Pakistan has a long tradition of United Nation’s peacekeeping. The participation in these duties has earned the country a very good name and a well-deserved recognition as a responsible nation committed to international peace and stability. Peacekeeping is now part of the nation’s military diplomacy and an essential tenet of its foreign policy. Pakistan’s foreign policy is based on the statement of the father of the nation Quaid-i-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah that his country wanted peaceful relations with all countries of the world and that as a responsible member of the United Nations it would do everything possible that it is expected to do. The website of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has posted excerpts from the Quaid’s broadcast talk to the people of the USA in February 1948, outlining the following foreign policy goals for his newly independent state:
Pakistan’s introduction to peacekeeping came very early in its existence. In January 1949 it received a UN military observer group to monitor the ceasefire in the disputed region of Jammu and Kashmir. The UN Military Observer Group in India and Pakistan (UNMOGIP) still exists and routinely visits the Pakistani side of the Line of Control (LoC). India has stopped them from visiting their side since after the 1971 War.
In 1950, the U.S. asked the Government of Pakistan to become part of the UN forces being sent to the Korean peninsula to fight in support of South Korea. Pakistan declined because no security guarantees were provided for the defense of the homeland. Pakistan was still recovering from the pangs of partition and the first war in Kashmir and considered it too early to get involved in an expeditionary engagement. India despite its non-aligned status sent a parachute medical battalion.
Pakistan’s chance to become part of peacekeeping operations came ten years later in 1960, when it responded to the call of the UN to become part of the peacekeeping duties in the Congo. This group of peacekeepers comprised logisticians from the Army Services Corps and the Ordnance Corps. This was the first and last instance of a peacekeeping mission based on logistic support only. During the days of the Cold War the UN peacekeeping missions were limited because of the superpower rivalry. Nonetheless, Pakistan did participate in a few of these operations. An infantry battalion plus size force comprising 18 Punjab and companies of 14 Punjab was deployed in West Irian (New Guinea) from 1962-63. Its mandate was to oversee the departure of the Dutch soldiers and smooth transition to Indonesian rule. The professional handling of the situation created the foundation of the Pakistan-Indonesia bilateral relationship.
Pakistan’s participation in UN peacekeeping operations increased manifold after the end of the Cold War. It performed a variety of roles during these deployments. The military observers in Namibia (1989-1990) oversaw the holding of elections and transition from South African rule to independence. Pakistan Army sappers were deployed to Kuwait for mine clearing operations (1991-1993) after the First Gulf War. The peacekeepers were deployed in Cambodia (1992-1993). This group comprised an infantry battalion (2 Azad Kashmir Regiment), de-miners and HQ staff. They helped a country wracked by civil war and genocide to return to normality.
The deployment of Pakistani peacekeepers in Somalia from 1992 to 1995 was unique in many respects. Pakistan had been internationally sidelined after the end of the Cold War. Pressler Amendment had been slapped due to Pakistan’s nuclear policy. At that point in time, when Pakistan was treated as an international pariah, U.S. decided to intervene in Somalia on a humanitarian basis. The Somalis were dying due to famine, drought, and civil war. The starving masses were not receiving food supplies because warring militias would steal food consignments being unloaded at the port or en route to the critically deprived zones. There was political uncertainty in Pakistan. The President had an uneasy relationship with the prime ministers and there were frequent changes in government. It was at this juncture that the Commander CENTCOM General Joseph P. Hoar reached out to the Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Asif Nawaz for his help in sending Pakistani troops to Somalia. After seeking the consent of the government, the first batch of five hundred Pakistani soldiers from the elite 7 FF arrived in Mogadishu in September 1992 to act as food guards. They had been preceded by a group of military observers to monitor ceasefire. The Pakistani soldiers became a test case for the Americans. After having made sure that they would not face any problems, the American marines made an amphibious landing on the beaches of Mogadishu with a great deal of fanfare and media hoopla in December 1992. In June 1993, 24 Pakistani soldiers were killed in cold blood, while inspecting an authorized weapon site by men of General Farah Aideed’s Somali National Army (SNA). Pakistanis had not been informed that the Somalis had threatened that an inspection of this site, where a radio station of theirs was co-located would be tantamount to an act of war. Soon the humanitarian mission was converted into a catch Aideed operation. On October 3, 1993, 18 U.S. Marines were killed in an abortive raid on Olympic Hotel to net some alleged high profile SNA figures. A Black Hawk Helicopter was shot down. Its pilot was captured, and body of a dead American soldier was dragged through the streets of Bakara Market. The Americans sent out a desperate SOS. A crack rescue team comprising 15 FF and 19 L broke through the siege and bravely rescued as many American soldiers as they could. There were letters of appreciation and thanks from the American military commander Maj Gen Montgomery and from the American President himself. After the shock and humiliation of Mogadishu, the Americans quickly withdrew. Pakistani soldiers remained engaged in Somalia and were the last ones to leave in 1995.
