Pakistan’s girl cadets dream of taking power

This photo taken on October 25, 2017, Pakistani cadets parade at the Pakistan Army's first Girls' Cadet College in Mardan. (AFP)
Updated 31 December 2017
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Pakistan’s girl cadets dream of taking power

MARDAN, Pakistan: At a revolutionary school in Pakistan, Durkhanay Banuri dreams of becoming military chief, once a mission impossible for girls in a patriarchal country where the powerful army has a severe problem with gender equity.
Thirteen-year-old Durkhanay, a student at Pakistan’s first ever Girls’ Cadet College, established earlier this year in the deeply conservative northwest, brims with enthusiasm and confidence as she sketches out her life plan.
“I want to be the army chief,” she tells AFP. “Why not? When a woman can be prime minister, foreign minister and governor of the State Bank, she can also be chief of the army staff ... I will make it possible and you will see.”
The dreams of many women in the region were once limited to merely leaving the house.
Durkhanay and her 70 classmates in Mardan, a town in militancy-hit Khyber Pakthunkhwa (KP) province roughly 110 kilometers (70 miles) from Islamabad, are aiming much higher.
Cadet colleges in Pakistan, which are run by the government with officers from the military’s education branch, strive to prepare bright male students for the armed forces and civil services.
Their graduates are usually given preference for selection to the army, which in Pakistan can mean their future is secured: they are likely to be granted land and will benefit from the best resources and training in the country.
As a result such colleges play an outsized role in Pakistan’s education system, which has been woefully underfunded for decades.

According to a 2016 government study, a staggering 24 million Pakistani children are out of school, with a larger share of girls staying home than boys — 12.8 million compared to 11.2 million.
Hundreds of boys study at the cadet colleges across the country.
But girls are still not allowed in these elite schools, with the special college at Mardan the one exception.
“Such colleges can help girls qualify to be part of the armed forces, foreign service, civil services or become engineers and doctors,” said retired Brig. Naureen Satti, underscoring their importance in the long fight for equality by Pakistan’s women.
In starched khaki uniforms and red berets Durkhanay and her classmates march the parade ground, stepping to the beat of a barking drill instructor, before racing to change into physical training and martial arts kits.
The military is widely seen as Pakistan’s most powerful institution, and has ruled the country for roughly half of its 70-year history. Under the current civilian government it is believed to control defense and foreign policy.
Women, however, have largely been shut out — par for the course in a country routinely ranked among the world’s most misogynistic, and where they have fought for their rights for decades.
Previously they were only allowed to serve in administrative posts. But military dictator Pervez Musharraf opened up the combat branches of the army, navy and air force to women beginning in 2003.

The military would not disclose how many of its members, which a 2015 Credit Suisse report said number more than 700,000 active personnel, are currently women.
But a senior security official told AFP on condition of anonymity that at least 4,000 are now believed to be serving in the armed forces.
He gave no further details, and it is unclear how far the women have managed to foray from their administrative past, though some have managed to become high profile role models — including, notably, Ayesha Farooq, who in 2013 became Pakistan’s first ever female fighter pilot.
The Girls’ Cadet College principal, retired brigadier Javid Sarwar, vowed his students would be prepared for whatever they wanted to do, “including the armed forces.”
“I want these girls to avail their brilliance and fight injustices in society, and this is possible if they get a standard education,” he told AFP, adding that plans are to induct a second batch of 80 girls from all over Pakistan by March next year.
For 57,000 rupees ($540) each three-term semester, his students get room and board along with access to computers and the Internet, a luxury for some Pakistani schools.
It is a “game changer” in a region where religious conservative norms see many women keep some form of purdah — confined to women’s-only quarters at home — and “could only dream of coming out of their houses in the past,” says college vice principal Shama Javed.
Durkhanay and her classmates are confident the college will give them a fighting chance in Pakistan.
Affifa Alam, who wants to follow Farooq’s path and become an air force pilot, said the college represents a “big change.” “This will help us (in) realizing the dream of women’s empowerment,” she said.


Brexit in disarray as Theresa May faces possible ouster plot

Updated 24 March 2019
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Brexit in disarray as Theresa May faces possible ouster plot

  • British politics is at fever pitch and nearly three years since the 2016 Brexit referendum
  • With Theresa May humiliated and weakened, ministers insist she and the British government are still in charge of the country

LONDON: The United Kingdom’s exit from the European Union was in disarray on Sunday as Prime Minister Theresa May faced a possible plot by ministers to topple her and parliament prepared to grab control of Brexit from the government.
At one of the most important junctures for the country since World War Two, British politics was at fever pitch and, nearly three years since the 2016 referendum, it was still unclear how, when or if Brexit will ever take place.
With May humiliated and weakened, ministers insisted she and the British government were still in charge of the country, and that the best option was still for parliament to ratify May’s twice-defeated Brexit divorce deal.
As hundreds of thousands of people marched across central London on Saturday to demand another Brexit referendum, May was the subject of what The Sunday Times said was a “coup” by senior ministers seeking to oust her.
The newspaper cited 11 unidentified senior ministers and said they had agreed that the prime minister should stand down, warning that she has become a toxic and erratic figure whose judgment has “gone haywire.”
When asked by Sky about reports in The Sunday Times and other newspapers of a plot and whether she had run out of road, finance minister Philip Hammond said: “No. I don’t think that is the case at all.”
“Changing prime minister wouldn’t help us,” Hammond said. “To be talking about changing the players on the board, frankly, is self-indulgent at this time.”
Hammond said the best way forward would be for parliament to back May’s deal, although he said that it might not be approved and so parliament should then try to find a way to end the impasse.
“I’m realistic that we may not be able to get a majority for the prime minister’s (Brexit) deal and if that is the case then parliament will have to decide not just what it’s against but what it is for,” he said.
Brexit had been due to happen on March 29 before May secured a delay in talks with the EU on Thursday.
Now a May 22 departure date will apply if parliament rallies behind the British prime minister and she is able to pass her deal. If she fails to do so, Britain will have until April 12 to offer a new plan or decide to leave the EU without a treaty.
Some lawmakers have asked May to name her departure date as the price for supporting her deal, though it was unclear when a third vote might take place.
If May’s deal is dead, then parliament will try to find a different option. That opens an array of options including a much softer divorce than May had intended, a referendum, a revocation of the Article 50 divorce papers or even an election.
Brexit Secretary Steve Barclay said May’s deal was the best option and urged people to get behind the prime minister.
“The government and the prime minister are in charge,” Barclay said. May went to her usual church service near her Chequers country residence on Sunday with her husband.
The Sunday Times reported that May’s de-facto deputy, David Lidington, was one contender to be interim prime minister but others are pushing for Environment Secretary Michael Gove or Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt.
“I don’t think that I have any wish to take over from the PM, I think (she) is doing a fantastic job,” Lidington told reporters outside his house.
“One thing that working closely with the prime minister does is cure you completely of any lingering shred of ambition to want to do that task,” he quipped.
Lawmakers are due on Monday to debate a government motion saying parliament has considered a statement made by May on March 15 which set out the government’s next steps on Brexit, including the plan to seek a delay.
They are likely to propose changes, or amendments, to this motion setting out alternative ways forward on Brexit. These are expected to include a proposal to approve May’s deal only if it is put to a public vote.
While amendments are not legally binding, instead simply exerting political pressure on May to change course, lawmakers could use one to attempt to change the rules of parliament to wrest control of the Brexit process from the government.
A British election could be the consequence of parliament seizing control of the Brexit process if lawmakers back proposals contrary to the pledges the government was elected on, Barclay said.