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Pakistan stands tall at United Nations

Pakistan has been contributing heavily towards UN Peacekeeping missions to bring peace to World's war-torn areas. Since its first operation in 1960 in Congo, it has been on over 46 missions in 28 countries. The Assistant Editor of Global Village Space conducts an overview of Pakistan’s major UN peacekeeping force operations.

Pakistan stands tall at UN

Rizwan Shehzad |

On June 26, a tweet from Pakistan’s permanent representative to UN Ambassador Maleeha Lodhi prompted an explosion of responses on Twitter when she shared a photo of Pakistan Army’s Major Fozia Parveen, who is serving in a United Nations peacekeeping mission in Cyprus.

Soon after the ambassador shared the post, Major Parveen’s photo generated thousands of reactions. And, when the Global Village Space carried the story on its website, thousands of people not only read the piece but it became viral on social media platforms. In no time, other media outlets picked up the story and once again, it was popping up on users’ screens and cheering up the readers.

In the photo, Maj. Parveen is holding a wireless set in one hand and standing next to a UN vehicle positioned somewhere in Cyprus. In the tweet, Dr. Lodhi stated: “We are proud of our female (and male) peacekeepers who serve in UN Missions. Major Fozia Perveen is serving in the UN mission in Cyprus (UNFICYP), seen here on a patrol in the Buffer Zone.” But Pakistan’s relationship with the UN peacekeeping missions is old.

Since its inception, Pakistani military and staff officers wearing blue helmets and caps are at the forefront of UN peacekeeping missions across the world and making the country proud. On a number of occasions, Pakistan’s contingent troops, police, experts on missions and staff officers have globally made their presence felt at the UN peacekeeping missions by helping humanity, building peace and bringing stability across the regions.

In a video-recorded message, Lacroix had said that “Pakistan Army and armed forces’ contribution to our mission is really making a difference and we think it’s an outstanding contribution to the cause of peace and stability in the world.”

Pakistan, being one of the longest-serving and the largest contributor to the UN peacekeeping missions, has actively and consistently been participating in multi-national efforts to maintain peace and order around the globe since 1960.

Congo Mission

Pakistan’s peacekeeping journey, under the UN blue helmets, began in 1960 from the Democratic Republic of Congo. This engagement then paved the way for 41 missions ahead in 28 countries. In the Congo mission, Lt Col Naseer was the first-ever Pakistani officer to command an Ordnance Company under the UN. Pakistani officers and troops not only organized the whole operation but also provided logistic support to the entire UN force during movement of troops to and from Congo and then the inland movement of these UN troops.

Congo was United Nation’s first serious involvement in the pursuit of UNSC resolution 143 of July 1960. It quickly became more than just peacekeeping. UN forces (ONUC) had to engage in severe and protracted battles to disengage combatants from each other. With a systematic organization, Pakistan army ensured foolproof administrative arrangements for transportation of troops, weapons, equipment, and rations through the sea, air, rail, river, and road in hostile environments across Congo. From humanitarian assistance to the provision of security and improvement of law and order situation, the operation continued uninterrupted till 1964.

West Irian Mission

West New Guinea became a dispute between the newly independent Indonesia and the withdrawing colonial power of Netherland. Dutch would not hand over West New Guinea (also remembered as West Irian Dispute) to Indonesian government that lead to diplomatic, political and finally military skirmishes and indirect proxy conflict. Indonesia looked towards the Soviet Union for help, and a panicked United States resolved the standoff through the New York Agreement of August 1962 – that lead to the arrival of United Nations temporary executive authority for maintaining law and order in the run up to transition towards Indonesia.

Pakistani peacekeepers, as part of this UN force, had assisted the Papuan police in maintenance of law and order and conducted humanitarian assistance activities. It is believed that the peacekeeping efforts by Pakistani contingent had not only pacified local hostilities but helped avert war between Indonesia and Portugal.

