ISSN 2330-717X

Factors Disturbing Pak-Afghan Relations – OpEd


Recent border skirmishes have plunged Pak-Afghan relations to new lows, and are part of a conspiracy to derail the diplomatic ties between two neighbors. The ill-will between two countries is nothing new, but decades old. The soil of Afghanistan has consistently been used against Pakistan, in which a number of soldiers and innocent civilians have lost their lives. The element of fear and insecurity prevails in the minds of peoples across the border. Unfortunately, this sense of unease is becoming habitual, and which could have serious repercussions.

As Pak-Afghan relations sour Pakistan has supported peace, prosperity and stability in the neighboring country. Nevertheless, Pakistan’s efforts for improving relations have been turned, when Afghan forces attacked a census team along with security personal. Pakistani troops professionally responded to Afghan forces, resulting in causalities. Later on, Afghan troops accepted their mistake. It must be noted that Afghan forces were already informed about census activity but they neglected it and attacked anyways. Doesn’t this show the incompetence and non-professionalism of the Afghan Army?

Afghan Leadership

The most important factor causing this deterioration in relations is the Indian inclined Afghan leadership, which is incompetent, biased and arrogant. The rhetoric of Afghan President Ashraf Ghani has turned into a harsh critic of Pakistan unforgiving to the point of exceeding Indian hawks and, apparently, undermining his own nation’s advantages.

At the Heart of Asia Conference in Amritsar, where the subject was participation in security and cooperation, Mr Ghani’s talk was forceful, practically as though Kabul fancied a burst in Pak-Afghan ties. When the Afghan president took office over two years back he made it a need to contact Pakistan through some strong verbal explanations and political means, showing that resetting ties with Pakistan were a central part of his strategy. That initiative was warmly accepted by both political and military leadership in Pakistan, but Mr. Ghani soon became impatient with what was perceived in Afghanistan as Pakistan’s slow pace in addressing his country’s concerns. Moreover, Pakistan, too, has had genuine concerns vis-à-vis Afghanistan. The National Unity Government became increasingly hawkish towards Pakistan, as it deliberately followed the pro-Indian mantra. A growing closeness with India, that the security establishment, here, saw as one of the reasons behind instability in Baluchistan.

Durand line

The Durand line is another bone of contention in Pak-Afghan relations. Sir Mortimer Durand drew up this line in 1893 between Afghanistan and then British India, which was later divided into the two countries of India and Pakistan in 1947. Afghanistan was considered by the British as a regal state at the time, although they controlled its foreign and diplomatic affairs.

The Durand Line slices through the Pashtun tribes and further south towards the Baluchistan. It politically separates ethnic Pashtuns, and the Baloch tribes, who live on both sides of the outskirt in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Moreover, the original agreement is only one page. Afghans believed that with Great Britain, the agreement was only for 100 Years, after which the acquisition of land would revert back to them while, official agreement, however, makes no such reference in this regard. No evidence of this contention has ever been produced in the English version of the agreement, however, and it is not clear whether the Dari and Pashto language versions of this agreement still exist. Therefore, there is no such legal provision of Afghanistan’s claim over Durand Line.

According to Joseph V. Micallef, “The Durand Line would become one of the principal issues of Afghanistan’s foreign policy for the next century and even now remains at the heart of Pak-Afghan relations”. History has witnessed that all critical issues could have been better resolved through diplomacy, arbitration and negotiation. Thus, the frequent attacks on Pakistani troops are childish acts of the Afghan army.

Instability in Afghanistan

Since the 1980s Afghanistan has been on the verge of instability and war. Due to the rivalries of a different world and regional powers, peace is a distant dream in Afghanistan.

The recent three decades of war has obscured the predetermination of the Afghan people. Besides, it has also brought demolition and affected the whole regions in general and Pakistan in particular. Due to continuous wars, grave insecurity, and involvement of international and regional powers in Afghanistan, Pakistan’s internal security has been seriously affected. Resultantly, the problematic emergence and resurgence of Taliban has made Pakistan a frontline state in the war against terrorism. Furthermore, the bulk of Afghan refugees is also a big threat to Pakistan’s security.

A stable, prosperous and developed Afghanistan is in the greater interests of Pakistan. To utilize Afghanistan as a door to Central Asian Republics, Pakistan needs friendly relations with her. Pakistan needs an agreeable government in Afghanistan which could promise her interests inside and outside the nations. The insecurity in Afghanistan creates numerous problems for Pakistan on socio-economic and political realms. Various crooks and fanatics come to Pakistan, which is aggravating peace and stability inside Pakistan.

In a nutshell, it is the need of the time that Afghanistan’s leadership should realize the sensitivity of the issue and not be used by foreign hands. Afghanistan’s willingness to let India persuade foreign policy will serve as a zero-sum game in Pak-Afghan relations. Only the immediate engagement of Pakistan-Afghanistan leadership for the permanent solution of issues can serve the larger interest of the region.

*The writer is Research Associate at Strategic Vision Institute Islamabad and he can be reached at [email protected]/ [email protected]

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