It is indeed a quite an achievement that Rafia Qaseem Baig is training to become Pakistan’s first female bomb disposal officer. At 29, this ambitious girl is breaking stereotypes about what women can and cannot do; the only female in a group of 31 selected for the course. She is currently in Nowshera for attending a program, Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD), which is a basic 2-week course in bomb disposal.
For Rafia, this opportunity is not only her passion, but it is also her will to serve her country and to be able to play a role in protecting citizens from harm. In Pakistan’s recent terror plagued scenario, KPK’s Bomb Disposal Unit (BDU) has played an integral role by defusing over 6,000 bombs since 2009. This is no easy feat, and the slightest of mistakes can put the lives of these officers at risk.
Near death experiences, in their line of work, are inevitable. Zahid, a bomb disposal officer, recounts an incident where someone triggered the bomb while he was in the process of defusing it. He escaped unhurt, but this incident gives a clear idea of the imminent danger their lives are in.
Rafia, who holds two Masters Degrees in Economics and International Relations, is also currently studying law. She is of the opinion that this job requires courage and plenty of it and that her faith in Allah plays a critical role in her selection of this job. She admits that the job is quite challenging but also believes that since women are excelling in various fields in Pakistan, Bomb Disposal Unit should also have its fair share of women.
In her attempt to pursue her dream job, Rafia has subsequently opened new job opportunities for women. She is humbled by the praise which she has received as she has not anticipated such reactions and that she’ll become a part of history.
SP Niaz, the principal of the school, feels that admitting Rafia is a progressive step and will lead the academy to perform much better in the future. He also mentioned that next on their agenda is to admit an entire batch of females as trainees at the academy.
Rafia too, wants her female counterparts to join the BDU. Inspector Shafiq, Rafia’s instructor, is all praise for his talented student. He finds her intelligent and hardworking and has been impressed by her diligence and aptitude.
Despite being inducted into the force at a time when terrorism was at its peak, Rafia has persevered. It is also important to note that the KP region has often found itself in the middle of the conflict between the terrorists and the security forces. The people of this region have always fought back and have prevented some major disasters from taking place. Once such incident includes disposing of a 3 KG bomb on September the 23rd, had the bomb exploded, significant lives would have been lost.
We need women like Rafia, who fight against the odds and remain determined in the face of anything. A large part of Pakistan’s population is made up of females, most of whom remain unemployed due to limited opportunities. It is essential to give them a chance to prove their mettle and to be a progressive nation with a stable economy. The society’s view of things and its categorization of right and wrong are thwarting progress, in the rapidly developing world; there is no time to reflect on what people think. Follow your dreams and change the world.