Monday May 27, 2024

Role of Pakistan in UN peacekeeping operations

By Qammer Abbass Anka
June 30, 2016

“The heroes of the world community are not those who withdraw when difficulties ensue, not those who can envision neither the prospects of success nor the consequences of failure -- but those who stand the heat of battle, the fight for world peace through the United Nations.”

(Hurbert Humphrey)

Considerable research has been carried out on defining the intangible concept of peace building since long. During the end of last century, peace researchers, initially defined peace building in relation to a conflict continuum that passed from pre-conflict prevention through peacemaking and peacekeeping. In the opinion of Boutrous Ghali, Secretary-General of the United Nations, “Peace building was associated with the post-conflict phase and defined as “action to identify and support structures which will tend to strengthen and solidify peace in order to avoid a relapse into conflict.”

Statistics have revealed that a large number of wars do recur after termination, resulting into more devastating consequences. Research also reveals that between one-fifth and one-third of all ended conflicts revert to warfare within 5 years. Another research suggested that about 69% of civil wars that began and ended between 1945 and 1999 failed by a higher standard, either undergoing organised violence of any sort or experiencing political authoritarianism.

During post WW-II period, researchers reached to a consensus that international peace operations can help reduce a country’s risk of reversion to war. The vulnerability of negotiated settlements to renewed conflict can be offset if a settlement is comprehensive and if its implementation involves a multidimensional peace operation.

The history of UN deployment of military personnel for service in peace operations dates back to 1948 when the Security Council authorised the deployment of UN military observers to the Middle East to monitor the Armistice Agreement between Israel and its Arab neighbours. Second Peacekeeping Operation of United Nations Military Observer Group for India and Pakistan (UNMOGIP) was constituted in 1949 to observe ceasefire violation between India and Pakistan. It is the oldest UN operation and still going on. Since 1948 UN has deployed total of 71 Peacekeeping Operations till date. Currently, 16 operations are in progress in various conflict zones of the globe.

Major roles of UN Peace Keeping Force include monitoring of disputed borders, monitoring and observing peace processes in post-conflict areas, providing security across a conflict zone, protecting civilians, assisting in-country military personnel with training & support and assisting ex-combatants in implementing the signed peace agreements etc. More precisely, UN Peace Keeping Force commonly known as ‘Blue Helmets’ works to protect personnel and property; maintain close cooperation with other military entities in the mission area and work to promote stability and security. The Force works hands in gloves with the local community and the local military personnel to bring about greater mutual understanding towards a lasting peace. Protection of civilians is one of the key objectives of Blue Helmets.

Owing to the versatile nature of tasks, UN peacekeeping missions need a variety of military cadres like infantry, engineers, pilots, ATCOs, Medical/Para-medical staff and road communication personnel. Besides military personnel these operations also involve civilians, police personnel and paramilitary forces. Modern peacekeeping operations are often very complex, and place high demands on the deployed personnel. Resultantly, high standards of training, dedication, sincerity and professionalism become mandatory for those forming part of UN Peacekeeping Force. UN Peacekeeping missions are different from routine in country military operations may it be peace or war. Many challenges ranging from nature of conflict zone to probability of war recurrence, from degree of diversity in multicultural force composition to capacity of civil authorities and nature and length of logistics supply lines loom on the deployed contingents. Participation in peacekeeping missions can often lead into bloody encounters causing even loss of life. A major challenge to UN Peace Keeping efforts is resurgent conflict and or protracted state weakness can enable, accelerate, or exert spillover effects that increase the vulnerability of others to a wider range of global risks. Networks of armed groups, traffickers, and commercial actors, and flows of arms, population and disease can powerfully accelerate and amplify vulnerability to armed conflict as well as resistance to its resolution. By and large, UN Peacekeeping missions are complex and highly demanding and therefore require highly professional soldiers/participants.

