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Brig Dr. Tughral Yamin (R)

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Hilal English

Pakistani Peacekeepers and the International Peacekeeping Day

May 2024

Pakistani Peacekeepers exemplify courage and commitment, embodying the spirit of global cooperation for a safer world.


“United Nations peacekeepers are the beating heart of our commitment to a more peaceful world. For 75 years, they have supported people and communities rocked by conflict and upheaval across the globe.” 

—United Nations Secretary-General, António Guterres, May 29, 2023



The International Peacekeeping Day
May 29, 2024, marks 76 years of international peacekeeping. The theme of last year’s anniversary was “Peace begins with me", recognizing the service and sacrifice of peacekeepers, past and present, including more than 4200 who have given their lives under the United Nations (UN) flag. It is pertinent to remember that the fallen peacekeepers include 180 Pakistani soldiers and policemen. They have served in far-off places in service of humanity and have made their country proud by performing their duties honestly and professionally in life-threatening environments. It is important to remember that their work and sacrifice are not forgotten. 


It is pertinent to remember that the fallen peacekeepers include 180 Pakistani soldiers and policemen. They have served in far-off places in service of humanity and have made their country proud by performing their duties honestly and professionally in life-threatening environments.


Pakistan commemorates its Peacekeeping Day on June 5. On this day in June 1993, Pakistan lost 24 of its peacekeepers on one single day in Mogadishu. Those who lost their lives in Somalia included brave men of 10 Baloch and 7 Frontier Force (FF). A number of peacekeepers have been wounded in action and have been invalided out of service because of critical injuries they received in mission areas.



International Peacekeeping Day is marked by a special ceremony at the United Nations Headquarters in New York City. The program includes the presentation of the Dag Hammarskjöld medals, statements by the President of the General Assembly and the Secretary-General, and a press release regarding the state of UN Peacekeeping missions and the continued necessity of their work. 
The International Day of United Nations Peacekeepers was designated vide United General Assembly Resolution 57/129 on December 11, 2002. This is "an international day to pay tribute to all the men and women who have served and continue to serve in United Nations peacekeeping operations for their high level of professionalism, dedication, and courage and to honour the memory of those who have lost their lives in the cause of peace."
Peacekeepers have worked to save and change lives in the world’s most fragile political and security situations. Since 1948, more than two million uniformed and civilian personnel have helped countries to transition from war to peace.1 Working alongside local communities, peacekeepers help advance political solutions, prevent conflict, protect civilians, strengthen human rights and the rule of law, and build sustainable peace.


Since 1948, more than two million uniformed and civilian personnel have helped countries to transition from war to peace.


The challenges faced by peacekeepers are greater than ever, with rising global tensions, more complex conflict, and a proliferation of misinformation and disinformation that impede their work and threaten their safety. Despite these obstacles, peacekeepers persevere, alongside many partners, in the collective pursuit of peace. 
International peacekeeping provides the essential environment to build peace in war-ravaged countries. This means restoring law and order so that peace negotiations among the warring parties can be resumed, life returns to normal, and people can go about their usual businesses without being killed by shootouts among rival factions. The blue-helmeted peacekeepers, irrespective of their nationality or religious and ideological affinity, are supposed to create this environment as an essential first step towards lasting peace.
Pakistani Peacekeepers
Pakistan has been contributing troops to international peacekeeping operations since 1960. It became part of the peacekeeping operations landscape in 1949 when the UN Military Observer Group in India and Pakistan (UNMOGIP) arrived to monitor the ceasefire along what is now known as the Line of Control (LoC) in the disputed territory of Jammu and Kashmir. The first Pakistani peacekeeping contingent sent overseas to Congo was a logistic support mission and comprised men from supporting arms, i.e., ASC and the Corps of Ordnance. Since then, the nature of participation has changed to the employment of infantry units. Known in the mission area as Pakbatts or Pakistani battalions, these men and women have served with pride and honour and have done their country proud with their professionalism and their spirit of sacrifice. Nearly 150 infantry battalions and two armour units, supported by other arms i.e., artillery, combat engineers, electrical and mechanical engineers, medical staff (doctors, nurses, medical technicians), signalmen, intelligence officers, lawyers and journalists, have been deployed on peacekeeping duties. The Pakistani peacekeeping contingents have included aviation pilots and staff, civil armed forces, special forces, information technology (IT) specialists, psychologists, and canine units. At an individual level, unarmed Military Observers work to ensure that a ceasefire is held in volatile places. Female representation in the Pakistani contingents is nearly 10 percent. Where air support is provided to peacekeeping missions, officers of the Pakistan Air Force (PAF) have served as Air Liaison Officers. Pakistan Navy (PN) has transported men and materiel to certain peacekeeping missions. PN also provided ferry services to peacekeepers between remote islands in the Irian Jaya archipelago in 1962-63. 


Pakistan commemorates its Peacekeeping Day on June 5. On this day in June 1993, Pakistan lost 24 of its peacekeepers on one single day in Mogadishu. Those who lost their lives in Somalia included brave men of 10 Baloch and 7 Frontier Force (FF).


