The Pakistan Army’s Contributions to U.N. Peacekeeping Missions – Brig. Gen. Zahid Jamil Ahmad, Pakistan



Pakistan’s commitment to promoting international peace and prosperity stems from the vision of its Founding Father, Quaid-e-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah, who said, in February 1948:

“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 peoples of the world and in upholding the principles of the United Nations Charter.”

Ever since the U.N.’s creation, Pakistan has played a significant role as a member, bringing peace through active diplomatic, moral and material support in various regions of the world. Today, Pakistan’s position as one of the largest troop-contributing countries in the world — with one of the highest peacekeepers’ casualty figures — is testimony to its commitment and endeavor toward promoting the noble cause of global peace.

A Pakistani peacekeeper with the U.N. Mission in Liberia teaches a young Liberian to sew as part of a job training program offered by the contingent.  [United nations]
A Pakistani peacekeeper with the U.N. Mission in Liberia teaches a young Liberian to sew as part of a job training program offered by the contingent. [United nations ]
Pakistan’s journey with U.N. peacekeeping began in July 1960, when the nation deployed its first contingent to the U.N. Operation in the Congo. Since then, Pakistan has participated in 41 missions in 23 countries on every continent of the world. Pakistan has contributed more than 144,711 troops to date.

In 2011, Pakistan celebrated the golden jubilee of its troop contributions to U.N. peacekeeping forces. Pakistan has consistently remained one of the largest troop-contributing countries. Presently, Pakistan is the second-largest troop contributor, with 8,232 troops of all ranks deployed with seven U.N. missions.

A Pakistani peacekeeper distributes food to a woman as part of the U.N. Transitional Authority in the then-enclave of Eastern Slavonia, Baranja and Western Sirmium.  [United nations]
A Pakistani peacekeeper distributes food to a woman as part of the U.N. Transitional Authority in the then-enclave of Eastern Slavonia, Baranja and Western Sirmium. [United nations]
Pakistan also leads peacekeeping contributors with one of the highest rates of sacrifice in the noble cause of international peace. One hundred thirty-four Pakistani Soldiers, including 21 officers, have been killed while serving in U.N. missions.

Eminent Pakistani diplomats and distinguished Army officers have also held leadership roles as special representatives of the U.N. secretary-general, chief military observers and force commanders in U.N. peacekeeping missions.

Wherever they are deployed, Pakistani contingents play a significant role in normalizing the war-torn conditions of various countries, maintaining law and order, and supervising successful government transitions through major events, such as:

  • Smooth conduct of general elections in 2006 and 2011 in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
  • Trouble-free presidential elections and referenda in Liberia; these paved the way for the drawdown of the U.N. Mission in Liberia military component.
  • Peaceful general elections in the Pakistani area of responsibility in Côte d’Ivoire. This ensured a peaceful post-election period in that region, despite violence elsewhere.
  • Facilitated a smooth transition of power for the newly elected president of Côte d’Ivoire in May 2011.
  • Ensured smooth conduct of elections in 2010 and referendum in 2011 in Sudan, which resulted in the independent new state of South Sudan.

Other accomplishments:

  • More than a million patients have been given free medical treatment in Pakistani hospitals in various U.N. missions, including Liberia, Sudan, Darfur and Somalia.
  • The Pakistan Army played a major role in disarming 10,000 rebels in Sierra Leone.
  • In Sudan, the Pakistani contingent conducted demining operations in an area spread over 125,122 square kilometers; this made the success of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement possible.
  • Pakistani peacekeepers in all U.N. missions organize vocational training programs for local youth on first aid, vehicle mechanics, welding, carpentry, driving, basic masonry, ship carpentry, tractor repair and computers. They also adopt local schools, providing maintenance, renovation, stationery, sports equipment and clean drinking water.
  • Pakistan troops contribute to national security reforms such as police training and military restructuring; they also facilitate access to remote areas for the safe provision of humanitarian assistance.

Two Pakistani peacekeepers, part of the U.N. Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, secure an area in Ituri province after brutal militia fighting and massacres of the local population.  [United nations]
Two Pakistani peacekeepers, part of the U.N. Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, secure an area in Ituri province after brutal militia fighting and massacres of the local population. [United nations]
Pakistani troops undertook the cumbersome task of developing and rebuilding thousands of kilometers of infrastructure including roads, tracks and bridges in Cambodia, Sudan, Darfur, Côte d’Ivoire and Liberia. Major repair and maintenance was carried out to establish operational airports in Liberia and Sudan. Engineers have developed and rebuilt civic facilities, including dispensaries, schools, parks, playgrounds and places of worship in almost every U.N. mission.

