Pakistan's first and only female fighter pilot to die in the line of duty, Marium Mukhtiar Shaikh was born on May 18, 1992 in Karachi, with ancestral roots in Pano Akil, Sindh. Mariam was the second eldest among her two siblings, a
Marium Mukhtiar Shaikh
Pakistan's first and only female fighter pilot to die in the line of duty, Marium Mukhtiar Shaikh was born on May 18, 1992 in Karachi, with ancestral roots in Pano Akil, Sindh. Mariam was the second eldest among her two siblings, a brother and a sister. She was the daughter of Col. (R) Mukhtiar A. Shaikh and brought up in a sacred environment where passion for martyrdom always prevailed.
After graduating in Civil Engineering from NED University of Engineering and Technology, Karachi, she expressed her wish to join Air Force as GD Pilot. Her father knew the hard work involved in joining and serving the armed forces and knew it would not be easy but Marium was resilient and passionate so she refused to back down because she wanted to rule the skies.
She joined Pakistan Air Force (PAF) as an Aviation Cadet in the 132 GD (P) course in 2011. She went to PAF Academy Risalpur with seven other female Pakistani cadets who underwent training and graduated as pilot officers. Pakistan is infact among the few Muslim countries in the world who has been employing women as fighter pilots and offering them the same training as their male counterparts since 2006.
Flying Officer Marium Mukhtiar was commissioned in PAF Academy Risalpur on September 24, 2014, the day she recalled as the most fortunate and jubilant day of her life. She was posted to PAF Base M. M. ALAM to get trained as a fighter pilot. She started to get this hard and rigorous training with full zeal and zest.
On November 24, 2015 Flying Officer Marium Mukhtiar and her instructor-pilot Squadron Leader Saqib Abbasi were on their routine operational training mission in a PAF F-7PG aircraft. Over the Kundian, Mianwali area, about 175 kilometres southwest of Islamabad, the aircraft developed a serious technical malfunction. That was the critical time to decide, 'to be or not to be'.
The situation so developed that she and her co-pilot, Squadron Leader Saqib Abbasi had to eject from the aircraft. She lost her life during the process as she was forced to eject at low height to clear a populated area. Both pilots took care of the crisis with polished methodology and strength to save the aircraft till the last possible time, guaranteeing security of property and the human life.
Maryam embraced Shahadat and became the first ever female pilot of Pakistan Air Force, who embraced martyrdom. She rightly said to her father, ‘when a pilot embraces martyrdom, you only find the ashes, not the pilot’.
In an interview with BBC, Mariam talked about the challenges of being a female pilot in a male-dominated environment said, she joined the air force because she was inspired by the ‘pomp’ and wanted to do something different. She also said her mother had been concerned about her decision to join the force but had supported her throughout.
Pakistan is a highly traditional, patriarchal society where opportunities for women are limited. But in 2006 seven women broke into one of the country's most exclusive male clubs to graduate as fighter pilots perhaps the most prestigious job in the powerful military and for six decades closed to them.
Chief of Army Staff General Raheel Sharif said in a condolence message; 'Mariam was indeed a role model for women and pride of Pakistan'. The martyred lady pilot has made history and we can only hope that her example will encourage other females to follow in her footsteps. The sombre loss of Flying Officer Marium Mukhtiar made the entire nation gloomy but proud as martyrdom does not end something, it is only the beginning.
Air Chief Marshal Sohail Aman on Marium’s martyrdom, 'no one can defeat a nation that has daughters like Marium'.
The Pakistan Senate Standing Committee on Defence (SSCD) recommended Marium Mukhtiar for a state award. She has been awarded with the military award Tamgha-e-Basalat by the Government of Pakistan.
24 years old, Mariam Mukhtiar was buried in Malir Cantonment Graveyard, Karachi.
The tele-film, ‘EK Thi Marium’, a 2016 Pakistani biographical short film directed by Sarmad Sultan Khoosat and written by Umera Ahmed starring Sanam Baloch in titular role of Marium Mukhtar.