Durand line conflict may burn Pak-Afghan relations

By Hamza Ameer
Islamabad, Jan 9 (IANS)
When the Taliban took over control in Afghanistan after the withdrawal of foreign forces and Ashraf Ghani fled Kabul, Pakistan’s historical relationship with the Taliban was repeatedly reasoned as one of the prime driving source behind the Taliban takeover, that put global powers in a state of shock.
Many still believe that Pakistan’s backdoor support to the Taliban paved the way to Taliban takeover in Afghanistan, terming the Taliban victory as the celebratory success of Islamabad.
But with the recent incidents in which Taliban border security fighters stopped the Pakistani authorities from putting fences along the Durand line, a 2,670 km long international border between Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iran and China, followed by Taliban fighters uprooting the fence along the Pak-Afghan border, have certainly changed the perspective of those, who saw the Taliban success in Afghanistan as the beneficiary success of Pakistan.
It would not be wrong to state that the Duran line, a rugged untapped border between the two countries may just become a major point of a disagreement that may lead itself to a heated confrontation between the two countries.
Pakistan maintains that the fencing of the border is pivotal to the country’s border security and national interest as it would help curb the gateway of terrorists, who enter into the country from Afghanistan and carry out attacks in the country.
On the other hand, the Taliban leadership has been very clear with its position on the Durand line. The Taliban have never agreed to the very existence of the Durand line as they claim that the demarcation occupies Afghan land.
It was the same reason why the Taliban fighters uprooted the fences along the Pak-Afghan border, arguing that they were being put on Afghanistan’s territory.
“Pakistan has no right to fence the border and create a divide. Such a move was inappropriate and against the law”, said Afghan Defense Ministry spokesperson Enayatullah Khwarzmi in a video made after the Taliban fighters uprooted the Pakistani fences.
Pakistan foreign minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi has stated that while there are some complications pertaining to the fencing of Pak-Afghan border, the matter would be handled diplomatically through consultations with the Afghan Taliban government.
This is not the first time that Taliban have stopped and seized the fences from the Pakistani authorities. Last month, a video of Taliban fighters seizing the fences of the Pakistani authorities and warning them from trying to fence the border again, went viral on social media.
Pakistan has given high value to the border fencing and has already fenced most of the 2,600 km border. During the Ashraf Ghani tenure, Pakistan and Afghanistan relationship soured due to disagreements over the Durand line with both sides accusing each other for using the porous border for terrorist infiltration.
It seems that even under the Taliban rule, the Durand line will remain as a contentious issue and fast become the main point of agenda, defining future relations between the two countries.
For the moment, Pakistan’s foreign minister believes that the issue is being blown out of proportion and would be amicably handled through diplomatic engagement with the Taliban leadership.
On the other hand, Afghan Taliban spokesperson Zabiullah Mujahid states that there is no need for Pakistan to fence the border in what he seems to declare as a unilateral decision.
“This issue is still unresolved, there was no need for fencing at all”, he said.
“The construction of fencing itself creates rifts between a nation spread across both sides of the border. It amounts to dividing a nation”, he added.
Mujahid said that Afghan Taliban do not approve of the Durand line and want a rational and logical solution to the problem.

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