Pakistani Peacekeepers in Haiti (1995-1997)
Haiti meaning the “land of mountains” occupies the western one-third portion of Hispaniola, the second largest island of the West Indies region, divided politically into the Republic of Haiti (west) and the Dominican Republic (east). The climate is warm, humid and tropical. Its population is of African origin (termed blacks) with a small minority of people of mixed European and African descent (called mulattos) that constitutes a wealthier elite who retreated to congested urban areas, took over the reins of government, and eventually left the rural areas to be divided among a scattered black farming population in the interior. Haitian Creole and French languages are spoken. Creole is normally used in daily life, and French is the official language. Haiti has no official religion, however more than half of the population practices Roman Catholicism, the dominant sect of Christianity, approximately one-fourth is Protestant and the rest follow other religions.
Since its independence from French colonial rule in 1804, Haiti had seen nothing but bloodshed, unrest and violence. The reins of political power kept changing hands between the black (Negro) and mulattos, the fair skinned Haitians who control the political power till today. In 1992 Mr. Jean-Bertrand Aristide, the elected president and a Negro was overthrown in a military coup and Lieutenant General Joseph Raoul Cédras, a mulatto took control of the government. The UN adopted a resolution condemning the coup and support for the Aristide regime, which returned to power in October 1994. As political violence and crime continued to grow, United Nations Mission in Haiti (UNMIH), was brought in to restore peace and order.
Pakistan Army has the honour to be a part of UN Peacekeepers in Haiti from March 1995 till January 1998, with the mission to restore peace in Cap-Haïtien, north of the country and sent three regiments 17 AK, 15 Baloch and 31 Punjab. The designations of units during the mission were PAKBAT-I, II and III respectively who successfully restored peace and won accolades from UN and Haitian people simultaneously for carrying out relief and rehabilitation work. A few important events as experienced by the Pakistani peacekeepers are narrated here for the readers.
One of the officers of 17 AK Regiment (PAKBAT-I) narrated that it was a memorable beginning not only for 17 AK but all the individuals forming part of UN mission, most of whom were leaving their country for the first time and some of them had even boarded a plane for the very first time. Troops were wearing new uniforms, holding their new bags with an air of uncertainty, anticipation and great energy. The first challenge was nothing else but to negotiate the long, arduous flight of about 20 hours aboard the Boeing 747 of CORs AIR, but there was an air of excitement and adventure given the curiosity of deployment at a new place and the anticipation of undertaking a new task. Once the troops landed in Port-au-Prince, the capital city of Haiti and had not even got rid of the “jet lag”, they immediately left for Cap-Haïtien, a city in northern Haiti, on a C-130 aircraft. PAKBAT-I was tasked to restore peace and security in the north of country, the largest zone and toughest area, a traditional cauldron of violence. It is pertinent to mention that the Canadian and Bangladeshi contingens were responsible for the city of Port-au-Prince and relatively smaller and peaceful southern portion of Haiti. Cap-Haïtien, the only major city in north was a potential hotspot therefore it is safe to say that we were given the most troubled and volatile spot in Haiti to handle. Unit officers and jawans hurried with a never-ending series of briefings and reconnaissance tours. The day used to start with a briefing coupled with a long drive of about 8-10 hours of reconnaissance and then ended it with another briefing or loads of paperwork. PAKBAT-I had done a tremendous job in pacifying the violent atmosphere of the north despite the rough terrain and other odds. The unit was able to control law and order situation in the zone within one month, carried out social tasks to assist the local people in distribution of ration/clothing to the needy of far-flung areas and provision of free medical treatment. The unit also provided security during the conduct of Presidential Elections. In recognition of the efforts of PAKBAT-I, people of Cap-Haïtien hoisted Pakistani flag on private buildings to show their affection for the Pakistani Peacekeepers. The unit also earned 7 U.S. Army Commendation and 33 achievement medals. PAKBAT-I remained in Haiti till March 1996, thereafter it was repatriated to Pakistan, handing over further tasks to 15 Baloch (PAKBAT-II).
