The Western world frequently accuses Pakistan of aiding terrorism. However, there is no denying that Pakistan has consistently shown that it remains committed to peace. One such reflection of Pakistan’s commitment is the sacrifices it made for UN peacekeeping missions.
Tuesday, a United Nations (UN) Puma helicopter carrying eight peacekeepers crashed in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Six Pakistani officers and soldiers were among the eight peacekeepers who lost their lives in the crash.
In a statement, ISPR released the names of the martyred who are Lt. Col Asif Ali Awan, (Pilot), Maj Saad Nomani (Co-Pilot), Maj Faizan Ali, N/Sub Sami Ullah Khan (Flight Engineer), Havaldar Muhammad Ismail (Crew Chief), and L/Hav Muhamad Jamil (Gunner).
“Pakistan Aviation Unit is deployed in UN Mission Congo on peacekeeping duties since 2011. On Mar 29, 22 while undertaking a reconnaissance mission in Congo, 1 PUMA Helicopter crashed,” the ISPR statement said.
We are all sad to hear the news of the martyrdom of Pakistani officers & Jawans in helicopter crash while serving United Nations in Republic of Congo. May Allah bless their souls & give courage to all family and loved ones to bear their loss! Amen! https://t.co/NFUmncMzs9
— Moeed Pirzada (@MoeedNj) March 29, 2022
Investigation regarding the exact cause of the crash is underway. However, the Congolese Army accused the M23 rebel group of shooting down the helicopter. To clarify, the helicopter crashed in the area of Tshanzu which is the scene of recent clashes between the M23 rebel group and Congolese soldiers. On the other hand, the M23 rebel group rejects the accusations, claiming that the Congolese military was responsible for the crash.
While the Congolese Army and M23 rebel group trade barbs, it is important to acknowledge the sacrifices made by Pakistan for UN peacekeeping missions.
Pakistan’s commendable contributions
Ever since Pakistan joined the UN on 30th September 1947, it has made remarkable contributions. Pakistan’s first UN peacekeeping mission began in 1960 in Congo and more than 200,000 Pakistani soldiers have participated in about 70 missions in 28 countries. Furthermore, Pakistan is the third-largest contributor of troops to UN peacekeeping efforts.
As per reports, the first time Pakistan faced casualties was during the UN Balkan mission when it contributed 3000 troops to the UN Protection Force in Bosnia-Herzegovina. During the mission, Pakistan faced 6 casualties.
While having troops in the Balkan countries, Pakistan also contributed 7200 troops to the UN operation in Somalia from March 1992 to February 1996. In fact, Pakistan was the first country to respond to UN calls. The mission left 39 Pakistani troops martyred.
However, the number of casualties never deterred Pakistan and it maintained its commendable contribution to UN peacekeeping missions.
During the UN peacekeeping operation in Sierra Leonne from 1999 to 2006, Pakistan volunteered 5000 troops, making it the largest contributor. Pakistan sent a composite force of three Battalion Groups and one engineer battalion. In that operation, Pakistan reported 6 casualties.
Another instance of Pakistan’s heroics is when Pakistani soldiers serving under the UN saved the lives of many American soldiers. In 1993, when an American intelligence operation went chaotic in Somalia, the UN Quick Reaction Force (QRF) was put into action to extricate around 90 stranded personnel. Pakistani UN forces constituted a major part of the QRF and provided all-out support to the besieged Americans.
Needless to say, Pakistan has been a responsible contributor to its international obligations. As of December 2021, Pakistan has about 4000 personnel deployed for UN peacekeeping missions.