Partition of India happened in 1947 which was supposed to be the second partition of the country by the British, the first being the division of Afghanistan from India. The geographical line which came to be known as the Durand Line was the result of an agreement between Sir Mortimer Durand, a secretary of the British Indian government, and Abdur Rahman Khan, the Emir of Afghanistan in 1893. It is a 2640 kilometer border now between Afghanistan and Pakistan.

The Durand Line, till today remains a bone of contention between both the countries as Afghanistan has many questions regarding the acceptability of the agreement which resulted in its division. The agreement was between Afghanistan and British India and not with Pakistan. It also resulted in a division of villages and families, though the locals never stopped meeting each other.

But the recent fencing along the border by Pakistan, on the name of restricting the movement of terrorists from Afghanistan, has been opposed not only by the locals but by the Afghan Taliban too. Accused of providing safe haven to the terrorists, Pakistani authorities, over the years, have come under tremendous pressure from the USA to do more. Also, their worries have grown increasingly about the security situation on its borders with both Afghanistan and Iran. The border with Afghanistan has been loosely governed and porous from day one. So, the Pakistani authorities feel that the border fencing with Afghanistan will be very effective in a bid to stop militants and drug traffickers from pouring into Pakistan.

Stiff resistance against the fencing has come up at places like Branch, a tiny village in Baluchistan province. Prior division, it used to be an extension of the same town on the Afghan side of the border and was known to be the hub for drug trafficking and house to the Taliban’s. There were a lot of protests and even blockade against the Pakistan Army. Such resistance may be for unlawful activities but part of the objection comes from the fact that Kabul has never recognized its international border with Pakistan whether under Taliban or the government.

          Kabul rejects the fencing because its very existence is seen by Afghanistan as a de facto legitimization of the Durand Line which was never accepted by Afghanistan. The British created the so-called Durand Line dividing British India from Afghanistan. To this day, Afghanistan still has territorial claims over areas of what is now Pakistan.

“The Durand Line was a classic example of … splitting the Pashto in two, so the British could consolidate their position in northern India in the late 19th century. This was, of course, complicated by Partition,” recalls Peter Frankopan, a professor of history at Oxford University. He further points out that from an Afghan perspective, it is hardly surprising that borders imposed by others, cooked up in meeting rooms thousands of miles away, are contentious in general – a sign of previous imperialism that had little regard for the interests, needs or desires of local populations.

However, in the current scenario, Pakistan has resorted to fencing to prevent terrorists’ movement into the country. Though it is an entirely different story that the whole world otherwise blame Pakistan for providing safe haven to terrorists involved in terror attacks on NATO forces in Afghanistan. So, is this fencing will help in the image building of Pakistan?

Many in Pakistan, however, argue that because the border with Afghanistan is long, mountainous, and remote, a fence can hardly make a difference, like in the case of India. It can neither stop terrorists nor drug traffickers. Fencing has no value till it is physically dominated so there will be an additional burden of extra troops to be deployed at a very heavy cost. And with the current prevailing economic conditions, the idea is not liked so much. Currently, the fencing along the border has almost been completed, barring certain places where the work has been delayed due to various reasons including protests and even attacks on the Pakistani troops by Afghan soldiers.

It is a fact that Afghanistan has always blamed Pakistan for letting the Afghan Taliban and the Haqqani Network move across the border freely, and using safe haven provided in Pakistani soil, after conducting attacks on foreign troops and Afghan authorities. The new wall, as some analysts put it, is also meant to show the United States that Pakistan is now serious about deterring cross-border terrorism. As both nations are making an effort to improve their relations, this fencing may do more harm than good due to the negative impact it is having on the bilateral relationship.

20 Feb 2019/Wednesday                                                       Written by Azadazraq