Another memorable deployment was to Bosnia and Croatia in 1994 and 1995. A two-battalion group and a HQ represented Pakistan in an area where the Serbs were carrying out the brutal ethnical cleansing of Muslim Bosnians. An international scandal emerged when Dutch soldiers allowed the Serbs to enter a safe zone under their jurisdiction and butcher Muslim men sheltering there. Pakistani peacekeepers’ even-handed performance received accolades from the local population and their UN partners. Some of the heroic deeds of the Pakistani peacekeepers were brought home to the domestic audience through PTV’s famous serial Alpha Bravo Charlie.
Pakistani peacekeepers were deployed in Haiti in the early 1990s. This was an extremely difficult mission because of the complex situation on ground. The Pakistani infantry battalion committed itself in a very professional manner and was able to restore the law and order in the war-torn island to a certain extent. In the mid-nineties, Ambassador Shahiryar Muhammad Khan was appointed as the Special Representative to the Secretary General in Rwanda. A group of military observers also participated in this dangerous mission. Rwanda had witnessed a genocide of the worst kind. The situation had been made worse because the UN had chosen to ignore the situation and did not reinforce the understrength peacekeeping mission.
From 1996 to 1997 Pakistani peacekeeping troops and staff served in Eastern Slovenia. From 1999 to 2005 Pakistan provided troops and staff for peacekeeping operations in Sierra Leon. Pakistan played an important role in bringing back normality to Liberia. Pakistani troops had been called in after the Indians decided to pull out. The force commander Maj Gen Jetley was faulted for poor command, when 500 peacekeepers were held hostage by rebels. The Pakistani peacekeepers remained in Liberia from 2003 to 2015. The mission was winded up after it was declared a success, and the civilian institutions had been revived. The sterling performance of the Pakistani peacekeepers was lauded at all levels.
Pakistani has to date contributed over 200000 troops for peacekeeping duties since 1960 in over forty missions all over the world. In the first decade of the twenty first century, Pakistan was the largest troops contributing nation in the world. Today, it is ranked sixth. The Pakistani peacekeeping missions have included among others both unarmed observers and combat soldiers, commanders and staff members, helicopter pilots, policemen and women and infantry battalions from all the regiments including the Northern Light Infantry (NLI). 8 NLI served in Darfur from 2017 to 2018.
In keeping with the guidelines of the UN, Pakistan has increased its contribution of female peacekeepers. This not only incudes medical staff but also observers and staff members in the various headquarters working in the UN mandate areas. Over 400 female peacekeepers have so far been deployed in some of the most dangerous conflict zones in the world. Since February 2020, a female engagement team has been deployed in the Democratic Republic of Congo. This dedicated team has done an amazing job of engaging with the women and other vulnerable elements of the society and providing them a sense of security.
Pakistan has lost 158 of its bravest men and women in the service of humanity. 102 of these fallen heroes have been awarded the Dag Hammarskjold UN medals. 400 female peacekeepers have represented Pakistan on UN peacekeeping duties. Four of them have been recognized for their outstanding performances and awarded medals and certificates. These include Majors Samia, Beenish, Arooj and DSP Shahzadi Gulfam. A distinguished group of our diplomats has served as the Special Representatives of the Secretary-General. These have included luminaries such as Sahibzada Yaqub Khan, Shahiryar M. Khan, Iqbal Riza, Jamsheed Marker and Jahangir Ashraf Qazi. 15 major generals have served as force commanders and chief military observers. Lt Gen Maqsood Ahmed was the military advisor to the Secretary-General from 2013 to 2016.
Pakistan has also been praised for its high peacekeeping training standards. Centre for International Peace and Stability (CIPS) located in the National University of Sciences and technology (NUST) has been training peacekeepers since 2013. It is the only peacekeeping institution in the world that is located in a university campus. The purpose is to integrate scholarly work with practical training. This institution has the honor of being inaugurated by the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon. In a very short span of time, it earned a name for itself among renowned international peace training institutes. In February 2020, the current Secretary-General António Guterres visited NUST and declared CIPS as the regional hub for peacekeeping training.
The writer is a retired Brigadier and PhD. Presently he is the Associate Dean for Centre of International Peace & Stability (CIPS) at the National University of Sciences & Technology (NUST), Islamabad. He is also Honorary Colonel of the Battalion, 7FF Regiment.
E-mail: [email protected]
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