War and Peace
Pakistan is the 6th largest country in the world in terms of population and has the world’s 5th largest standing army. The country’s armed forces are not only deployed on the national borders, both in the east (India) and the west (Afghanistan/Taliban) but are also fighting a battle with India on the world’s highest battlefield (Siachin). In addition, Pakistan is engaged in combating the internal security situation in a big way and the successful Operation Zarb e Azb is a prime example. This experience has made the Pakistan Army the most battle-hardened fighting force in the world today. However, despite these key involvements, the Pakistan Army continues to participate in UN peacekeeping initiatives in a very prominent manner and the country is one of the top contributors to UN peacekeeping missions, with some 12,000 of its soldiers committed to these duties. The United Nations defines peacekeeping as a way to help war-torn countries create conditions for sustainable peace. The history of UN peacekeeping efforts across the globe would be always incomplete without talking about the positive role of the Pakistan Army. Compared to the armed forces of other countries, Pakistani soldiers are the most wanted as they have been fighting on numerous fronts at both the local and international level and giving a good account of themselves.
It was in 1960 when the Pakistani army deployed its first contingent of a total of 3,556 troops as a part of the UN operations in the Democratic Republic of Congo (MONUC). The next UN mission the Pakistan Army undertook was the West Irian (West New Guinea) conflict, which occurred between Indonesia and the Netherlands in 1962. The then Indonesian President Soekarno acknowledged the crucial role of the Pakistan Army at the end of the mission, saying, “It was because of Pakistani troops that Indonesia and Pakistan came close together, they were Pakistan's best ambassadors.” Since then, the Pakistan Army has been leading from the front and is a major contributor to UN peacekeeping missions across the globe, displaying unmatched professional integrity and firm dedication.
Pakistani peacekeepers have participated in 41 UN peacekeeping missions in 23 regions. To date, a total of 154,527 Pakistani troops have served in international peacekeeping initiatives. As a result, Pakistani troops also have the highest casualty ratio as some 139 soldiers have lost their lives in different missions, which is 10 per cent of the total fatalities of troops in UN peacekeeping missions. Other than laying down their lives for the sake of international peace, more than 135 Pakistani soldiers have sustained severe injuries, leaving some of them physically disabled for the rest of their lives. On June 5, 1993, 24 Pakistani soldiers were killed on one day in Somalia (UNOSOM). The soldiers were protecting their UN comrades and the people of Somalia from armed rebels. To commemorate their sacrifices and bravery, the ‘Pakistani Peacekeepers Day’ is observed globally on every 5th of June. In the aftermath of the 1991 Gulf War, Kuwait found itself confronted with colossal postwar problems. These included the reclamation of Kuwaiti territory which had been turned into a battlefield by Iraq and the allied forces. It was almost completely infested with lethal mines, ammunition and explosives which made use of the land impossible. Pakistan was assigned the most difficult area in the north of Kuwait city, spread over 3000 sq. km. and subsequently reclamation of Bubiyan Island was also entrusted to the Pakistani soldiers. The operation was successfully carried out by a task force of Pakistan Army engineers belonging to the Frontier Works Organization. Recognizing the commendable performance of the Pakistan Army contingents as United Nations peacekeepers in Somalia and Cambodia and in other parts of the world, the United Nations requested Pakistan to contribute troops to the United Nations Protection Force in Bosnia-Herzegovina. A 3000 strong contingent consisting of two Battalion Groups and a National Support (NS) Headquarters went to Bosnia and Croatia in May 1994. In 2003, some 2741 Pakistani troops served the United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) during the Second Liberian Civil War. In 2004, about 1185 Pakistani soldiers took part in UN operations in Burundi (ONUB), and in the same year around 1145 Pakistani troops were part of UN operations in Côte d'Ivoire (UNOCI) during the country’s prolonged civil war. The Pakistani army also played a major role in the UN peacekeeping mission in the Second Sudanese Civil War in 2005.
During his visit to Pakistan in 2013, UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon acclaimed the efforts of Pakistani troops engaged in United Nations peacekeeping missions. It is clear that there is no match to the Pakistan Army in the world when it comes to war, but a disciplined and fit fighting force that it is, the Pakistan Army also stands the tallest when assisting in peacekeeping efforts around the world.
Syed Jawaid Iqbal