PAKBAT-I had done a tremendous job in pacifying the violent atmosphere of north and made PAKBAT-II’s job easier for the rest of their stay. Out of nine departments (provinces) of Haiti, PAKBAT-II was operationally responsible for four departments namely North, North East, Central and Artibonite. The major operational activity was regular patrolling in the area. Initially the deployment of unit was at two places: Gonaïves and Cap-Haïtien. Gonaïves had been a historically troubled spot. Therefore, there was a big challenge ahead, the local population was very hostile against the military but due to careful handling the matters pacified soon. The unit kept constant liaison and friendship with key personalities of the area including Delegate (governor), Vice Delegate, juge de paix (justice of peace) and Haitian National Police (HNP). The United Nations Civilian Mission in Haiti (MICIVIH) developed a great liking for Pakistani troops. A major breakthrough was achieved when Major Rashid Ali, the Company Commander, held a meeting with “Robboto” tribal chief and persuaded him to allow patrolling in his area. In return he promised to convey their demands to the government. On July 14, 1997 at about 1245 hrs Captain Amir Rasul leading a Quick Reaction Force (QRF) averted a possible murder near a T-junction. He rescued a thief from the hostile crowd which was about to burn him alive and in doing so endangered his own life. Later on Captain Amir Rasul was given the Force Commander commendation card. On August 7, 1997 the unit participated in a rescue operation in a collapsed building near Cité Soleil. Lt Col Rashid Amin, the Commanding Officer realizing the gravity of situation and the inability of local authorities to deal with it decided to support the rubble clearing operation. This operation continued late into the night and many injured and dead bodies were recovered from the rubble. This incident along with efforts of the unit were given wide publicity in Haitian and international electronic/print media. All those 148 persons who took part in this operation were given appreciation letters from Special Representative of Secretary-General and a personal word of thanks from Mr. René Préval, President of Haiti. Besides routine patrolling and visits, the Battalion remained committed in a number of civil affairs projects to win hearts and minds of the local populace as such projects were instrumental in building friendly image in the area of responsibility. The hero of these achievements was undoubtedly Captain Badr Malik. He had been attached with the unit as engineer officer and was able to work out wonders with his small, ill equipped engineer party. The projects completed during PAKBAT-II’s stay in Cap-Haïtien were renovation of police station, Pakistan school, construction of Maryam School, construction of 10 kilometers of track in Quartier-Morin, installation of water pumps at Fort-Liberté, lights in Cap-Haïtien Public Park and provision of water to “save our soul” village in Cap-Haïtien. All these projects were greatly lauded by the local population and widely covered in international and Pakistani print and electronic media. In the midst of operational activity troops had not forgotten their religious obligation. Besides observing regular prayers in the unit’s mosque, 15 Baloch took on a mammoth task of building a mosque in Cap-Haïtien. The land had already been acquired by 17 Azad Kashmir Regiment but now Lieutenant Colonel Rashid Amin decided to build a mosque on it. For this purpose, all ranks donated money voluntarily and thus Bilal Mosque was constructed, which is remembered as a precious gift by local Muslims from Pakistani peacekeepers.
31 Punjab Regiment (PAKBAT-III) replaced 15 Baloch Regiment in July 1997. The PAKBAT-III was to perform UN Transition Mission in Haiti (UNTMIH). It was a transition from ‘Military Support Mission’ to a ‘Civil Armed Forces Mission’. The contingent was deployed around International Airport in the capital city of Port-Au-Prince. Besides 29 helicopter reconnaissance and patrolling operations, a boat rescue operation was carried out. On September 9, 1997 a ferry capsized at Montrouis, 60 km northwest of Port-au-Prince which resulted in the death of hundreds of people. Canadian and civil police divers recovered 55 bodies while PAKBAT-III provided security to UN troops from a furious mob of 2000 locals who had gathered there, formed groups and started shouting and throwing stones, damaging two Red Cross vehicles. The firm handling by PAKBAT-III troops present there saved the lives of a large number of rescue teams. The role of PAKBAT was highly appreciated by President of Haiti, SRSG and Force Commander and issued their letters of appreciation to 5 officers and 4 jawans. Overall, the performance of the PAKBAT-III can be gauged from the number of letters and certificates of appreciation from SRSG and Force Commander; and remarks of the President of Haiti Mr. René Préval which he endorsed on the UN flag as souvenir for the battalion:
“On the behalf of Haitian people best wishes to our Pakistani friends the XXXI Punjab yalghari, best peacekeepers I know.”
