Why Durand Line controversy?

Sajjad Shaukat

From time to time, controversy arises between Afghanistan and Pakistan when Afghan officials refused to recognize the Durand Line which is the 2640 kilometer long and porous border, situated between both the countries. The issue again came to the limelight on June 12, 2016 when Afghan security forces started unprovoked firing at Torkham border crossing.
After the skirmishes of two days, Islamabad and Kabul agreed for a ceasefire and the latter recognised Pakistan’s stand regarding the construction of a gate at Torkham border. Durand Line is an internationally established border, but every now and then, Afghanistan government tries to create ambiguity and fuss regarding the issue, as all the governments in Afghanistan remained desirous to get access to the Arabian Sea through Pakistan’s province of Balochistan.
Some of the objections which emanate from the Afghan side about the validity of the Durand Line are, firstly the agreement was forced upon the Afghan King, Abdul Rahman Khan, after negotiations with the British govt in 1893—secondly, it was signed only for a period of 100 years and then expired in 1994 and thirdly, the agreement was made with the British Government and not with Pakistan, and so in essence, it can be regarded as invalid.
Islamabad’s stand on the Durand Line has been that it is a valid international boundary, recognized and confirmed by Afghanistan on several occasions. Pakistan has always upheld the norms of international law and has maintained position of a successor state to the rights and duties inherited from the British government in India. 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, this negates the assertion that it was a forced treaty. At the same time, no-where in the treaty, a mention of 100 years has been made.
However, creation of controversy by Kabul over Durand Line cannot be seen in isolation, as it is part of the double game of the US and India, including Israel which secretly back the Afghan politicians in this respect. Islamabad considers that peace in Afghanistan is a guarantee of peace in Pakistan and the region. But, the US and India do not want to see the peace and prosperity in the region. Sadly, Pakistan’s dominant role in Afghanistan’s peace process under the Quadrilateral Coordination Group (QCG) has, deliberately, been sabotaged by killing of the Taliban leader Mullah Akhtar Mansur in CIA-operated drone attack in Balochistan, as Afghan Taliban leaders refused to participate in the US-sponsored talks with the Afghan government. While, in the recent past, with the help of Pakistan, a series of meetings were held in Islamabad and Kabul among the representatives of Pakistan, Afghanistan, China and the US to develop an understanding for the earliest possible resumption of stalled talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban with view to ending nearly 15 years of bloodshed in Afghanistan.
In this context, trust deficit has deepened between Pakistan and the America. Therefore, on June 10, this year, a high-level delegation of the US visited Islamabad and met Pakistan’s Chief of the Army Staff Gen. Raheel Sharif and Adviser to the Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz Adviser separately.
During the meeting, expressing his serious concern on the US drone strike in Balochistan as a violation of Pakistan’s sovereignty, Gen. Raheel Sharif highlighted as to how it had impacted the mutual trust and was counterproductive in consolidating the gains of Operation Zarb-i-Azb against terrorists. He elaborated, “All stakeholders need to understand Pakistan’s challenges-inter-tribal linkages and decades-old presence of over three million refugees—blaming Pakistan for instability in Afghanistan is unfortunate.
It is notable that the porous border between Pakistan and Afghanistan is frequently used by human and drug traffickers, criminals and terrorists who cause havoc inside Pakistan and Afghanistan. In this context, ISIS claimed responsibility for a joint suicide bombing of July 23, 2016, which killed more than 80 persons of the Shiite minority of Hazaras in Kabul. However, for effective counter terrorism measures strong border, control management is vital at Pak-Afghan border. But, Afghan rulers are using delaying tactics in this respect. Nevertheless, on September 8, 2015, the ISIS and former Afghan president Hamid Karzai had refused to recognize Durand Line as permanent border between Pakistan and Afghanistan.
Nonetheless, today’s world is quite different. Those voicing against the Durand line or in favour of Pakhtun ethnicity needs to realize the new realities. The reality is that there are more Pashtuns living on this side of the Durand Line than in Afghanistan. The referendum of 1947 and the decision of tribal Jirga of FATA are the strongest and undeniable facts to judge the affinity of Pashtuns. Today’s Pakhtuns from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Baluchistan and FATA have a strong participation in all national and federal institutions including Armed Forces, sports, education, politics and all other walks of life and stand with Pakistan. They have rendered huge sacrifices in war against terror and entire nation respects their sacrifices.
—The writer is freelance columnist based in Lahore.

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