NEW YORK: United Nations (UN) Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has lauded Pakistani peacekeepers for their service under the UN flag in hotspots around the world, saying they had made valuable contribution in maintaining peace as also helping communities suffering from war.
"For well over half a century, Pakistani peacekeeping troops have seen injustice in far off places and been forces for a better world," he told a gathering of top diplomats, military attaches, senior UN officials and members of the Pakistani community at a reception hosted by Pakistan UN Ambassador Maleeha Lodhi on Wednesday to commemorate Pakistan 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.
Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, Herve Ladsous, and UN Military Adviser Lieutenant General Maqsood Ahmed were among those present in the event, which was held at UN Headquarter in New York.
Also present was Shahzadi Gulfam, the first recipient of the International Female Peacekeeper Award in 2011.
In her welcome address, Ambassador Lodhi said Pakistan was proud to be associated with UN peacekeeping, the world body's flagship activity, saying, "Our continued commitment to UN peacekeeping was a fundamental part of our policy, and a manifestation of our contribution to this vital goal."
Wednesday'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.
"You should be very proud just as we are deeply grateful to Pakistan," the secretary-general said, noting that through the decades, Pakistan has deployed more than 150,000 personnel to 41 peacekeeping missions in 23 countries.
“Today, more than 7,000 uniformed personnel from Pakistan are serving in seven peacekeeping missions, making it our third largest troop- and police-contributor.” Ban said.
The pictures on display, he said, were a testament to that long and rich history. "In my travels, I have had the privilege of seeing firsthand the professionalism and commitment of Pakistani police and military personnel," the secretary-general added.
"In places like Cote d'Ivoire and Liberia, Pakistani units were instrumental in the much improved political and security situation that the people of these countries enjoy today."
In her remarks, Ambassador Lodhi called for a collective response to the challenges that modern peacekeeping faces today. "Our goal is common to ensure that in the current context, the UN's peacekeeping missions can effectively fulfil their mandates", she said.
The Pakistani envoy assured the Secretary General of Pakistan's readiness to work with the UN in pursuit of this goal adding, "Our own approach to its norm-setting in this new era of peacekeeping remains forward looking."
"Pakistani peacekeepers", she said, "serve the UN with bravery, distinction, professionalism and dedication."
"The photo exhibition that you see here is testimony to this strong tradition since the early 1960s," she added.
Recounting the services of Pakistani peacekeepers, she said that they have not only saved lives by fulfilling their mandated task of protecting civilians, but also served as care-givers, most recently in the fight against Ebola in Liberia.
"Almost invariably, they also contribute to the economic and infrastructure development of the countries where they are stationed", she said.
Ambassador Lodhi gave a special introduction to the award-winning peacekeeper Shahzadi Gulfam to the cheers from the gathering.
Ambassador Lodhi also praised Jibran Nasir, a civil society activist and founder of the NGO, Never Forget Pakistan, who was the brain child for website that was also launched at the event. The website highlights Pakistan's contributions to UN peacekeeping.
Later, Jibran Nasir in his presentation of the website, especially focused on a page ─ the Wall of Valour ─ dedicated to the 145 fallen, who had made the ultimate sacrifice in the cause of international peace and security.
Accompanied by Ambassador Lodhi, the Secretary General took keen interest in the display of photos at the exhibition, which depicted peacekeepers performing duties in various Missions around the world.
Ambassador Lodhi thanked all the participants came "to honour our heroes for peace", whom she said have fallen but not forgotten.