E-mail: [email protected]
Pakistan Army’s UN Peacekeeping Mission in DRC (Democratic Republic of the Congo) – MONUSCO
On the basis of its firm belief in the purposes and principles of the United Nations (UN) Charter, Pakistan has actively participated in UN peacekeeping missions in different parts of the world, in one of the most visible and constructive activities of the UN. Pakistan has a long history with UN peacekeeping, having been one of the largest contributors of troops and police for decades. Pakistan's participation in peacekeeping missions of the United Nations reflects its belief in the brotherhood of mankind and its commitment to peace across the globe. Ever since its participation in first UN peacekeeping mission in Congo in 1960, Pakistan has remained committed to this cause.
Historical Perspective of Congo Issue
The country that began as a king's private domain (the Congo Free State), evolved into a colony (the Belgian Congo), became independent in 1960 (as the Republic of the Congo), and later underwent several name changes (to the Democratic Republic of the Congo, then to Zaire, and back again to the Democratic Republic of the Congo) is the product of a complex pattern of historical forces. Some are traceable to the precolonial past, others to the era of colonial rule, and others still to the political convulsions that followed in the wake of independence. All, in one way or another, have left their imprint on Congolese societies.
Congo achieved independence in 1960, immediately followed by a secession movement in Katanga Province which resulted in a civil war. The Prime Minister Patrice Lumumba appealed to USSR for assistance. Simultaneously on July 12, 1960, the Congolese government asked for UN military assistance to protect the national territory of the Congo. This was the first time that Pakistan Army, under the umbrella of UN, extended assistance to establish peace in the newly born republic. The UN operation in Congo, United Nations Organization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUC), lasted from July 1960 until June 1964. It was to ensure the withdrawal of Belgian forces, to assist the government in maintaining law and order and to provide technical assistance. The function of MONUC was subsequently modified to include maintaining the territorial integrity and political independence of the Congo, preventing the occurrence of civil war and securing the removal of all foreign military, paramilitary and advisory personnel not under the United Nations command, and all mercenaries.
Following the signing of the Lusaka Ceasefire Agreement in July 1999 between DRC and five regional states in July 1999, the Security Council established MONUC by its resolution 1279 of November 30, 1999 initially to plan for the observation of the ceasefire and disengagement of forces and maintain liaison with all parties to the Ceasefire Agreement. Later in a series of resolutions, the Security Council expanded the mandate of MONUC to the supervision of the implementation of the Ceasefire Agreement and assigned multiple related additional tasks.
In accordance with Security Council resolution 1925 of May 28, 2010 MONUC was renamed as of July 1 the United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO) to reflect the new phase reached in the country. The new mission has been authorized to use all necessary means to carry out its mandate relating, among other things, to the protection of civilians, humanitarian personnel and human rights defenders under the imminent threat of physical violence and to support the Government of the DRC in its stabilization and peace consolidation efforts.
Contributions of Pakistan Army Through the Years in Peacekeeping at DRC
Pakistan Army’s first deployment in Congo was from August 1960 to May 1964. Operations of United Nation in Congo was a United Nations peacekeeping force in Congo that was established after UNSC Resolution 143 of July 14, 1960. It was active during the Congo crisis. During the operation, Pakistan provided logistic support under Lieutenant Colonel Naseer, the first-ever Pakistani officer, commanding an Ordnance Company in United Nations, during the movement of troops to and from Congo and inland movement to the United Nations troops. Pakistan Army Ordnance and Army Services Corps organized the whole operation. It continued uninterrupted from 1960 to 1964 with four Independent Army Supply and Ordnance Corps Companies, each consisting of approximately 100 persons each. The movement control entailed movement through sea, air, rail, river and road transport. A systematic organization was to ensure foolproof administrative arrangements for transportation of troops, weapons, equipment, stores and rations throughout Congo in unfriendly environments by the Pakistani Ordnance troops. A total of 800 troops of Ordnance, Transport units and Staff Personnel were a part of this mission and there was no casualty.
