Peacekeeping Contributor Profile: Pakistan

Inam-ur-Rahman Malik[1], Police Service of Pakistan (
Last updated June 2014


Active Armed Forces[2] Helicopters(Army) Defense Budget Uniformed UN  Peacekeepers UN Contribution Breakdown Other Significant Deployments
World Ranking
Army: 550,000
Navy: 23,800
Air Force: 70,000
Paramilitary: 304,000
Attack: 42
Multi-Role: 114
(36 med; 23 light)
2012: $5.81bn
(2.52% of GDP)
2013: $5.89bn
(2.47% of GDP)World Ranking (2016): 27
(22 women)
(31 May 2014)
Ranking: 3rd
MINURSO: 11 experts
MINUSTAH: 140 police
MONUSCO: 3,789 (44 experts, 3,745 troops)
UNAMID: 744 (238 police, 5 experts, 501 troops)
UNMIK: 1 police
UNMIL: 976 (3 police, 9 experts, 964 troops)
UNOCI: 1,590 (189 police, 12 experts, 1,389 troops)
Combined Maritime Forces (Arabian Sea & Gulf of Aden):

Defense spending/troop: US$9,146 (compared to global average of approx. US$70,300)[3]


Part 1: Recent Trends

Pakistan’s active and large-scale contribution to UN peacekeeping started in the 1990s. By the mid-1990s, Pakistan had deployed 10,000 troops to thirteen UN peacekeeping operations. By mid-2014, it had contributed over 150,000 personnel to 41 UN peacekeeping operations.  Following the general worldwide retreat from UN peacekeeping in the late 1990s, Pakistan has maintained its leading contributions throughout the 21st century with major contributions to UN operations in Sierra Leone (UNAMSIL), Liberia (UNMIL), Côte d’Ivoire (UNOCI), and Democratic Republic of Congo (MONUC/MONUSCO) (see Figure 1).


The relative increase in Pakistan’s peacekeeping deployments post-2003 can be attributed to several factors. First, following one of the largest military mobilizations since the Second World War, Indian-Pakistani hostilities in the Indian sub-continent de-escalated in 2002. Second, there was an increase in the number of large UN peacekeeping missions in Africa, which Pakistani policymakers consider politically safe to deploy to from the perspective of great power politics.[4] Third, Pakistan’s military was eager to contribute to UN missions buoyed by the determination it exhibited during UNAMSIL’s darkest phase in 2000 and also because of the prestige associated with UN peacekeeping.

In the preceding decade, Pakistan also emerged as a major police-contributing country with its deployments of individual seconded Pakistani police peacekeepers as well as police personnel deployed as part of Formed Police Units (FPUs). In November 2013, however, the interior ministry in Pakistan decided to stop sending its individual seconded police personnel on United Nations peacekeeping operations citing the country’s “internal security situation” as the basis for this decision. There has been no change in contributions of police personnel in the shape of Formed Police Units. It is pertinent to mention that Pakistan military’s internal deployments have also partly led to a recent downward trend in Pakistan’s UN peacekeeping contributions from a peak of nearly 10,000 personnel to around 6,500 in May 2014.

Part 2: Decision-Making Process

Pakistan’s military-bureaucratic nexus is the key source of decisions regarding the country’s contributions to UN peacekeeping. Upon receiving a request for peacekeepers from the UN Secretariat, Pakistan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Prime Minister make a policy decision on how to respond. This decision is based, inter alia, on clarity of the mandate, political will of parties to the conflict, geopolitical interests of states in close proximity to the conflict zone, provision of necessary resources, and the anticipated cooperation of relevant international actors. Once a policy decision to participate in a UN mission is taken, Pakistan Army’s senior officers decide the scope and scale of the contingent, including logistical and operational details. The Ministry of Interior plays the central role in arranging contributions to UN Police (UNPOL). The parliament is kept out of the initial decisions on peacekeeping contributions (but does subsequently receive briefings on peacekeeping issues) and there is hardly any domestic debate on Pakistan’s involvement in UN peacekeeping.

