Home Editorial Editorial: The Contested Pak-Afghan Border

Editorial: The Contested Pak-Afghan Border

In the interest of regional peace, the neighboring nations must recognize their responsibilities as sovereign states and prevent the misuse of their shared border

by Editorial

The 2,600km border fence. Photograph by Nazar Ul Islam

Since the Afghan Taliban returned to power in Kabul, Pakistan has repeatedly accused them of failing to prevent terrorism emanating from Afghanistan, warning of retaliatory strikes if the situation does not improve. Last week, after the Hafiz Gul Bahadur Group claimed an assault on a checkpost that martyred five security personnel, the Foreign Office and ISPR separately confirmed Pakistan had conducted “intelligence-based aerial strikes” inside Afghanistan to “punish” terrorists sheltering across the border. The Foreign Office further stressed that Islamabad had repeatedly urged Kabul to deny safe havens to the banned Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan and hand over its leadership to Pakistan. Predictably, the interim Afghanistan government denounced the strikes in Paktika and Khost provinces, claiming they killed eight civilians, raising tensions between the neighbors.

Immediately after the assault, Taliban border forces opened fire on Pakistani outposts, sparking skirmishes at various points along the 2,600km border between the two countries. While the situation has mostly normalized after several rounds of talks, it is now clear that Pakistan’s relationship with Afghanistan must acknowledge that their ties have never been “normal.”

Starting from the founding of Pakistan in 1947, Afghanistan has played the role of spoiler more often than not. Kabul voted against admitting Islamabad as a member of the United Nations; successive Afghan governments have all rejected the Durand line as the internationally-recognized border between Pakistan and Afghanistan; and Pakistan’s perceived “meddling in Afghan affairs” has boosted resentment in the general public. More recently, Kabul has resisted attempts by Islamabad to enforce documentation for all cross-border travel. In response, Pakistan has traditionally accused Afghanistan of working with India to destabilize it, and of allowing anti-Pakistan militants to operate from Afghan territory.

The recent tensions in bilateral ties between the neighbors makes clear they have now reached a point where the status quo cannot continue. Both states must now understand their responsibilities as sovereign states to prevent the misuse and violation of their border if they have any hope of achieving stability and working toward regional peace.

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