Pakistan Contingent was deployed in DRC during November 2004 in South Kivu Province as South Kivu Brigade (SKB). The mission was mandated to assist the Congolese authorities in organizing, preparing, and conducting elections. In this regard, MONUC facilitated the first post-colonial national, multi-party election in the DRC in 2006, a task that posed unprecedented logistical challenges in the huge but underdeveloped country. At that time, fear of General Laurent Nkunda (a former General in the Armed Forces of the DRC and the former warlord operating in the province of Nord-Kivu), amongst the local population were the facts on ground. Right from the outset, SKB was involved in the overall scenario. After the signing of Acte d'Engagement in the beginning of 2008, the main focus was on creating military conditions that enabled the furtherance of political initiatives. The mission of SKB was to implement United Nation’s mandate in South Kivu Province (primary responsibility) and be prepared to deploy to other parts of DRC as per the directions of Force Commander/Force Headquarters.
With the re-organization/expansion of SKB (2010), the force included Four Infantry Battalions from Pakistan, One Engineers Company from China, One Engineers Company of Uruguay, Aviation Flight Unit (3 Pumas) from Pakistan, Aviation Flight Unit (3 Bell) of Uruguay, One Riverine Company of Uruguay, Level-II Hospital of China, Air Medical Evacuation Team (AMET) Pakistan, and Force Reserve of one Infantry Battalion less two Companies and one Special Force Company of Egypt.
Some of the major tasks/activities performed by Pakistani peacekeeping forces are as under:
▪ Conduct of numerous joint and unilateral operations to stabilize the security situation in the area of responsibility along with proactive approach against proxy groups.
▪ Peaceful conduct of general elections in its assigned area of responsibility.
▪ Numerous Riverine Operations to effectively check movement of hostile elements in Lake Tanganyika and Kivu.
▪ One of the major tasks was also the capacity building and logistic support of FARDC (The Armed Forces of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. In French: Forces armées de la république démocratique du Congo).
▪ Air support operations to ensure smooth and timely deployment of Static Combat Deployments in complete area of responsibility.
▪ Prevention of human rights violations/criminal acts through proactive approach and sensitization of population.
▪ Management of Burundian refugees.
▪ Relief escorts after natural calamities.
▪ Revamping of plan for the defence of Bukavu.
▪ Miscellaneous Quick Impact Projects/civil military coordination operations and winning hearts and minds activities in direct coordination with MONUSCO and head of office.
2019 To Date
Pakistani UN peacekeeping forces are involved in the identification of hotspots and conduct of multiple operations to deal with multifarious security challenges in the area of responsibility. They have established 32 Static Combat Deployments in difficult terrain under the flag of MONUSCO and also carrying out operations in aid of civil power. Pakistani forces have conducted flood relief operations and firefighting in Uvira. They are also involved in the conduct of air support operations to ensure smooth and timely deployment of Static Combat Deployments and logistic support in complete area of responsibility. Pakistani Peacekeepers have also conducted 2089 Safe Flying Hours (174 hours per month) of Puma and Bell in 12 months, 1530 brigades flown by Puma generated total reimbursement of USD 8,525,000 approximately.
Recently, Pakistani forces are performing information operations to project efforts undertaken by adopting MONUSCO Strategic Communication Concept. They are also involved in miscellaneous Quick Impact Projects/civil military cooperation operations and winning hearts and minds activities in direct coordination with MONUSCO and head office along with gender advisory and child protection activities specially by Female Engagement Teams (FETs). Recently, Pakistani Peacekeepers have continued to undertake ‘Essential Operation Activities’ despite COVID-19 pandemic. COVID-19 awareness campaigns for locals and Internally Displaced Persons include stress management.
The first Pakistani FET was deployed in South Kivu on June 18, 2019. The team of 15 women provide a range of resources to the region. It includes psychologists, stress counselors, vocational training officers, gender advisors, doctors, nurses, operations officers, information officers and logistic officers. Seventeen additional Pakistani women officers joined them on February 3, 2020. The first-ever Pakistani FET in any United Nations mission around the world, it received United Nation medals on January 31, 2020 for serving in the peacekeeping mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO).