Part 3: Rationales for Contributing

Political Rationales: Pakistan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs justifies its contributions to UN peacekeeping by asserting that it constitutes an essential tool for maintaining international peace and security. Participation in UN operations has helped Pakistan demonstrate its commitment to peace around the globe, notwithstanding the internal conflicts it has to grapple with. UN peacekeeping not only helps Pakistan project its middle power credentials to the outside world, it also enhances Pakistan’s diplomatic profile at the UN. Pakistan’s policy-making elite also view their participation in UN peacekeeping as a way to counter India’s ambition for a permanent seat in a reformed Security Council. There is also a certain degree of informal peer pressure on Pakistan from neighboring South Asian countries (especially India, Bangladesh and Nepal) to contribute UN peacekeepers, and from the UN Secretariat to stay the course on its current peacekeeping deployments and thereby maintain its status as a “committed contributor.”

Pakistan’s military has used its peacekeeping profile to build a positive image at home, for example, by displaying photographs of military officers wearing blue berets on the title page of its official magazine, Hilal” in its March 2011 issue and by airing documentaries eulogizing the services of its peacekeepers on the official Pakistan Television network. A full page advertisement in Urdu daily “Jang” was published by Inter Services Public Relations, the media arm of Pakistan Army, on United Nations Day i.e. 24 October 2013, in order to eulogize the services rendered by Pakistan in the cause of peace through its UN contributions.

Economic Rationales: On the macro-level, the total estimated foreign exchange earned by the Pakistani government from its participation in UN peacekeeping amounts to approximately US$220 million per annum. Given that total remittances received from expatriate Pakistanis totalled US$14.9 billion in 2013 alone, the macroeconomic impact of the amount earned from UN peacekeeping is relatively modest. The microeconomic benefits accruing from participation in peacekeeping are more important, however. For a typical Pakistani soldier the pecuniary benefits, though not phenomenal, represent a once-in-a-career opportunity to generate savings and gain some financial security. It is noteworthy that Pakistani authorities do not deduct money from this UN remuneration or death/disability claims of peacekeepers. All UN personnel payments go directly to the individual peacekeeper.

Security Rationales: Owing to its historical hostilities with India and its India-centric national security threat perception, Pakistan is eager not to be outdone by India in its UN peacekeeping profile and views its UN blue berets as a counterweight to India’s regional and global ambitions. Pakistan’s peacekeeping credentials have also enabled it to gain a voice at the “top diplomatic table” and thereby consistently and effectively raise at the UN Security Council what it considers the unresolved issue of Kashmir. Pakistan attaches great importance to UNMOGIP, which monitors the Line of Control in the disputed area of Jammu and Kashmir, as the presence of UN peacekeepers helps maintain the Kashmir issue as an international dispute to the chagrin of Indian policy-makers.

Pakistan has also had a complex and fractured relationship with the United States. There exists a wide chasm between Pakistan’s perception of its national interests and Washington’s security policies. It is interesting to note that the country’s initial surge in UN peacekeeping contributions in the early 1990s coincided with the imposition of military and economic sanctions against Pakistan by the United States, primarily because of its nuclear program. In June 2005, the United States signed a ten-year defense framework agreement with India aimed at strengthening bilateral cooperation and supporting participation in multinational military operations. Pakistan was unhappy with this agreement and its Minister for Foreign Affairs described multilateralism as the panacea for festering global issues and underscored the need to make the UN an effective institution.[5] Pakistan’s participation in UN peacekeeping can therefore be seen in part as a diplomatic tool used to hedge against what Pakistani policymakers see as Washington’s fluctuating relationship with Pakistan and its growing romance with India.

Institutional Rationales: Military participation in UN peacekeeping is not imposed on the military by the political leadership. To the contrary, the military views participation as being in its own institutional interest. Owing to prolonged military rule, the Pakistan Army has played significant state-building roles in various sectors of Pakistan’s economy such as infrastructure development, communication, flood rehabilitation and disaster relief. It also has experience implementing quick-impact projects in troubled zones within the country. It is therefore well-placed to undertake critical peacebuilding tasks which now form a significant part of many UN peacekeeping operations.

Pakistan’s UN peacekeeping endeavours have provided vital international experience for its military in emergency medical and engineering services, aviation, de-mining and other essential professional techniques. Pakistan’s participation in UN peacekeeping missions also has the potential to open up avenues for exposure to comparatively more robust non-UN peacekeeping missions. For example, Pakistan was the only non-European state among the fourteen non-NATO countries that contributed 1,000 troops in the NATO-led Implementation Force (IFOR) in Bosnia-Herzegovina.

