Peacekeeping missions are the most effective tools used by the United Nations in its efforts to maintain international peace and security. There have been many UN peacekeeping missions carried out through the decades, each representing the unique strength of burden sharing in conflict zones around the globe. Pakistan has a special relationship with the UN peacekeeping efforts as one of the oldest and largest contributors of military troops and police. There are many in the Pakistan’s armed forces and law enforcement agencies who have served in the conflict torn countries to advance the mandates of these UN missions and help countries transition to peace.
In the routine task of inducting new officers for the seven UN missions Pakistani men and women are currently deployed to, something interesting happened in the year 2018. Major Dr. Baqar, a radiologist who had been getting used to his new posting at Combined Military Hospital, Okara received news that surprised both him and his wife. To their astonishment, by happenstance they had been selected to serve at the UN mission in Darfur together. We here at Hilal decided to meet with Major Dr. Baqar and Major Tathir, a general duty medical officer, who went on to serve together in United Nations-African Union Hybrid Operation in Darfur (UNAMID) as part of the Pakistani Contingent.
My first question to them was the most obvious one; how had the two made the big and understandably tough decision to be deployed in Darfur and leave their children behind. Their answer was inspirational as to how motivated Pakistani peacekeepers are to serve humanity. They replied that the news of their respective selections was a serendipitous discovery. When they were coming to a decision, their main concern was the well-being and care of their children. With their daughter and both sons so young, the parents were worried about entrusting the care of their children to someone other than themselves. They also worried about their absence affecting the children’s education.
Speaking on the difficulty of the process Major Tathir said, “The children had initially been reluctant to be apart from both of us for so long. That made us more worried; even though we knew this was a good opportunity we were hesitant to take it. But after speaking with our family we came up with a plan that was comfortable for all of us. The children’s grandparents urged us to take this opportunity and volunteered to look after them.” Major Dr. Baqar also explained how their seniors’ support and the institution’s policies had made their decision easier, “Our seniors laid our worries to rest. They advised us to look at the big picture and to make use of this rare opportunity to serve together. We were allowed to retain our accomodation at Okara and so my children continued their schooling at Army Public School undisturbed. The army’s relaxed leave policy also played a huge factor in allowing us to leave”.
With a heavy heart and great conviction they left the children in the care of their parents and embarked on their mission in April 2018. In their service to the UNAMID mission, both Major Dr. Baqar and Major Tathir served at two locations. Immediately after being deployed the two arrived at the hospital in Nyala, where they quickly took their positions. Major Dr. Baqar took charge as a Radiologist at the Pakistan Field Hospital (PFH) along with a few administrative tasks assigned to him as the male officer in charge of the medical reception center (MRC). Major Tathir on the other hand was the female officer in charge of the MRC. Although initially finding it challenging, the two soon found their pace and immersed themselves in delivering quality medical care to the people of Darfur.
Major Tathir spoke passionately when asked about the impact of Pakistani Contingent’s work in the Pakistan Field Hospital at the mission area in UNAMID. Recalling the local population’s lack of access to basic facilities like clean water, medical care and education, she said that such missions play an important role in not only taking care of them but also in helping the local authorities through knowledge sharing. In her work she directly dealt with the patients and their families, and through these interactions with the locals she tried her best to educate them on basic health issues. Being health specialists, both her and Major Dr. Baqar used their medical knowledge for raising health awareness in the local populace, particularly to increase awareness of ailments affecting the most vulnerable section of the society i.e., women and children.
The medical camp they were stationed at operated smoothly in Nyala for eight months before being moved to Kabkabiya where they stayed for a duration of four months. There the couple resumed their assigned tasks to provide medical assistance to the vulnerable people affected by conflict, poverty and the lack of infrastructure. During their deployment, they also organized various social events at the mission area with the goal to celebrate the achievements of UNAMID and the Pakistani Contingent.
After serving for a little more than a year, the officers returned home to their children. While they had worked hard helping those in need on the other side of the globe, the children had gone through some challenges as well. Major Tathir spoke proudly about her children’s understanding of their decision, “Our children had a tough time. It was hard for them to live without their parents for so long, especially since we hadn’t been so far apart from each other before. But I am proud of them for understanding and agreeing to our decision. I see how much they have grown; my children are so much more independent now and their self-confidence has also grown.”
It is missions like these that reflect the collective efforts of Pakistan Army, whose men and women work side by side whether it is in their home country or at a UN mission doing their part in looking after those in need, never shying away from any challenges. It is these very principles of service and sacrifice fueling each Pakistani soldier that sets them apart from others.
Pakistan Army has always been in the lead in volunteering its troops to UN peacekeeping missions in war-torn regions. As you read this there are many Pakistani men and women carrying out their duties as peacekeepers in seven out of the fourteen ongoing UN operations. The prestige the institution of Pakistan Army has in the global community is because of the commitment of its troops who live by the principles of service and sacrifice. Whether it is providing safety from conflict, extending medical assistance to the vulnerable population, making clean drinking water accessible, building infrastructure or removing barriers to education, Pakistani peacekeepers work tirelessly along with troops and civilians from across the globe to help communities and countries in their transition from conflict to peace.
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