NEW YORK: United Nations Deputy Secretary General Jan Eliasson praised on Thursday Pakistani peacekeepers for their service under the UN flag in hot spots around the world. He said they had made valuable contribution in maintaining peace as well as helping communities suffering from war.
“The United Nations is deeply grateful to Pakistan for its continued commitment and unflinching support,” Eliasson told a large gathering of diplomats, military attaches and senior UN officials at an event organised by the Pakistan Mission to the UN to commemorate Pakistani Peacekeepers Day. The day marks the June 5, 1993, incident in Somalia when 24 Pakistani peacekeepers laid down their lives while rescuing allied forces in Mogadishu. On that day, 19 US troops also lost their lives.
Pakistan Foreign Secretary Aizaz Ahmad Chaudhry, who especially flew in from Washington, also spoke at the event which was hosted by Ambassador Maleeha Lodhi. The foreign secretary said Pakistan is proud to be associated with UN peacekeeping, the world body’s flagship activity, saying the Pakistani people support the principles that the organisation stands for and promotes. The Thursday’s event featured a photo exhibition depicting Pakistani peacekeepers at work in a number of UN Missions since Pakistan’s first deployment more than 50 years ago.
In his remarks, Eliasson, who holds the number two position at the UN, also honoured the sacrifices of those Pakistani peacekeepers who paid the ultimate price over the years in serving the cause of peace. “Tragically, 142 military, police and civilian peacekeepers from Pakistan have lost their lives in serving the cause of peace - a tragic reminder of the human cost in fulfilling the mandates of the United Nations in ever more dangerous situations.”
Pakistani men and women serve in seven peacekeeping missions including Democratic Republic of Congo, Darfur, Haiti and Central African Republic. With over 8,000 troops serving in these missions, Pakistan is among the highest contributors to UN peacekeeping operations. Overall, 125,000 UN peacekeepers, including 91,000 military personnel, 13,000 police officers as well as 17,000 international civilian and national staff serving on four continents, doing everything from clearing landmines and delivering aid to helping refugees and supporting free and fair elections.
The UN deputy secretary general called Pakistan “one of the most consistent and effective providers of troops and police for the UN”, and said since its first deployment in Congo more than a half a century ago, the country has sent personnel to 35 missions. “We count on Pakistan to maintain that same spirit of cooperation and solidarity for many years to come.”
Foreign Secretary Chaudhry said that the UN was highly respected in Pakistan for its contribution to world peace. He reaffirmed Pakistan’s continued commitment to UN Peacekeeping. “We consider it a central plank of our foreign policy and our most tangible contribution to world peace.” He also paid tributes to Ambassador Maleeha Lodhi for her hard work at the UN, and in bringing good name to Pakistan. In her welcome address, Ambassador Lodhi paid high tributes to five of Pakistan’s peacekeepers who lost their lives last year defending international peace and security. Pakistan, she said, remains one of the UN’s largest troop contributing countries. It has been one of the oldest, largest, and most consistent participants in UN peacekeeping operations.
She said, “We have also witnessed the positive contribution of UN observers and peacekeepers in our own region, as testified by the presence of UNMOGIP. This contribution remains relevant and essential.” Pakistani peacekeepers, she added, have not only saved lives but also acted as caregivers and contributed to the development of the countries they served in. “The contribution of the Pakistani contingent in the fight against Ebola in Liberia is only the latest example of their selfless and often hazardous work,” she added
Ambassador Lodhi appreciated the important role played by women in peacekeeping operations and said that Pakistan was proud of its female officers who had served as doctors and nurses in difficult and dangerous operations.