Some of the major achievements of Pakistani Forces are to ensure implementation of mandate of protection of civilians through proactive attitude coupled with synchronized employment of resources available with South Sector, MONUSCO Force, FARDC, Congolese National Police and humanitarian agencies. They are involved in extensive broad-based outreach through coordination with MONUSCO civil counterparts; enhancing civil-military coordination within MONUSCO, setting up a good example for other Sectors. As part of MONUSCO’s support for the capacity building of Congolese National Police, the Pakistani contingents of MONUSCO and elements of Congolese National Police regularly conduct a joint training exercise with the support of MONUSCO police.
Recently they have mitigated volatile security situations, especially in high plateau areas ensuring Internally Displaced Persons’ security at Static Combat Deployment Bijombo and Temporary Operating Base Mikenge, averted 15 direct attacks against Internally Displaced Persons. This has been done by exemplary community outreach through Community Alert Network, curtailing activities of armed groups by seeking valuable information. The main focus is on a deliberate approach towards armed group’s surrender which gradually led to their dismantling (total 1402 surrenders in South Sector area of responsibility. 1079 surrenders in South Kivu and 223 surrenders in Tanganyika).
Present Deployment and Area of Responsibility
An area of 364,233 square kilometers with 8 territories and a population of 18 million, is being covered by Pakistan Army’s units deployed in South Kivu Brigade (SKB), apart from Nepalese, Indonesian and Ghana units deployed in Tanganyika and Kasai province. The strength of Pakistan contingent is 1928 whereas the total strength of South Kivu Brigade including the allied contingents is 4175.
Recipients of Dag Hammarskjöld Medal in MONUC/MONUSCO Congo
23 Pakistani peacekeepers have been awarded Dag Hammarskjöld Medal who were performing their duties in Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUC/MONUSCO). The medal is a posthumous award given by the United Nations to military personnel, police, or civilians who lose their lives while serving in a United Nations peacekeeping operation. Commissioned in October 1988, it is named after Dag Hammarskjöld, the second Secretary-General of the United Nations, who died in a plane crash in Northern Rhodesia (now Zambia) in September 1961.
Acknowledgment of Pakistani Peacekeepers’ Efforts by Force Commander (MONUSCO)
Lieutenant General Ricardo Augusto Ferreira Costa Neves (Brazil), Force Commander of the United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO) commented:
“As MOUNSCO Force Commander, I would like to briefly address a few words to the Pakistani Blue Berets with whom I have been working since January this year. Pakistani troops deployed today in the Southern Sector of MOUNSCO have the difficult mission of stabilizing an area with significant adversities: difficult terrain, weather conditions, distinct and often antagonistic ethnic groups, presence of several armed groups and security forces with limited capacity fulfill the mission of protecting the Congolese population.
This year we experienced several events, such as attacks on MONUSCO bases, public calamities, demonstrations by the population, and even attempts by armed groups to attack cities under the protection of our forces. In all the incidents that I mentioned, you behaved with courage and professionalism. In Minembwe, Bijombo, Mikenge, Uvira, Sange, and several other locations, we have had successive example of the Pakistani soldier’s courage when facing real risk to bring peace and protection to the local population.
I personally feel privileged to have such troops under my command and I have absolute confidence in their ability to solve the difficult military problems that the situation imposes on them. Finally, I invite the brave Pakistani Blue Helmets in the DRC to continue fulfilling their missions with traditional competence and efficiency.”
Pakistan, which firmly believes in the purposes and the principles of the United Nations Charter has, since 1960, been actively participating in the United Nations multi-national efforts to maintain peace and order around the globe. Its contribution to United Nations peacekeeping has been as wide-ranging as the varied cultural, geographical, political and security conditions in which it had to operate. Pakistan’s participation in peacekeeping activities of the United Nations reflects its belief in the brotherhood of mankind and its commitment to peace across the globe. The contributions it has made in this regard bespeaks its desire to see the principles of human dignity, freedom and self-determination applied to all the peoples struggling to secure their inalienable basic rights.
E-mail: [email protected]
1 The boundaries and names shown and the designations used on this map do not imply official endorsement acceptance by the United Nations.
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