It was only a few days ago that I attended a seminar on increasing the confidence level between traffic police and general public, conducted by the Traffic Police Department and a local university in Lahore. The panel comprised eight members including six female traffic personnel. After an informative presentation by senior traffic warden Moazam Ali, the hall was declared open for questions. As expected, the first question was about female drivers and their inability to drive on roads. The question was followed by applause and laughter.

For a country so cynical about its female drivers, losing a female air force pilot should not be a disturbing news. Surprisingly, the news of the unfortunate demise of Marium Mukhtiar , “Pakistan’s first female jet fighter pilot who embraced martyrdom” not only saddened the whole nation, but also succeeded in shocking them.

As soon as the statement of her demise appeared, social media was flooded with grievances and millions of condolences were exchanged over different networking platforms.  

The mainstream media has been talking about her heroism and honoring her with heartfelt packages. Chief of Army Staff, General Raheel Sharif, Chief of Air Staff Sohail Amam, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and other prominent military and political figures have paid their tributes to Mariyam and her honourable sacrifice.  Hence, every single being on this planet has been praising her bravery in sacrificing her life for the most honourable job in the country.

But should she have to go so early? Who is responsible for her death? Instead of glorifying her death, shouldn’t we be worried about the carelessness committed by Pakistan Air Force in letting her fly an unfit aircraft? Shouldn't we be more concerned about the accountability of those responsible for this terrible and unfortunate incident? Can our country afford to lose the handful of skilled and patriotic women in our armed forces? Shouldn't we be worried about our attitudes towards glorifying death in the name of a despicable mistake instead of tracking down and punishing the culprits? Don’t we deserve to know about the factors responsible for this great loss? We have called her the ‘Nation’s pride’, ‘Nation’s daughter’ – don’t we have the right to know about the culprits responsible for her death? Will we just close our eyes and leave her fate to the less familiar hands as we do with our daughters while getting them married?

No, she deserves better. 

With the nearly obsolete Occupational Health and Safety laws in Pakistan, armed forces are considered to be the only institution that respects its human resource. But if such negligence becomes a routine then its holiness will become dubious and many questions would be raised over it. We know that Pakistan is suffering from an extremist mindset which practically kills professional women. In such a situation, how did we let this happen to our one of the finest female fighter pilots? We need to set our priorities right. Pakistan does not need martyrs, it needs skillful patriotic citizens to raise it sanctity – alive.

I am sorry Marium, but I would never have wished martyrdom for you. Instead, I would have liked to see you living and winning laurels for Pakistan and for yourself.