Pakistan provided logistic support for troop movements to, from and within the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). They created an organizational system to ensure foolproof administration arrangements for transporting troops, weapons, equipment, stores and rations throughout the DRC in an unfriendly environment.

chart1Also in Somalia, Pakistani troops secured the Mogadishu airport, making it safe for relief flights. They also cleared the nearby seaport of armed bandits, who posed a threat to the anchorage and off-loading of ships carrying grain and other supplies for the famished people.

In Somalia, the Pakistani contingent helped disarm militia members, inspect militant weapon stores, apprehended militia leaders, and carry out search-and-cordon operations as part of the cease-fire agreement.

In Sudan, despite the volatility and violence in all surrounding states, the Pakistani contingent was able to ensure normalcy and stability in the Blue Nile state as soon as it arrived in the area.

Pakistan Army Engineers were on the forefront of demining efforts in Sudan from June 2006 until closure of the mission in August 2011.

Search and rescue
Pakistani troops conducted a heroic rescue of 79 U.S. Rangers from the U.N. Operation in Somalia in October 1993, when the Rangers became stranded in a militant-infested sector after raiding a building in Mogadishu. The American forces called for help from a nearby Pakistani battalion.

Pakistani military teams in rural Liberia administer health care as part of the U.N. medical outreach program. [United nations]
Pakistani military teams in rural Liberia administer health care as part of the U.N. medical outreach program. [United nations ]
Despite the daunting odds facing them, a Pakistani Quick Reaction Force comprising tanks and armored personnel carriers arrived within 30 minutes. In a daring operation, they rescued all stranded U.S. Rangers amid stiff resistance from Somali fighters. Afterward, the U.S. expressed deep gratitude to the Pakistan Army and the people of Pakistan; the White House also released an exclusive statement extolling the brave deeds of the Pakistani troops.

After presidential elections in October 2010, Côte d’Ivoire witnessed its most violent period as the country went through a civil war. Many innocent civilians were killed. U.N. officials, personnel from nongovernmental organizations and some diplomats also were targeted.

During this period of extreme violence, Pakistani peacekeepers helped bring peace to their area of responsibility. They also protected the U.N. headquarters in Abidjan, the capital city, and rescued a number of stranded Pakistani and foreign diplomats from conflict-ridden areas.

The performance of Pakistani troops was praised by U.N. officials in New York and by Young-Jin Choi, special representative of the U.N. secretary-general for Côte d’Ivoire.

Boots on the Ground

Regional militaries strengthen U.N. peacekeeping forces


Pakistan’s pride in its contributions to U.N. forces around the world runs deep. Since first sending its forces in support of a peacekeeping mission half a century ago, when they were deployed to help restore peace in the Congo, Pakistani Soldiers have served under the U.N. flag in numerous operations. The country often leads the list of nations contributing Soldiers, police and military experts.

That same sense of pride touches states with shorter peacekeeping histories. Jordan’s first participation in an international mission took place in Angola at the end of the 1980s. Military members followed that mission with dozens more in war-torn areas, including Rwanda, Somalia, Kosovo and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

The country consistently ranks among the largest contributors to U.N. peacekeeping and observer missions, despite having a population of only 6.5 million. During January 2013, more than 3,500 Soldiers, police and military experts served under the U.N. flag in eight countries, the seventh-largest national contingent among 114 contributors.

The nation’s leaders spell out their philosophy about the importance of peacekeeping on a government website: “Jordan deeply believes its national security is closely connected to its regional security and any possible threat to any of its neighbors is a threat to Jordan.”

Kyrgyz Republic
The Kyrgyz Republic was among the first Central Asian states to join the ranks of U.N. peacekeepers. Currently, its contribution is limited to small numbers of police and military experts. But even modest contingents strengthen the U.N.’s peacekeeping efforts — and bolster a nation’s self-image.

“The peacekeepers of the Kyrgyz Republic are making [a] contribution to the noble cause of peace and security,” Foreign Minister Ruslan Kazakbayev said in 2012. “They also strengthen the country’s foreign-policy image as a responsible, responsive and peaceful member of the international community.”

