Attrition: Women's Work in the Pakistani Air Force

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April 9, 2006: The recent handful (four) of women commissioned as fighter pilots in the Pakistani Air Force raises the number of women in the service to about five percent of total personnel. Most of these women are officers, filling critical specialist and technical positions. Pakistan has a poor education system, and a shortage of men with technical and administrative skills. For educated men, there are more attractive career opportunities in the civilian economy. Most of the daughters of the middle and upper classes (this includes the officer corps) do get an education. And while many educated men emigrate, the women tend to stay. The air force has taken advantage of this by providing commissions and job opportunities for many of these women. Despite the popularity of Islamic fundamentalism in the countryside, urban Pakistanis have long been less hard core about Islamic law and its restrictions on women's careers. Thus letting your daughter join the air force was not seen as some kind of disgrace, although letting her marry a fighter pilot might cause a commotion in some circles.

 


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