and small arms.
  • Reuters

If border sniping does ever descend into war between India and Pakistan, Ayesha Farooq will be one of the first pilots in the air. She has made history by becoming the first woman assigned to one of Pakistan's front-line dogfighting squadrons.

Now at the age of 26 Flight Lieutenant Farooq says she is ready for the ultimate test. "If war breaks out, I will be flying on my senior's wing as his wingman, well, wingwoman," she said in an interview with The Daily Telegraph at the headquarters of the Pakistan Air Force in Islamabad.

India and Pakistan remain in a stand-off over the territory of Kashmir. Twice since partition it has caused all-out wars and the dispute is flaring once again. Both sides have claimed they have been attacked with artillery and small arms.

Last month, India accused Pakistani forces of killing five of its soldiers, stoking anger among Hindu nationalists of the BJP. For Fl Lt Farooq, it would be the chance to prove women are every bit the equal of men in the cockpit.

"I want to prove myself, to show that I'm doing something for my country," she said. This year she completed her training to become Pakistan's first war-ready female fighter pilot, flying the F7-PG, a Chinese version of the MiG 21 jet.

In the process, she has become a role model for millions of girls in a country where many are denied an education and forced to stay at home. Yet Fl Lt Farooq remains a traditional Pakistani woman in some ways. Three weeks ago she was married to her cousin, in an arranged match.

"We played together as children so I think he knew I would not be a traditional woman." About 4,000 women serve in the country's armed forces. Of six female fighter pilots, Fl Lt Farooq is the only one qualified for combat and to fly sorties along the border.

"As well as doing a job for my country I'm changing the thoughts of people," she said. "It's a big responsibility."




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