Home Editorial Editorial: Durand Line and Pak-Afghan Ties

Editorial: Durand Line and Pak-Afghan Ties

Ensuring peace on its borders is a key requirement for Pakistan to achieve economic prosperity

by Editorial

The 2,600km border fence along the Durand Line. Photograph by Nazar Ul Islam

Pakistan last year initiated a drive to evict all undocumented migrants, disproportionately Afghans, worsening ties between the neighboring nations amidst tensions arising from Islamabad accusing Kabul of failing to act against militants sheltering on its soil. In a stark warning, Army chief Gen. Asim Munir made clear the “safety and security of a single Pakistani” was more important than that of “the whole of Afghanistan.” He also recalled Afghanistan had opposed Pakistan’s entry into the United Nations after Partition, highlighting the negative ties traditionally held by the neighbors, barring the brief period of Afghan Taliban rule from 1996-2001. A key reason for the longstanding dispute is the contested Durand Line, the porous border that facilitates smuggling and free movement of people living on both sides.

Most independent observers expected a return to form after the Taliban returned to power in Kabul in 2021, but Pakistan’s government at the time maintained ties would improve. This, clearly, has not happened. Rather, relations have reached a low ebb amidst a resurgence of terrorism, which Pakistan maintains is orchestrated by Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) militants that the Afghan Taliban refuse to take any action against, despite multiple calls from Islamabad for them to do so.

Adding to Pakistan’s woes is that any outright conflict with Afghanistan would leave it exposed on two fronts, with its eastern border abutting rival India and the northern Afghanistan. Ties with Iran to the west are also strained after Tehran’s violation of Islamabad’s territory and the tit-for-tat response. For a country struggling to overcome economic malaise, and requiring peace and stability, this situation is untenable. Protecting the integrity of its border is thus a key requirement of Pakistan—not only to establish writ of the state, but also achieve the stability necessary for economic prosperity.

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