Read more: Pakistani peacekeeper to be awarded by UN posthumously

Somalia Mission – Black Hawk Down

This was a mission full of challenges, called “Operation Restore Hope” by the United Nations undertaken to end the civil war and famine situation in Somalia and to disengage the Somali warlords from each other. Most famous of these became a world figure in history by the name “Farah Aidid”. On August 23, 1992, the Newsweek magazine had reported that Pakistan’s Brig General Imtiaz Shaheen leading a small team of unarmed UN observers had warned of the risks, when he said that nobody should underestimate Somalia’s fighters.

To make the world realize the ground situation, the general had said that the Somalis “give life and take life with gay abandon,” adding that “a man who is not afraid of being killed is a good fighter.” The magazine had noted Shaheen as saying that it would take equal courage from relief workers, as well as diplomatic skill, to rebuild a fractured nation as the challenge was to prevent a few shabby warlords from holding the entire country hostage.

In a report of The New York Times published on September 15, 1992, it was stated that one of the most powerful Somali warlords, General Mohamed Farrah Aidid, had agreed to the 500 troops after weeks of negotiations with the UN’s special representative, Mohammed Sahnoun. Pakistani troops were the first one to land in Somalia who secured sea and airports for all UN forces to follow.

The NYT’s report had said that the arrival of the vanguard was the first step in an effort by the UN to ensure that food sent to Somalia reached the needy rather than clan warriors or merchants as more than 1,000 people a day were estimated to be dying in Somalia from hunger or disease at that time.

The sacrifice on behalf of the international community is one of the most concrete expressions of the UN charter’s determination which describes it as an effort “to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war.”

Under such conditions, Pakistani contingent comprising brigade headquarters, armor regiment, three infantry battalions and medical corps component remained engaged in disarming of militia, carried out inspections of militant weapon storages and apprehended militia leaders through search and cordoned off operations.

On June 5, 1993, total 24 Pakistani peacekeepers had lost their lives while 56 were injuries, including 11 who became permanently disabled, when Pakistani inspectors were ambushed by militia during an inspection of Gen Aidid’s weapons storage.

Honoring Pakistan’s peacekeepers, June 5 is commemorated as Pakistan’s Peacekeepers Day in honor of the 24 brave Pakistani soldiers who were killed while ensuring the safety of the people of Somalia. Next important milestone came when Pakistani Peacekeepers had undertaken a joint rescue operation along with the American soldiers to save the stranded US Rangers on October 3, 1993.

The memories of “Black Hawk Down” are still fresh in the minds when US forces planned to surround a white three-story house in the capital city of Mogadishu to capture leaders of Aidid’s Habar Gidir clan. Mark Bowden, the author of the book Black Hawk Down, states that the operation didn’t go as planned and insurgents had shot down two American Black Hawk helicopters with rocket-propelled grenades.

When about 90 US Rangers and Delta Force operators rushed to the rescue, he wrote in the Smithsonian Magazine, they were caught in an intense exchange of gunfire and trapped overnight. Altogether, the 18-hour urban firefight – later known as the Battle of Mogadishu – had left 18 Americans and almost 300 Somalis dead.

US rescue contingents were quickly lost in the complex maze of winding streets and got trapped. Finally, an overwhelming contingent of Pakistani, Malaysian and the US troops was able to rescue the trapped US rangers. Besides the daring operation with the US Rangers, Pakistani troops remained active on humanitarian front; Pakistani doctors and paramedics treated more than 100,000 poor Somali patients.

Read more: Maleeha Lodhi highlights Pakistan’s peacekeeping efforts at UN

Bosnia and Herzegovina Mission

Bosnia has been one of the success stories of Pakistan’s peacekeeping. A contingent comprising two infantry battalions remained part of UN Protection Force from 1992 to 1995 and the UN Mission in Bosnia and Herzegovina from 1995 to 2002.

Apart from assisting in rehabilitation and development projects, Pakistani peacekeepers had secured the unsafe area of Tuzla – the economic, cultural, educational, health and tourist center of northeast Bosnia – and its ethnically mixed civilian population against onslaughts of ethnic-cleansing militias and saved many civilian lives. For playing their part to improve the law and order situation and to bring back stability, Pakistani peacekeepers were much appreciated for their service to humanity and efforts for peace.

