ISLAMABAD: Diplomats, army officers and academia paid tribute to the sacrifices rendered by UN peacekeepers for restoring peace during conflicts and their vital role in providing humanitarian relief around the world
The event on Tuesday was organised by the Italian Embassy and the Pakistan Institute for Peace Studies to remember the sacrifices of the peacekeepers in Mogadishu, the capital of Somalia in the 1990s.
Speakers unanimously called for a greater contribution by big powers in terms of finance and personnel under UN command towards maintaining peace in the world and resolution of conflicts through dialogue and peaceful means.
Event held to remember sacrifices of UN peacekeepers for restoring peace, providing humanitarian relief
Former Pakistan ambassador to US Sarwar Naqvi said the scenario has changed over the last 15 years. Peacekeeping has changed to peace enforcement, he said.
He drew similarities between the 1990s and today when Pakistan is in a difficult situation.
“The Nawaz Sharif government was dismissed in 1992 and Pakistan was put on the watch list by countries for providing shelter to a terrorist organisation. This was the time when the civil war erupted in Somalia and then the US secretary of state approached me to ask the Pakistani government to contribute to the UN peacekeeping mission to the war-ravaged country,” Mr Naqvi said.
Mr Naqvi said he sent the proposal to Islamabad which took six months to decide before Pakistan sent 500 troops to Somalia. Subsequently, Pakistan’s name was removed from the watch list and ties with the US improved, ambassador Naqvi said.
However, he questioned the “strange” and “selective peace policy” of the US.
The Americans have always adopted an ambivalent attitude in peace keeping missions. “Exceptionalism is one of their foreign policy doctrines,” he said.
Somalian Ambassador Khadija Mohamed Almakhzoumi thanked Pakistan and Italy for the commendable role they played in restoring peace in her country and for their humanitarian assistance. She hoped that with the assistance of the two countries Somalia will come out of the crisis and prosper.
Somalian commercial attaché Abul Fatah also echoed ambassador Naqvi’s views and told Dawn that Somalia became a victim of the conflict between US and USSR. He dispelled the impression that it was a conflict between two tribes. He argued that it is an imperialist design to create conflicts in third world countries and grab their resources.
Somalia descended in the civil war in the 1990s. Armed bandits started looting, killing and creating terror. Over 300,000 people died of starvation.
Moved by the suffering of Somali people, the world swung into action and launched United Nations Operation in Somalia (UNOSOM-1) in March 1992 and deployed forces in Mogadishu to restore peace and order.
In the second phase, Pakistan contributed 7,200 troops that remained in Mogadishu from March 1993 to March 1995 to enforce order, establish a secure environment for humanitarian assistance and disarm rival groups.
Maj Shahzad Ahmed and Col Ali Athar Waziri, the two Pakistan army officers who participated in the peacekeeping mission and witnessed the June 5, 1993 fiasco also recalled the fateful events in which Pakistan lost 23 army personnel including Maj Manzoor. Over 57 were injured and 11 sustained serious injuries.
“It was a major miscalculation on the part of the US forces as they were able to foresee the warlord’s reaction. Even as our troops were engaged in the distribution of food at one of the feeding points, the Pakistani inspectors were ambushed by Aideed’s men, using children and women as human shields to prevent being targeted while the road-blocks they had set up made Pakistanis’ withdrawal difficult,” Col Waziri said.
On Oct 3, 1993, US forces led a surprise attack on Olymic Hotel to capture General Farah Aideed. US forces suffered RPG attacks which led to the downing of two Black Hawk helicopters.
A quick reaction force was constituted, which included men from the Pakistani and Malaysian armies, for the stranded US forces. The battle lasted eight hours and led to many deaths and injuries.
Published in Dawn, September 12th, 2018