Pakistani officers take pride in serving in UN missions, while those serving as force commanders in UN peacekeeping missions gain vital command exposure in a complex multinational environment and almost invariably rise to strategically important positions upon ending their assignment with the UN.[6] Pakistani police officers serving in UN missions as UNPOL officers become “agents of cultural change” in Pakistan’s police upon their return and also subsequently get the chance to be selected for professional positions in UN missions. The current Deputy Police Advisor at the UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO) is a seconded officer from the Police Service of Pakistan who previously served as an UNPOL officer in two UN missions.

Normative Rationales: Participation in UN operations has helped Pakistan demonstrate its credibility as a good international citizen. For example, Pakistan justified its participation in UNPROFOR in the former Yugoslavia, the precursor to IFOR, on the basis of public opinion in Pakistan having been incensed at the systematic campaign of “ethnic cleansing” in Bosnia. It is unclear whether any humanitarian rationales have been used by Pakistani officials to justify participation in the UN missions in Sudan and the DR Congo.

Part 4: Barriers to Contributing

In spite of those factors discussed above, other factors may result in Pakistan reducing the current levels of its contribution to UN peacekeeping missions:

Internal security commitments: Pakistan’s internal security threats have already started “crowding out” the military’s external deployments. The Pakistan military is stretched thin and is deployed in the troubled northern regions of the country and is active against terror groups in the Swat valley, the Khyber tribal area, South Waziristan and Bajaur. On 15 June 2014, the Pakistan Army launched a major ground offensive in North Waziristan as well, in order to flush out Pakistani Taliban and other local as well as foreign militants from the area. Such large-scale internal commitments on a continual basis may force policy-makers to further scale back Pakistan’s military contributions to UN peacekeeping as has happened in case of individual seconded police officers.

State of the economy: The macro indicators of Pakistan’s economy remain weak. Financing the current account deficit remains challenging and there is continuous pressure on the fiscal account. Furthermore energy shortages and low investment continue to compromise the economy’s capacity for growth. This may prompt a strategic rethink on part of policy-makers and may result in a reduction of Pakistan’s UN peacekeeping contributions.

“Subsidized peacekeeping”: The amount paid to UN peacekeepers in allowances has remained practically frozen since 1992, although there was an ad hoc increase in 2002 and another one-time increase in 2011. Pakistan has taken strong exception to this and in October 2011 its acting permanent representative informed the Security Council that although expenditures and remunerations for other UN activities are adjusted to inflation and cost-of-living fluctuations, UN peacekeepers are expected to work on fixed and archaic rates and that it is “no more [sic.] sustainable for TCCs to subsidize UN peacekeeping.”[7] In 2014, Pakistan again raised the issue of revision of troop cost and a permanent mechanism for its periodic review at the UN Security Council.[8]

Part 5: Current Challenges and Issues

Despite some potential problems on the horizon, most signs indicate that Pakistan is likely to continue to provide a large-scale contribution to UN peacekeeping operations, at least in the near future. There is little evidence to suggest that debates about protection of civilians or so-called “robust” peacekeeping will impact negatively on Pakistan’s willingness to contribute forces in practical terms – at least for the foreseeable future. It is pertinent to mention that Pakistan expressed concerns at the concept of a United Nations intervention brigade for MONUSCO and is of the view that the concept of a robust mandate invoked and applied to deal with an exceptional and “unusually complex conflict situation in the DRC…should not be replicated.” Pakistan believes that authorizations for robust peacekeeping operations must continue to conform to the “basic principles of peacekeeping - impartiality, consent of the parties, and non-use of force except in self-defense or in defense of the authorized mandates.”[9]

Allegations of gold smuggling by Pakistani peacekeepers deployed in the DR Congo were denied by Pakistani authorities and the UN inquiry into the matter also did not implicate Pakistani peacekeepers in smuggling. Professionalism demands “zero tolerance” of sexual exploitation and abuse, and this, Pakistani officials say, is practiced not to please any external audiences but to maintain the high standards of Pakistan’s military. In March 2012, three members of the Pakistani Formed Police Unit serving in MINUSTAH were subjected to court martial proceedings in Haiti in accordance with Pakistani laws. They were found guilty and were immediately repatriated, dishonorably discharged from service and imprisoned.

There are significant enabling factors that help account for Pakistan’s prominent position in UN peacekeeping. As a former British colony, English is still the official language in Pakistan. Pakistani troops, especially officers, therefore easily understand their on-job requirements as peacekeepers and easily interact with peacekeepers from other nationalities while serving in UN missions.