UN Peacekeeping missions cover a long and cherished history of Pakistani association with the United Nations. Pakistan joined UN in 1947 immediately after attaining independence. Pakistan’s involvement in UN Peacekeeping missions dates back to 60s. Pakistan’s decision to join UN Peacekeeping efforts was in line with our founder’s vision. Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah himself was a great supporter of this thought as is evident from his saying. “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. Pakistan will never be found lacking in extending its material and moral support to the oppressed and suppressed people of the world and in upholding the principles of the United Nations Charter.”

Participation of Pakistan in UN Peace Keeping operations started in 1960 with deployment in Congo. Since then a large number of soldiers, civilians, police and paramedical forces are regularly participating in numerous missions and have conducted a host of activities under the banner of UN ranging from humanitarian assistance to hardcore security operations. The contributions of Pakistan in UN peacekeeping missions have been duly recognised by nothing less than UN General Secretary Ban Ki-moon in 2013 during his visit to Pakistan. He said, “Gratitude as the United Nations General Secretary and gratitude as a global citizen for what Pakistan and her people have been doing for international peace and security.”

Owing to the nature of challenges faced during deployment, Pakistan while recognising the importance of focused training of its troops established state of the art training institutions. The Center for International Peace and Stability (CIPS) was established in National University of Science & technology (NUST) on 1st March, 2013 and inaugurated by UN’s General Secretary his Excellency Ban Ki-moon. The prestigious guest while appreciating the contributions of Pakistan in UN Peacekeeping efforts said, “More than 100 countries contribute troops and police for UN peace keeping missions. Pakistan is Number 1. It is impossible to speak about the history of UN Peacekeeping without highlighting the country’s contribution.”

CIPS has an inclusive system of training for peacekeeping, peace-building & stability and support operations. The institute focuses on research to find means to resolve conflicts without use of force through negotiations. CIPS also offers PhD programmes for domestic as well as foreign students. Similarly, the Peacekeeping Training Wing of School of Infantry & Tactics is another such institution.

Participation in peacekeeping missions is not free from serious challenges ranging from bloody encounters to loss of life. Pakistan’s participation in some of the peacekeeping missions since her joining has been enviously impressive. Valiant Armed Forces of Pakistan have sacrificed many lives while serving the oppressed humanity in UN Peacekeeping missions. They have an envious figure of 138 martyrs including 22 officers who lost their lives to save the humanity. It is about 10% of total causalities suffered by UN Peacekeeping missions since inception. Maximum casualty on anyone day occurred during ‘Operation United Shield” in UN Mission in Somalia on 5 June, 1993 in which our 24 brave soldiers sacrificed their lives while ensuring safety of the people of Somalia and UN comrades overwhelmed by the rebels. Every year 5th June is observed as the Pakistani Peacekeepers day. Besides causalities, the list of serious wounded/injured personnel is also too long. These soldiers suffered life-long disabilities in their service to humanity. Description of contribution of Pakistan in UN Peacekeeping operations will not be complete without mentioning the higher leadership role entrusted by UN. Pakistan has the singular honour of being appointed on various key appointments of UN Peacekeeping operations. It includes Special Envoy/Adviser to UN Secretary General, Special Representative of UN Secretary General, Military Adviser at DPKO, Chief Military observer, Force and Deputy Force Commanders.

Pakistan is a peace loving nuclear power democratic state. It fully understands her international responsibilities and never lacks behind in fulfilling them. Its armed forces and citizens are highly professional and second to none. They are fully capable of safeguarding their motherland. Besides defending their own frontiers, they are the world leaders in UN led Peacekeeping efforts. Their performance in these missions has been excellent and recognised internationally. Their overwhelming participation and sacrifices in UN Peacekeeping operations are not for any worldly gains or verbal appreciation. These brave soldiers rather, have a strong conviction that no one can live today until he has done something for someone who can never pay back. They have an unruffled resolve to save humanity even at the cost of own lives.