Pakistani policemen and civil armed forces have distinguished themselves on peacekeeping missions. Because peacekeeping involves policing, policemen are now in high demand.
The Pakistani peacekeepers duties are multifarious. Some of these duties are specified in the UN mandate, and certain unspecified and impromptu tasks have to be performed in good faith. The peacekeepers are no longer restricted to first-generation operations of observing and reporting on ceasefire violations; they are now actively involved in maintaining law and order in the conflict zone and implementing the UN Doctrine of Protection of Civilians (POC). Through active patrolling and show of force, they provide a sense of security to those still stuck in the conflict zone and those displaced persons who have sought refuge in camps being run by the UN or International non-governmental organizations (INGO’s). They also provide security for UN assets and the humanitarian staff working in dangerous conditions. Peacekeepers facilitate local negotiations. They are often involved in sending Quick Reaction Forces (QRF) to rescue outnumbered UN forces surrounded on isolated posts or those stuck in an ambush. One memorable rescue operation involved the combined QRF of 15 FF and 19 Lancers to rescue the American Marines and Rangers stranded in the stronghold of Somali militiamen in downtown Mogadishu after their botched operation to apprehend some high-value targets.  
Pakistani peacekeepers have been employed on hazardous demining duties, organizing referendums, and overseeing the transfer of administration from a colonial power to a newly independent state. They have also participated in nation-building tasks, such as rehabilitating broken down civilian infrastructure, i.e., operationalizing dysfunctional hospitals and running new medical facilities, reconstructing roads and bridges, rebuilding schools and playgrounds, providing skills to the youth, building confidence in the local population by reconstructing places of religious worships and arranging friendly sports matches. Pakistani troops have gone out of their way to share their rations with the poor and hungry local populations. The units have contributed to purchasing medicines, school books and teaching materials for hospitals, health facilities and schools in their areas of responsibility. In extremely cold climates, they have built shelters and provided winter clothing to the displaced people.


It goes to the credit of their professionalism that the UN Secretary-General has appointed Pakistani diplomats, civil servants and military officers to senior civil and military positions on some extremely difficult peacekeeping missions.


Pakistani peacekeepers have served tenures in trouble spots in Asia, Africa, Europe and America. Each conflict zone has presented its own sets of challenges like harsh climate, disease, and different cultural, social and religious norms. The Commanders have the difficult task of keeping the soldiers imaginatively and productively busy so that distance from home, separation from loved ones, and periods of ennui and fear in the bush do not interfere with their operational tasks. On the operational level, functioning with the militaries of nations means that commanders and staff learn new working models in the quickest possible time to remove any miscommunication due to ambiguities in the Rules of Engagement (ROE). The responsibility of commanders down to the NCO level is to make a decision that may not be covered in the mandate.
No less a person than the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has recognized that besides boots on the ground, Pakistan has provided the brains to plan, launch, and conduct these operations. As staff members at the UNHQ and in the mission areas, the work of the planners is mostly behind the scenes. It goes to the credit of their professionalism that the UN Secretary-General has appointed Pakistani diplomats, civil servants and military officers to senior civil and military positions on some extremely difficult peacekeeping missions.  


On April 5, the 47-member UNHRC (United Nations Human Rights Council), in a resolution presented by Pakistan on behalf of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, noted that Israel was "using starvation of civilians as a method of warfare" in Gaza. The resolution was adopted by 28 to 6 votes and 13 abstentions.


Employment in UN peacekeeping missions allows Pakistan to present its best side as a responsible member of the United Nations Organization (UNO), willing to place its men and women in harm's way to serve humanity beyond the national interest. It also pays tribute to the professionalism and bravery of its Pakistani peacekeepers for performing their duties often beyond the call of duty.   
It is worth noting that May 29, which is now celebrated as International Peacekeeping Day, marks the anniversary of the creation of the United Nations Truce Supervision Organization (UNTSO) in 1948 to monitor the ceasefire after the 1948 Arab-Israel War. This was the first-ever UN peacekeeping mission. 


Pakistani policemen and civil armed forces have distinguished themselves on peacekeeping missions. Because peacekeeping involves policing, policemen are now in high demand.


It is a sad reminder to the UN in particular and the world at large that war still rages in Gaza, and there has been no practical effort to enforce a ceasefire. The killing of civilians continues unabated. By the time of the writing of this article, nearly 34,000 civilians have died in Gaza because of Israel's ground and air assaults. A large majority of those killed are women and children. This tragedy is compounded by death due to starvation. On April 5, the 47-member UNHRC (United Nations Human Rights Council), in a resolution presented by Pakistan on behalf of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, noted that Israel was "using starvation of civilians as a method of warfare" in Gaza. The resolution was adopted by 28 to 6 votes and 13 abstentions. The council backed a call “to cease the sale, transfer, and diversion of arms, munitions, and other military equipment to Israel, the occupying Power… to prevent further violations of international humanitarian law and violations and abuses of human rights.” Whether this resolution, like the one passed by the UNSC calling for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza, will be implemented is questionable. 
Humanity and justice demand that Israel should be stopped from using lethal weapons and denying food and water to the besieged Palestinians in Gaza. In 2021, Pakistan and Türkiye had presented the idea of creating an international protection force to protect civilians in Palestine. This is the right time to reinforce this idea at the UN. Vigorous diplomacy and active participation by Pakistani peacekeepers in Palestine would be a great service to prevent the extinction of the civilian population in Gaza. 


The author is a Former Associate Dean of Centre for International Peace and Stability (CIPS), NUST.
E-mail: [email protected]


1. United Nations Peacekeeping. 2023. “Where We Operate.” United Nations Peacekeeping. 2023. https://peacekeeping.un.org/en/where-we-operate. 


   


 

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Brig Dr. Tughral Yamin (R)

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