A female cadet stands before displaying her skills during a passing out parade, upon the completion of her basic training with others at the Police Training College, on the outskirts of Karachi, March 13, 2015.
Athar Hussain / Reuters

Wardah Nur never imagined that she would become a soldier. And, until ten years ago, she couldn’t have.

Yet here she was, in the cool air of the Himalayan foothills, among sergeants shouting orders and cadets falling quickly into formation. They pivot, turn, and march. Only four weeks into training, though, they struggle to stay in step.

Nur belongs to a small, elite group -- the 2013 “lady cadets,” as they are called -- the latest batch of women to train at the Pakistan Military Academy since it began accepting them in 2006 during General Pervez Musharraf’s presidency. Hundreds of women vie for a spot each year, although only 32 seats are open to them. There are 2,000 seats at the academy for men. And, although men can enroll after high school, women must first earn a bachelor’s degree and speak fluent English. The differences don’t end there: Once enrolled,

This article is part of our premium archives.

To continue reading and get full access to our entire archive, you must subscribe.

Subscribe