The military in Pakistan is a voluntary service. Many soldiers as well as officers join the military after being inspired by their relatives who serve or have previously served in the military. Discipline during service is therefore not only inculcated as part of regular training; there is also a social/family pressure to live up to the disciplined traditions of military service. This track record of imbibed discipline as well as minimal health issues during UN peacekeeping deployment (e.g., negligible cases of STD transmission) makes the Pakistan military a leading choice for the UN DPKO.

Part 6: Key Champions and Opponents

There is hardly any domestic debate about Pakistan’s involvement in UN peacekeeping as such issues have traditionally been hidden from the public eye. All sitting governments invariably eulogize the services of Pakistani peacekeepers for the cause of peace. During its rotating term as president of the Security Council, Pakistan spearheaded discussions on Resolution 2086 of January 2013 which took important decisions to consolidate the work on multidimensional peacekeeping.

The Pakistan Army’s senior officers have served as force commanders in four UN peacekeeping missions. Lieutenant General Maqsood Ahmed of Pakistan is currently serving as the Military Adviser for the United Nations Department of Peacekeeping Operations. Capitalizing on its rich and diversified peacekeeping track record, Pakistan has recently established a “Centre for International Peace and Stability” (CIPS) in Islamabad, which was inaugurated in August 2013 by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon. CIPS also has a Department of Peacekeeping Operations. The vision of CIPS is to develop as a center of excellence in international peace and stability with focus on peacekeeping, peacebuilding and conflict resolution within the existing international and regional milieu.

Part 7: Capabilities and Caveats

Pakistan’s steadfastness in the Somalia venture (1992-95) and its “hearts and minds” approach to peacekeeping by providing medicine from their own supplies, rehabilitating schools, mosques and churches (e.g., in Sierra Leone, Bosnia-Herzegovina, and Haiti), have established its credentials as a reliable and effective UN peacekeeper. Pakistan also has the requisite political will and capacity to play its part in the ongoing demand for UN peacekeepers to carry out increasingly complex mandates. Pakistan has already established niches in engineering, de-mining, logistics and the implementation of quick-impact projects (e.g., road improvements) in post-war conflict zones. The country has also established its “staying power” in conflict zones (in particular, in Somalia and in Sierra Leone).

Part 8: Further Reading

  1. Krishnasamy, “UN Peacekeepers as “Reliable” Forces: Pakistan’s Somalia Experience,” Islamabad Policy Research Institute Journal, 11:1 (2002): 94-105.
  2. Krishnasamy, “Pakistan’s Peacekeeping Experiences,” International Peacekeeping, 9:3 (2002): 103-20.
  3. Kiani, “Pakistan’s Contribution to UN Peacekeeping,” Strategic Studies, XXIV:3 (2004).

UN Peacekeeping Operations and Pakistan (Islamabad Policy Research Institute, Factfile, 2006).


[1] The views expressed in this profile are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official position or policy of the Pakistan Army or the Government of Pakistan.

[2] Unless otherwise stated, data is drawn from IISS, The Military Balance 2014 (London: IISS/ Routledge, 2014).

[3] Armed Forces spending is a country’s annual total defense budget (in US dollars) divided by the total number of active armed forces. Using figures from IISS, The Military Balance 2014.

[4] Pakistani peacekeepers have not suffered any major combat casualties in Africa or elsewhere ever since the tragic loss of 24 peacekeepers in Somalia in 1993. In May 2012, more than eleven Pakistani peacekeepers were injured by local protesters angry at the MONUSCO operation in DR Congo.

[5] See Foreign Office Yearbook 2005-06 (Islamabad: Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 2006), pp.4-5.

[6] To date, four Pakistanis have held the post of UN force commander.

[7] See Statement by Raza Bashir Tarar, Acting Permanent Representative of Pakistan to the UN, in the Security Council’s Open Debate on “Peacekeeping: Taking Stock and Preparing for the Future,” 26 August 2011.

[8]  See Statement by Ambassador Masood Khan, Permanent Representative of Pakistan to the UN, in the Security Council’s Open Debate on “Peacekeeping Operations: New Trends,” 11 June 2014.

[9]  See Statement by Ambassador Masood Khan, Permanent Representative of Pakistan to the UN, in the Security Council’s Open Debate on “Peacekeeping Operations: New Trends,” 11 June 2014.