UNITED NATIONS:With the United Nations set to close its "successful" peacekeeping mission in Liberia by the end of next month, the remaining unit of the Pakistani contingent -- a well-equipped hospital -- is now winding up its operations after serving the people of the West African country for some 15 years.
The United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) was deployed in 2003 to monitor a ceasefire agreement in Liberia following the conclusion of a brutal civil war.
At its peak it consisted of up to 15,000 United Nations military personnel from and 1,115 police officers, along with a civilian component, from at least 10 troop contributing countries. Over the years, Pakistan, as UNMIL's backbone, provided infantry battalions, a signal company, engineering companies, military observers, police officers as well as the Level-II hospital.
From 2005 to 2013, Pakistan contributed more than 2,000 peacekeepers to UNMIL per annum, with a high of 3,400 in 2007 and 2008.
The bulk of the Pakistani troops returned home in 2015, with the medical unit remaining behind. "We really have to acknowledge the significant contribution made by Pakistan to the peace process in Liberia," Waldemar Vrey, UNMIL's deputy special representative, said in an interview during which he commended the professionalism and sense of dedication of the Pakistani personnel operating in difficult conditions.
"They have been with us from the beginning of the mission, particularly in the first difficult days of the mission," he said, noting that more than 20,000 Pakistani peacekeepers, both military and police, have served in Liberia since 2003.
"Not only that, I also want to acknowledge that several of the Force Commanders who served in Liberia were from Pakistan, and we have to acknowledge the good leadership that has been displayed by the Pakistani generals over this period of time," the mission's deputy chief said.
For a long period of time at least up to 3,000 Pakistani troops were serving in Liberia per year. "And we have to acknowledge the service and sacrifice of the Pakistani peacekeepers and remember that 23 of them lost their lives serving under the UN flag in Liberia.
"The Pakistani peacekeepers, Vrey said, played a "crucial role" in the implementation of the cease-fire agreement, as also in disarming of more than 100,000 former combatants during the first years of the mission. "And since the disarmament process, I can tell you that up to this day we have not had a significant arms-in-circulation challenge in Liberia: a very good factor that makes peace and security durable and makes it easier for us to depart as having achieved our Security Council-mandated instructions.
" The deputy chief of the mission said, "We had peacekeepers on the ground from Pakistan from the beginning and we have them right up to the end in the form of the Pakistani Military Hospital that is still with us on the ground, and they will be the last military unit, leaving us in Liberia.
"They have been providing a very professional service to us: expert doctors on the ground; very good equipment that Pakistan has made available to us.
They helped us deal with a lot of tropical diseases, particularly malaria, and spare a thought for their contribution during the dreadful period of Ebola epidemic as well. They supported mission staff but they also made a significant contribution to Liberians and played their part in overcoming this catastrophe that was brought about by Ebola. So, certainly they have played a critical role in (the) success of the mission in Liberia.
"He said that the Pakistani medical unit reached out to prisons and local communities and children at schools. "This is way beyond the call of duty. We have to acknowledge that Pakistan through their medical contingent also reached out as a Member State to Liberia in helping the Liberian people with the peace that they experienced.
"Lauding the work done by Pakistani military engineers, he said they built and repaired bridges ensuring the strategic mobility that opened up the whole of the hinterland and helping outreach to all the communities. "We also have to acknowledge that Pakistani police also deployed in Liberia and made a significant contribution with the mentoring and advisory support they provided over the years to the Liberian national police.
"Vrey added, "All this is in the spirit of the United Nations, where Member States reach out to each other and support each other during difficult times. And I'm sure this relationship that was built through the United Nations would also be taken forward on a bilateral basis in the future."APP/AFP