Pakistan Army’s Contributions in UN Missions

Pakistan’s commitment to the UN for promoting international peace and prosperity stems from the vision of Quaid-e-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah’s statement in 1948:

“Our foreign policy is one of friendliness and goodwill towards all the nations of the world. We believe in the principle of honesty and fair play in national and international dealings and are prepared to make our utmost contribution to the promotion of peace and prosperity among the nations of the world,” Jinnah said. “Pakistan will never be found lacking in extending its material and moral support to the oppressed and suppressed peoples of the world and in upholding the principles of the United Nations Charter,” – Jinnah, Feb 1948.

The DG ISPR had revealed that 156 peacekeepers had sacrificed their lives for global peace. The UN website, however, states that the number of fatalities of Pakistani officials is 148 as of May 31, 2019.

According to the UN website on peacekeeping missions, Pakistan army has the sixth most number of soldiers in the UN peacekeeping missions that cover about 70 operations in different parts of the world. Besides the on-ground missions in the troubled countries, Pakistani eminent diplomats and distinguished army officers have also had a leadership role in some of the missions as special representatives of UN secretary general, chief military observers and force commanders – like Ambassador Ashraf Jehangir Qazi who was United Nation’s rapporteur for Iraq.

Under the UN flagship program, Pakistan has served at UN Security Force in New Guinea, UN Transition Assistance Group in Namibia, UN Iraq-Kuwait Observation Mission, Haiti, Cambodia, Bosnia, Somalia, Rwanda, Angola, Eastern Slavonia and Sierra Leone. Since 1960, almost 200,000 Pakistani troops have served under United Nation’s blue helmet.

Fallen Heroes

Tragically, the UN data reveals, total 3,849 peacekeepers, including military, police, international civil servants, UN volunteers and national staff from 43 countries have lost their lives in all peace operations since 1948. In the cause of peace, total of 117 peacekeepers paid the ultimate price in 2016 alone. The sacrifice on behalf of the international community is one of the most concrete expressions of the UN charter’s determination which describes it as an effort “to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war.”

In October 2018, Major General Asif Ghafoor of the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) had said that Pakistan has so far contributed over 200,000 troops in 46 UN Missions in 28 countries. The DG ISPR had revealed that 156 peacekeepers had sacrificed their lives for global peace. The UN website, however, states that the number of fatalities of Pakistani officials is 148 as of May 31, 2019.

In January 2019, the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) President Maria Fernanda Espinosa had acknowledged Pakistan’s meritorious contributions to the UN peacekeeping missions and termed it “one of the largest countries to have contributed to bringing peace in areas marred by insecurity and unrest”.

Moreover, the Under-Secretary General (USG) for UN Department for Peacekeeping Operations, Jean-Pierre Lacroix, had said: “We also would like to extend our thanks and gratitude to all Pakistani peacekeepers currently serving in our missions and as well as their families. All of them are paying a price for that and we are extremely grateful.”

Read more: Pakistani military women stand tall at United Nations

In a video-recorded message, Lacroix had said that “Pakistan Army and armed forces’ contribution to our mission is really making a difference and we think it’s an outstanding contribution to the cause of peace and stability in the world.”

Women in Peacekeeping

In February this year, Pakistan has met the UN target of deploying 15 percent female military and staff officers in UN peacekeeping missions in line with efforts to enhance women’s participation in the world body’s flagship activity. Major. Fozia Parveen is one of them. Ambassador Lodhi had said that “as a leading troop contributor as well as a host state, Pakistan would continue to support efforts to strengthen peacekeeping”. Dr. Lodhi by sharing the photo of Major Fozia on her Twitter account, was suddenly able to bring forward Pakistan’s role in UN peacekeeping missions – they say: a picture is worth a thousand words”

Rizwan Shehzad is the Assistant Editor, Global Village Space. He has previously worked with The Express Tribune. He tweets at: @RizwanShehxad.

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