Two Pakistani peacekeepers among 129 honoured with UN medals posthumously

NEW YORK: The United Nations honoured 129 military, police and civilian personnel from 44 countries, including two Pakistani peacekeepers, who lost their lives while serving in peacekeeping missions in 2020.

The virtual ceremony, presided over by Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, marked the annual International Day of UN Peacekeepers in which the Dag Hammarskjöld Medal was awarded posthumously to the peacekeepers, who sacrificed their lives for peace during the preceding year.

Pakistan’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations, Ambassador Munir Akram, accepted the awards on behalf of the families of the fallen Pakistani peacekeepers.

Sepoy Muhammad Azhar Aziz served with the United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO) and Imtiaz Hussain served in a civilian capacity for the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA).

“I feel deeply honored and proud on receiving these awards on behalf of two Pakistani peacekeepers who lost their lives in the service of the United Nations during 2020,” Ambassador Akram said after the ceremony.

“Through their ultimate sacrifice, the late Imtiaz Hussain and Sepoy Azhar Aziz upheld the longstanding tradition of honour, courage and dedication of Pakistani peacekeepers,” he said.

“Their singular contribution also manifests Pakistan’s unwavering commitment to international peace and stability. We salute these brave sons of Pakistan, and commit to keep their legacy,” Ambassador Akram added.

According to the UN total, a total 157 Pakistani peacekeepers have lost their lives while serving under the UN flag over the years.

Pakistan is the 6th largest contributor of uniformed personnel to UN Peacekeeping, currently deploying more than 4,700 military and police personnel to the UN peace operations in Abyei, Central African Republic, Cyprus, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Mali, Somalia, Sudan, South Sudan, and Western Sahara.

During the ceremony, the Secretary-General also awarded the ‘2020 Military Gender Advocate of the Year Award’ to Major Steplyne Buyaki Nyaboga a Kenyan military officer who served with the African Union – United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur, (UNAMID).

The award “recognizes the dedication and effort of an individual peacekeeper in promoting the principles of UN Security Resolution 1325 on women, peace and security.”

Earlier, the UN chief laid a wreath to honour the more than 4,000 UN peacekeepers who have lost their lives since 1948.

Addressing the solemn ceremony, the secretary-general spoke of the “immense” challenges and threats faced by UN peacekeepers, saying they work hard every day to protect some of the world’s most vulnerable, while facing the dual threats of violence and a global pandemic.

“Despite COVID-19, across all our missions, peacekeepers have not only been adapting to continue to deliver their core tasks, they are also assisting national and community efforts to fight the virus,” Guterres said.

The International Day of UN Peacekeepers was established by the General Assembly in 2002 to pay tribute to all men and women serving in peacekeeping, and honour the memory of those who have lost their lives in the cause of peace.

The General Assembly designated 29 May as the International Day of UN Peacekeepers in commemoration of the day in 1948 when the UN’s first peacekeeping mission began operations in Palestine.

Since then, more than 1 million women and men have served in 72 UN peacekeeping operations, directly impacting millions of people, and saving countless lives. Today, UN Peacekeeping deploys more than 89,000 military, police and civilian personnel in 12 operations.