The Durand Border Between Pakistan and Afghanistan
By Mahvish Akhtar
The Pakistani government has been facing turmoil with the new Taliban-led Afghan government in terms of border control and fencing.
There has been a video circulating on the internet showing the Taliban members on the Afghan side destroying a part of the fence that Pakistan has built to create a prominent border at the Durand Line. The Taliban claimed the fencing was done inside Afghanistan’s territory.
In another video circulating on Twitter, Afghan Defence Ministry spokesperson Enayatullah Khwarzmi was heard saying that Pakistan had no right to fence the border and create a divide, adding that such a move was “inappropriate and against the law”.
Nonetheless when asked about the video and the government’s stance on this issue Mr. Khwarzmi commented that “the same nation lived on both sides of the border and it was “logically not appropriate to create a gulf among a nation.” However, Pakistani security officials told Pakistan news sources that the Taliban’s claim of Pakistani forces trespassing into Afghanistan to build the border fence is false.
Pakistan said it will continue to have more talks with Afghanistan’s administration to settle “some confusions” that have risen from the border fiasco.
Pakistan Foreign Minister, Shah Mehmood Qureshi said in a news conference in Islamabad that his country was determined to protect its “interests” and continue unilateral fencing Pakistan’s almost 1,615-mile-long border with Afghanistan.
“We are not silent. We have installed the fence and, God willing, this effort will continue,” Mr.Qureshi emphasized. “Afghanistan is our friendly neighbor. We are engaged with them, as some confusions have emerged, and we shall be able to resolve them through diplomatic channels.” While Pakistan is downplaying the whole incident and the issue itself the Afghanis are making sure their disapproval of the border and its placement is understood.
Taliban spokesperson and Afghanistan’s acting information minister Zabihullah Mujahid said in a statement, “The issue of the Durand Line is still an unresolved one, while the construction of fencing itself creates rifts between a nation spread across both sides of the border. It amounts to dividing a nation.”
The fencing project had triggered clashes between Pakistani troops and Afghan security forces of the former US-backed government in Kabul in the past as well. The Durand border has been a disputed issue for a long time between the two countries. This border agreement was signed in 1893 between Afghan King Abdul Rahman and British-India’s Foreign Secretary, Sir Mortimer Durand.
Along with the Afghan Taliban government, the country has to deal with the Pakistan Taliban daily. According to officials, Pakistan Tehreek-Taliban ( TTP) has been emboldened by the new Afghan government.
TTP is banned in Pakistan and is known as a terrorist organization. Last week security forces raided its base in the Waziristan area near the Afghanistan border. The group claimed the clashes had killed several Pakistani troops but there weren’t any TTP casualties. The government statement said security forces had captured “one terrorist along with weapons and ammunition,” and lost four personnel in an intense exchange of fire that followed the raid.
This organization has a very strong foothold in that area and is recruiting people for their cause. It is difficult to single out people from within civilians and stop the work they are doing. This kind of tactic can be more damaging and problematic for the country than a full-on attack. TTP has perpetrated many deadly attacks on Pakistani soil as well. The deadliest one was in 2014 when 132 school children were killed in an execution-style massacre in a military school.
Many militant organizations had found a home and training grounds in Afghanistan during the time of war, and some of them fought alongside the Taliban that won them their country back. TTP is one of those groups so getting the Afghan Taliban to help settle disputes with TTP would be difficult if not impossible.
The new Afghan government did mediate between TTP and the Pakistani government late last year. A ceasefire was ended a while back. This time around chances of them getting involved in a way that’s positive for Pakistan is unlikely.
Any attempts to negotiate with the TTP recently, have fallen apart. Mr.Rana, a Pakistan Chief Minister says Pakistan’s policy of simultaneously negotiating with and attacking the TTP is “confusing” and risks encouraging other insurgents in both countries.
Analysts say that the Afghanistan government would not be helpful in this matter because they cannot turn over leaders from groups that helped them win their country back. This is not just about one organization and a few people, if Afghanistan was to negotiate about TTP they would have to negotiate about IS and Al-Qaida as well and they are all allies of the newly built state.
This causes a crisis for Pakistan because it forces the Pakistani government to negotiate with TTP which is unsettling for multiple friends of the country. These countries are helping Pakistan financially and with trade. Pakistan cannot afford to upset them.