Marium Mukhtiar yesterday became the first Pakistani female fighter pilot to die on duty when a jet aircraft crashed near Kundian, in Punjab’s Mianwali district.
The Pakistan Air Force (PAF) said Flying Officer Mukhtiar and male colleague Squadron Leader Saqib Abbasi faced a “serious in-flight emergency” while training in an F7-PG fighter. After taking evasive action to avoid a residential area the pilots were left with insufficient altitude to safely eject. Both ejected and were injured; Mukhtiar died in hospital whilst Abbasi sustained minor injuries.
The PAF said Mukhtiar “embraced shahadat [martyrdom] and became the first lady pilot from PAF to attain this great honour,” crediting Abbasi’s survival as possibly down to his escaping several seconds prior to Mukhtiar. The duo “handled the serious emergency with professionalism and courage and tried to save the ill-fated aircraft till the very last minute,” according to the PAF.
The PAF estimates it has around 30 female fighter pilots. The force began recruiting women in 2003 and in 2006 the nation’s first seven female fighter pilots began service.