NEWS & VIEWS
IT is reassuring to note that there are voices in Afghanistan who realize that non-acceptance of the Durand Line as international border with Pakistan is a tool in the hands of inept Afghan rulers to divert the attention of the people from basic issues. Javed Kohistani, a well known political scientist and Chairman of Afghanistan Freedom and Democracy Movement, who was earlier arch opponent of the Durand Line as recognized border, seemed to have realized the ground realities, and now accepts Durand Line as international border between Afghanistan and Pakistan. Recently, he wrote on his Facebook page: “The truth is certain the Durand line is a well-known and accepted border; Afghan rulers have oppressed their own people for decades without respecting their sovereignty. Some Afghan rulers still look like the previous rulers playing with the ethnic card dreaming of capturing Attock, and establishing Pashtunistan.”
He wrote that the determination of the border between the two countries had taken place in a historic period, and the rulers of Afghanistan need to go to Afghanistan (look inside) to get out of the crisis with rationality, and by accepting realities in the region as well as public interest. Last year, Jawed Kohistani, had said “the Balkh attack seemed to be in retaliation for Afghan special forces’ going on the offensive in recent weeks and targeting local Taliban leaders in night raids. The gap, weakness and problem is in management, in the intelligence agency and the carelessness of high-ranking officials.” Last year, British Ambassador to Afghanistan Sir Nicholas Kay had said in an interview with BBC Persian that in the eyes of the international community that the Durand Line is the official border between Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Abdul Latif Pedram, a lawmaker and head of the Hezb-e-Kongara Milli Afghanistan (National Congress Party of Afghanistan) speaking to newsmen in Kabul following recent statements by some Afghan leaders, including Hamid Karzai, that Kabul will not accept Durand Line as its official border, has stated: “His party recognizes Durand Line as the official border and most of the tension between the two countries is rooted in Kabul’s failure to publicly acknowledge this,” according to social media reports. “Solving problems with Pakistan will help bring peace to Afghanistan,” said Pedram. He claimed that Afghan and Indian intelligence agencies and some “other parties” are out for his blood after he called the Durand Line an internationally recognised border between Afghanistan and Pakistan. Abdul Latif Pedram, head of the National Congress Party, had told this to influential Afghan newspaper Arman-e-Milli in an interview.
Pedram, who is an ethnic Tajik and a member of the Wolesi Jirga, the Lower House of Parliament, from the northern Badakhshan province, had been under fire since he made the remarks earlier to reporters saying his party recognized the Durand Line as an official border. He claimed that the government “quietly accepts the Durand Line as the border but is not honest in its recognition with the public.” Pedram’s comments had come days after the Afghan Chief Executive Dr. Abdullah Abdullah was quoted as saying that Durand Line is no more an “imaginary line” but is an internationally recognized border. Reports said Afghan leaders made the remarks during a meeting with a Pakistani delegation that was in Kabul for Nowruz celebrations in March 2017. However, Abdullah’s spokesman later denied those remarks and reportedly stuck to his earlier stance.
America’s former special envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan, Marc Grossman, and other US officials, stated that America regarded the Durand Line as an internationally-accepted boundary. Later the state department spokesman endorsed Grossman’s stance after reporters sought his comments. During Karzai’s government a Russian expert on Central Asia, Alexander Knyazev, had told the media in Kabul that “the Afghan government had prepared a document on recognising the ‘line’ as the final border between Afghanistan and Pakistan. But this issue will not be resolved by Karzai because it will evoke negative reactions from nationalist Pashtuns who want to annex the tribal Pashtunistan region to Afghanistan.” Knyazev’s claims were also reported by several Afghan sources, but received little reaction from the then government. Some speculated that the dispute over the Durand Line would be resolved as part of a planned strategic cooperation pact with Pakistan.
Pakistan as well as international community and the UN consider Durand Line an established international border accepted by Abdul Rehman Khan, Amir of Afghanistan at that time. The demarcation was done under British diplomat Sir Mortimer Durand’s watch following a treaty between him and the Afghan ruler Amir Abdul Rehman in 1893. However, Afghanistan government time and again raises the issue to pressurize Pakistan, especially on India’s behest. Pashtun population in Pakistan never supported the idea of Pakhtunistan barring a few traitors in politics, whose forefathers were supported by Afghan rulers of the past.
Afghanistan had reaffirmed the Durand Line agreement by making additional treaties with the British in 1905, 1919, 1921 and 1930, but Kabul claimed that these were signed under duress. In particular, the 1919 treaty signed in Rawalpindi after the Third Anglo-Afghan War upheld the Durand Line agreement. Pakistan as a successor state to British India derived full sovereignty over areas and its people east of Durand line and had all the rights and obligations of a successor state. As the Treaty was inked in Afghanistan and was further ratified in subsequent pacts of 1905, 1919, and 1921, it negated the claim that it was a forced treaty.
—The writer is a senior journalist based in Lahore.