Christian becomes first minority woman to be promoted to brigadier in Pakistan Army

By CDI Staff |
Brigadier Dr Helen Mary Roberts.
Brigadier Dr Helen Mary Roberts.

In a historic first in Pakistan, a Christian female officer has been promoted to the rank of brigadier in the Pakistan Army, garnering praise and felicitations from people across the country.

Colonel Helen Mary Roberts has become the first female one-star general from the minority communities in Pakistan’s history. With 26 years of dedicated service in the Pakistan Army Medical Corps as a pathologist, Brigadier Dr Roberts’ promotion is a testament to her merit and the inclusivity upheld by the Pakistan Army.

She was among the officers promoted as brigadiers and full colonels by the Army’s Selection Board on Saturday.

During a Christmas celebration at Rawalpindi’s Christ Church last year, Chief of Army Staff General Asim Munir lauded the Christian community’s role in Pakistan’s development and commended its contributions in promoting quality education, healthcare and philanthropy, as well as national defence.

General Munir also expressed his profound respect for the Christian community and underscored the importance of fostering interfaith harmony to achieve the vision of the country’s founding father, Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah, for a pluralistic and egalitarian Pakistan.

Pakistan’s Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif also greeted Dr Roberts on her promotion to the rank of brigadier in the Army Medical Corps.

“Brigadier Roberts, a member of the Pakistani Christian community, has made history by becoming the first woman from a minority background to achieve this prestigious rank,” the prime minister said in a press statement.

He praised Brigadier Roberts for her hard work and dedication, saying that she had proven that Pakistani women could excel in any field and were second to none.

“The entire nation is proud of Brigadier Roberts and the thousands of hardworking women like her from minority communities who are serving the country with distinction,” he said.

He added that Brigadier Roberts’ commitment to service, humanity and her dedication to her work would serve as a beacon of inspiration for the young women of the next generation.

In a press release, the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) reiterated that Pakistan's founder Jinnah had declared that “minorities shall be deemed to be citizens of Pakistan without distinction of caste, color, religion, or creed and shall enjoy all their rights and privileges."

“The Pakistan Army embodies this principle, making decisions devoid of any religious, linguistic, or gender discrimination,” the ISPR said.

The United Nations in Pakistan highlighted the historic moment, saying, “Congratulations to Helen Mary Roberts, who has just made history as the first-ever Christian and the first-ever woman from a religious minority to be promoted to the rank of Brigadier in Pakistan Army. She serves in the Army Medical Corps.”

Roberts’ promotion as brigadier was warmly welcomed by Christians and other communities across the country.

Church of Pakistan’s President Bishop Azad Marshall said that Roberts’ promotion as the first woman brigadier from the Pakistani minority communities was a matter of pride for the Christian community.

“The news of her promotion is a breath of fresh air for Christians who mostly get to hear depressing news of incidents of persecution. We express our gratitude to the Pakistan Army for considering her promotion on merit and hope that other state institutions will also follow this example and allow people from vulnerable communities to grow and contribute to the national mainstream,” Marshall told Christian Daily International.

A Christian social media user praised Roberts' perseverance noting the challenges she must have faced: “First and only Christian brigadier in Pakistani Army, Helen Mary Roberts. I salute her for her resilience and courage. It wouldn’t have been an easy journey without the Lord’s favour and hand upon her amongst the silent persecution in an all majority staff of Muslims.”