The Durand Line and beyond it | By Muhammad Usman


The Durand Line and beyond it

THE Durand Line is an internationally recognized inherited border between Pakistan and Afghanistan, carved out as a result of an agreement in 1993, signed between Sir Henry Mortimer Durand on behalf of British India and Afghan Amir, Abdurrahman.

Under the internationally recognized post-colonial framework, all bilateral agreements by British with other countries were passed down to successor states and so as the agreement of Durand Line.

Though Afghanistan demanded its revision when the British prepared to leave India but was not agreed to, being gratuitous thereafter, it tried to manufacture even more superfluous grounds to advance its preposterous demands but in vain except producing bad blood and taste between the two countries even in good times as now it has happened more recently.

These are the heydays between Afghan Taliban and Pakistan following their resurgence in Afghanistan.

Somehow, they are not being taken rightful ruler of Afghanistan by the world and Pakistan is their only interlocutor on global screen and a steadfast ally in hour of their extreme need yet this could not make some Taliban desist from flirting with unjustifiably lingering bone of contention between the two with regard to the Durand Line.

On 18 December, some Afghan Taliban at lower tiers tried to remove fence at some places at Pak-Afghan border and more worrying aspect was of utterances of a spokesperson of Afghan Defence Ministry and a few others, calling the fence illegal as it only divides the people on both sides, however, Sohail Shaheen, IEA representative-designate at the UN, down-played the incidents as localized and expressed the belief of IEA to address the problems through understanding, talks and good neighbourliness.

Though it is a good omen yet far from being conclusive to put the issue at rest for good as it warrants to be when seen in its whole background.

During their previous regime at Kabul, Afghan Taliban also attempted informally to inject a narrowly inferred Islamic core to the Afghan bundle of untenable misconceptions to dispute the Durand Line.

Presumably, it was underpinned on an element of Islamic brotherhood and one of the drawn inferences was that there are no boundaries between the Muslim brothers.

It is not exactly so.Take the example a household where a number of Muslim brothers live jointly but have raised some barricades to order their living according to own choice and preferences.

This is by no means divisive but a facilitation.Similarly, construction of a fence on Pak-Afghan border by Pakistan is not meant at making interaction between people distant or prejudicing the easement rights of people in the area.

It is not a matter of choice but of an acute necessity, arising out of the imperatives of lasting peace and order in the area.

The fence has entry points to allow people to mingle with each other.Fundamentally, it is to regulate move of people, facilitate the trade and ensure security against terrorists/saboteurs.

Take another example of a Muslim house where one goes to meet its inmates.He knocks at the door.If no one comes out, he knocks twice more and still no one comes out, he is required to return.

There is a profound logic for those who believe that there are no bars among Muslims.This is an Islamic etiquette.There is no point to make bones about it if a Muslim country wants people of another Muslim country to observe a procedure before entering its land.

It is its prerogative.The geographical boundary is an essential ingredient of nationalism at present times.

Afghan Taliban could ill afford to gloss over such realities and let their own abstract ideological dogmas guide their actions in statecraft.

They ought to see reason and Pakistan’s position on Durand line is based upon reason.

This has been tested by time and change.It is taken a legitimate border between Pakistan and Afghanistan internationally since its inception.

Contrarily, superficiality and artificiality of Afghan claims stood exposed and failed to find impressive audiences globally.

No amount of repetition and longevity could invest them with authenticity and legitimacy.It is thus better to jettison irrational Afghan policy about Durand Line.

The sooner is the better in larger interests of relationship with Pakistan without friction, suspicion and reserve.

This is equally essential for both countries for peace, regional connectivity for global trade and ultimate prosperity of their people.

Besides, instant ugly incidents/pronouncements, two more demands of Afghan Taliban have given rise to apprehensions about their mindset and conduct towards Pakistan.

Probably, they consider that Pakistan needs them more than they rely upon Pakistan, thus could intend to take Pakistan granted or take liberty without a fear of consequence of some sort.

These demands include talks with TTP by Pakistan and Afghan trade/transit with India through Pakistan.

Both place a greater premium upon Pakistan.TTP was not a bunch of renegades in pursuit of some misguided cause with whom a state could talk for even grant of general amnesty.

It was a band of terrorists and saboteurs who sold their souls to devils.They killed innocent people heartlessly and attacked sacrilegious places without compunction.

A state has to lose a lot if it talks with such a gang of killers and criminals.Even a trade route between Pakistan and India does not come via Wahga, it is via Kashmir.

This implies resolution of the Kashmir dispute before the two countries could engage in trade activities.

The turn of their demand comes far later.Undoubtedly, a stable and friendly Afghanistan is critically important for Pakistan for a host of reasons but under no event, this be allowed to take its state policies on a ride.

The rationality should guide them alone. Though DG ISPR also down-played the incidents of Durand Line but he made the resolve of Pakistan absolutely obvious and clear when he said that fencing along the border would be completed as planned as blood of our martyrs was involved in this crucial initiative.

— The writer, a retired Lt Col, is a senior columnist based in Islamabad.


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