The Kyrgyz Defense Ministry has pledged to take actions that will soon allow its military to be part of U.N. missions. “Kyrgyzstan is ready to participate in peacekeeping that will improve the country’s image at the international arena and help to upgrade military equipment and improve the level of Soldiers’ training,” Deputy Defense Minister Zamir Suerkulov said.

Kazakhstan could be the next Central Asian military to serve under the U.N. flag. The country’s Defense Ministry is building a peacekeeping unit, and officials plan to draft legislation that will allow Kazakh citizens to take part in U.N. missions as Soldiers. In addition, U.S. Central Command signed military cooperation plans with Kazakhstan in 2012 that will help the country deploy a company-size U.N. unit by 2015.

Kazakhstan was scheduled to undergo a NATO peacekeeping evaluation and certification process at Steppe Eagle, an annual peacekeeping exercise co-sponsored by Kazakhstan and the United States held in August 2013.

The first Tajik peacekeepers — five members of the Interior Ministry — deployed to Sudan in 2008 to monitor a cease-fire agreement and help restructure local police in Darfur. Law enforcement officials returned as U.N. peacekeepers in Darfur at least twice.

chart3The country’s military has waited longer to join the ranks of U.N. peacekeepers. After completing formation of a special peacekeeping unit in 2010, Tajikistan sent two battalion officers to Nepal for an international peacekeeping exercise three years later.

The exercise brought together officers from 23 nations, said Capt. Foziljon Salimov, the peacekeeping unit’s chief of staff. While deployed, he learned to coordinate missions at the operational level.

“It’s very important to understand the mission because with the U.N. there are so many representatives from different countries involved,” Salimov said. “We all have to learn to coordinate and work together for mission success.”

Combined Efforts  
In January 2013, seven states from the Middle East and Central Asia deployed more than 15,000 uniformed personnel serving as peacekeepers in eight countries. They included large contingents from countries such as Egypt and smaller ones from nations such as Yemen and Tajikistan. Qatar sent three troops to serve in the U.N. Interim Force in Lebanon, demonstrating that even small contributions to peacekeeping show the world’s resolve to establish peace.

Worldwide, nearly 94,000 personnel from 114 nations were serving on four continents in January 2013. Pakistan contributed more than 8,000 — more than 8 percent of the total U.N. force — second only to Bangladesh. Contingents from the Middle East, South and Central Asia served in some the most challenging missions, including:

Haiti: Peacekeepers train members of the Haitian National Police Force, protecting civilians and assisting recovery and reconstruction efforts that came after the 2010 earthquake.

Darfur: A joint U.N.-African Union force protects civilians from fighting among rebel groups, the government of Sudan and its allied militias. Peacekeepers make more than 200 patrols daily and provide security for humanitarian groups helping displaced civilians.

Western Sahara: Peacekeepers conduct ground and air patrols to monitor a ceasefire approved by rival parties in 1999. They also map land mine and unexploded ordnance locations.

Côte d’Ivoire: After their initial deployment in 2004 to help end a civil war, peacekeepers stayed in Côte d’Ivoire to subdue political strife triggered by disputed elections. Soldiers monitor the cease-fire, protect civilians and disarm combatants.

Threats to Peace
The dangers of serving in U.N. missions were underscored in June 2012 when seven Nigerian peacekeepers in Côte d’Ivoire were killed in an ambush blamed on rebels and mercenaries. Two Jordanian peacekeepers abducted in Sudan’s Darfur region in August 2012 were held captive for more than four months. Pakistan has lost 134 peacekeepers in its 50 years of service.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon honored Pakistan’s contributions to U.N. missions at a special exhibit in January 2013. “Pakistan’s historic commitment to peacekeeping has taken a heavy toll,” he said. “ … We owe them a great debt of gratitude.”

Sources: 24 KG News Agency, BBC, Daily Times (Lahore), Central Asia Online, Jordan Times (Amman), Kabar National News Agency, United Nations, U.N. Mine Action Service, U.N. Peacekeeping Operations

About the author: Brig. Gen. Zahid Jamil Ahmad is Pakistan’s senior national representative to U.S. Central Command. He was commissioned in 1986 and was promoted to brigadier general in 2009. He earned a master’s degree in war studies in 2008.

In 1993, as a captain serving in Somalia, he received an SOS call that 79 U.S. Rangers had been ambushed. He activated a Pakistani Quick Reaction Force, ultimately saving the lives of many American Soldiers.

In the article below, he highlights other contributions his country has made in the efforts of partnerships and peacekeeping.

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