Why Controversy over Durand Line?
By Sajjad Shauka
tFrom 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, resulting in injuries to more than 16 Pakistani citizens, including the martyrdom of some Pakistani security personnel. Pakistan’s security forces were compelled to give response and skirmishes continued for two days. Afterwards, Islamabad and Kabul agreed for a ceasefire and the latter recognized Pakistan’s stand regarding the construction of gate at Torkham border.
In fact, 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 government 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.
In response, 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 the 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.
Pakistan considers that peace in Afghanistan is a guarantee of peace in Pakistan, therefore, has been striving for the same in utter sincerity. 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, which badly derailed Afghan dialogue process, 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.
It seems that a dual game is on to pressurize Pakistan to bring Afghan Taliban either for the dialogue or to take action against them. US, India and Israel have built a hostile nexus for the Great Game and are pressurizing Pakistan by limiting its choices.
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-e-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—target TTP [Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan] and its chief Mullah Fazlullah in their bases in Afghanistan—Indian RAW and NDS [Afghan National Directorate of Security] are of fomenting terrorism in Pakistan.”
US ambivalent policy about Islamabad could also be judged from some other development. In this regard, another delegation of US Senators including Senator Lindsey Graham led by Senator John McCain, Chairman of US Senate Arms Services committee, visited Islamabad and North Waziristan Agency (NWA) on July 3, 2016. The US Senators visited areas cleared of terrorists during Operation Zarb-e-Azb. American delegation appreciated the Pakistan Army’s accomplishment of cleansing the entire area of NWA right upto the Pakistan-Afghanistan border, after witnessing the terrorists’ hideouts and communication infrastructure dismantled by the Pakistan Army.
As a matter of fact, RAW-Mossad-CIA assisted, the Afghan NDS is inflicting harm to Pakistan. With latest capture of six NDS supported terrorists in Balochistan, the number of NDS backed terrorists arrested and killed by Pakistani Intelligence agencies has crossed over 126. These foreign agencies are also supporting the TTP which is hiding in Nuristan and Kunar provinces of Afghanistan. Reportedly Mullah Fazlullah led TTP is being prepared to carry out a fresh wave of terror activities inside Pakistan, as the latter has become center of the Great Game owing to the ideal location of its province of Balochistan—Balochistan’s Gwadar seaport among South Asia, the oil-rich Middle East, and oil and gas-resourced Central Asia has further increased its strategic significance.
Therefore, operatives of CIA, Mossad and RAW which are well-penetrated in the ISIS (Daesh or ISIL) and TTP are using their terrorists to destabilize Tibetan regions of China, Iranian Sistan-Baluchistan and Pakistan’s Balochistan by arranging the subversive activities. In this connection, the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) is their special target.
Notably, ISIS claimed responsibility for a joint suicide bombing of July 23, 2016, which targeted the peaceful rally of the Shiite minority of Hazaras who were protesting against the government’s decision of denying their region essential infrastructure through their plans of rerouting a power line. The twin suicide blasts killed more than 80 persons.
It is notable that the porous border between Pakistan and Afghanistan is frequently used by human and drug traffickers, criminals and terrorists. Their easy access through unguarded porous border provides opportunity to miscreants to cause havoc inside Pakistan and Afghanistan. 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.
Taking note of the anti-Pakistan intruders, Pakistan’s army had decided that to build a fence along the border, and to control the border crossings. In this connection, the strategic project of 1,100-kilometre-long trench with the cost of Rs14 billion which was initiated along Pak-Afghan border in Balochistan by Frontier Corps in 2013 has been completed this year. In the next phase, the project will be extended to the entire long border with Afghanistan which had opposed this plan.
It is mentionable that the establishment of CPEC between deep Gwadar seaport of Balochistan and the historic Silk Road city in western regions-Xinjiang of China will connect Gilgit-Baltistan through Khunjerab Pass. Beijing would also build an international airport at Gwadar, while the roads infrastructure in Gwadar would link the communication network of rest of the country to facilitate transportation of goods. Gwadar seaport would connect the landlocked Central Asian states with rest of the world. The port is likely to increase volume of trade, bringing multiple economic and financial benefits to Pakistan. It will enable high-volume cargo vessels to move in the major oceans, giving China’s short access to the Persian Gulf and the Indian Ocean.
It is of particular attention that on September 8, 2015, the ISIS and former Afghan president Hamid Karzai had refused to recognize Durand Line as the permanent border between Pakistan and Afghanistan. While, the spokesman for the US Department of State John Kirby said, the United States has made it clear that it recognizes the Durand Line as an international border.”
Nevertheless, 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.
Sajjad Shaukat writes on international affairs and is author of the book: US vs Islamic Militants, Invisible Balance of Power: Dangerous Shift in International Relations