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Lt Col Tahira Khalil

Lt Col Tahira Khalil

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Hilal Her

Breaking Barriers: A Woman’s Inspiring Journey to Becoming a Lieutenant Colonel

April 2024

Life’s journey, even under the watchful eyes of the Almighty, is a tapestry woven with moments of joy and hardship. Although we may receive blessings, our journeys are seldom without obstacles. In the face of adversity, we uncover a remarkable inner strength forged through the challenges we encounter. Being an officer of the Pakistan Army is a testament to the fact that my life has been filled with both successes and challenges.
On May 28, 2024, the outcome of my promotion from Major to Lieutenant Colonel was anticipated to be announced during the late hours. It was a period characterized by unease, expectation, and unwavering faith in Allah. While an officer may clearly understand their abilities and position, they may need to be more humble about whether or not they will be promoted. To preempt any unforeseen circumstances, I departed from the office ahead of schedule, a customary manoeuvre employed by every prudent officer. I lacked any method of communication, so I had no clue about the outcome of the “promotion deliberations.” Upon arriving at the doorstep, I rang the bell and was warmly welcomed by my beloved daughter. She showered me with petals and greeted me, exclaiming, “Mama, you have been promoted!” She had adorned the house with balloons and flowers and commissioned a personalized cake with congratulatory messages. The outcome of the promotion was anticipated, but the enthusiastic reception from my child and husband was genuinely unforeseen. Throughout this 17-year journey, my child, parents, and particularly my husband, a professional banker unfamiliar with the military lifestyle, supported me unwaveringly in every situation.
This journey began in April 2007 when I graduated from the first integrated females course (LIC-1) and was part of “The Pioneer Course.” However, this was not the sole accolade I received. I was fortunate to graduate with my brother from the Pakistan Military Academy (PMA) in April 2007. I recall our interview on PTV conducted by Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR), which is the inaugural one in the history of Pakistan’s military.
I was appointed as an Information and Communication Technology Officer (ICTO) in the Corps of Signals and assigned to the Command, Control, Communications, Computers, and Intelligence Directorate (C4I Dte) at the General Headquarters (GHQ). Starting as the first girl in any field and challenging traditional norms is always a difficult task. Acceptance is achieved over time, mainly through developing your technical skills and diligent efforts.
In addition to military grooming, it is crucial to demonstrate your abilities in adventure courses. I am fortunate to have completed two adventure courses, Para Gliding and Power Gliding. These were the most extraordinary experiences of my life. The military is not solely focused on combat, warfare, or operations. It is an organization that instils discipline and refinement and offers opportunities for individuals at every rank to undertake various courses to enhance their expertise in their respective careers and manage subordinates effectively. My first course was the Young Officers Course (YO), which has shaped my personality. It has improved my latent abilities. I have always aspired to become a proficient presenter, and my ability has improved. During the middle of my career, I participated in a Mid-career course (MCC) that significantly enhanced my learning, communication, problem-solving, teamwork, and leadership abilities.
The Junior Staff Course was my professional journey's most significant and unforgettable course. It was the inaugural occasion when women were chosen for this course. The event occurred at the Army School of Logistics (ASL) Kuldana. Women from various branches were selected for this program, resulting in a wide range of perspectives and a more competitive atmosphere. I was first reluctant to attend this course since shortly after completing my MCC, I was transferred from Peshawar to Rawalpindi. However, just one month later, I was chosen for the JSC. Juggling the roles of a military officer, mother, daughter, sister, and wife is challenging. However, a professional woman must maintain equilibrium throughout her life. With this consideration, I was prepared to embark on and encounter another significant achievement in my life. I requested a temporary absence from my responsibilities to accompany my daughter. I have always desired to demonstrate to the world that, with unwavering conviction, I am capable of achieving anything. My confidence in myself and strong faith in Allah have driven my success, achieving the first position in the JSC.
In addition to taking courses within my own country, I had the opportunity to travel abroad for educational programs and military assignments, such as participating in a United Nations (UN) peacekeeping mission. In 2019, I was chosen to participate in the Female Military Officer Course (FMOC-12) held in Nairobi, Kenya. This course has enhanced my comprehension of the UN Headquarters and the operational setting before being deployed on a UN assignment. In June 2019, I was sent to work as a Geographical Information System (G2 GIS) officer in Goma, Congo. My spouse, parents, and extended family consistently supported me throughout my professional journey, especially during my UN mission. The UN mission is an ideal opportunity to showcase a favorable representation of your country. I fully utilized this platform and made the most of the appointment. I served in the United Nations Organization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO) mission for one year, specifically from August 2019 to August 2020. 
As the service tenure increases, there is a need to complete specific courses that train you for higher positions and enhance your understanding of the Army’s organization, operations, and functional tasks. In order to achieve this objective, women were chosen for the Logistics Staff course at ASL Murree for the very first time. Undertaking this five-month winter course was particularly challenging, especially considering that my daughter requested a leave of absence from school to accompany me.
After enduring the challenges of 17 years, one constantly aspires to be promoted to the next level and receive acknowledgement for their diligent efforts and accomplishments. On May 28, 2024, I was duly recognized and rewarded for my diligent efforts, resulting in my promotion to the esteemed rank of Lieutenant Colonel. I thank my juniors, seniors, and coworkers for their kind greetings, which made my day more enjoyable. I am particularly grateful to my family, without whom I would not have been able to attain this achievement.
I was fortunate to have highly skilled Commanding Officers and colleagues during my service I am deeply thankful to Allah for the chance to serve in the Pakistan Army. This institution has given me a profound sense of purpose, security, and opportunities to showcase my capabilities to their utmost potential.      


 

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Lt Col Tahira Khalil

Lt Col Tahira Khalil

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