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Durand Line Dispute and the Pashtun Debate encircling Pakistan and Afghanistan

Since Pakistan’s creation, the Durand Line problem has contributed to the volatility of Pakistani-Afghan relationship. The present overt friendly behaviour of Pakistan is met with covert fear and anxiety by Afghanistan since apprehension and distrust have existed for quite a long time. All the Afghan governments till date, including President Ashraf Ghani’s administration, have never accepted validity of the Durand Line that divides Afghanistan’s borderlands with Pakistan. It would be interesting to see how the Taliban-2 handles the Durand Issue. This would be the biggest concern before Taliban leadership, given the support from Pakistan in helping it to grab power and in retrun, hoping for consideration of formalisation of Durand border- an emotional issue for the Pashtun tribals located on both sides of the disputed border. The debate around Durand line and Pashtun question has resurfaced as analysts are discussing whether the Taliban would give concessions to Pakistan and burry the dispute once and for all.

However, The Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid clarified in an interview to a local Pashto channel that Afghans have always opposed constructing a fence along Durand Line and maintained, “The new Afghan government will announce its position on this issue. We want to create a secure and peaceful environment on the border, so there is no need to create barriers.”

Pakistan has had a dysfunctional and antagonistic relationship with Afghanistan for a long time because of the two countries’ divergence over the Pashtun issue. The Pashtuns are a divided community living across the Durand Line, which has been a major source of friction between Afghanistan and Pakistan. For Afghanistan, the Unification for Pashtun territory has strategic significance. This province would connect Afghanistan to the Arabian Sea and end its landlocked nature.

As part of its manifest but far-fetched dream of an independent Pashtunistan stretching up to the Indus River, Kabul has always claimed that the Pashtun people were subjected to discrimination and marginalisation in Pakistan. Even though the Pashtun people in Pakistan at times have organised movements for unification with Afghanistan (their ancestral homeland), these movements have been suppressed by military action.

Pakistan believed that the Islamist leaders it had supported against the Soviets, would take care of the Durand Line following the collapse of the last communist administration. However, they were disappointed when Burhanuddin Rabbani and Ahmad Shah Massoud, who were instrumental in establishing the State of Afghanistan through their participation in the 1992 Peshawar Accord, refused to recognise Durand Line as an international border between Afghanistan and Pakistan. Then Pakistan supported Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, a Hizbe Islami commander, who had refused to sign the Peshawar Accord against Rabbani’s government. In the end, however, when it became apparent that Hekmatyar’s troops would be unable to destabilise the Rabbani administration or compel him to acknowledge the Durand Line, Pakistan abandoned Hekmatyar and extended its support to Taliban instead. The previous Taliban never acceded to the demands of Pakistan regarding Durand line, the new Talibanis are expected to toe the same line. The current Taliban administration is well aware that recognising Durand Line as a permanent boundary would stir up a backlash compromising its public legitimacy. The subject is so contentious that the previous Taliban government, which Pakistan supported, refused to negotiate on it, even after repeated efforts by Pakistan to gain official recognition in the 1990s.

The Durand border dispute is two-fold- one concerns internal stability, regional discord within Pakistan and the other is to stretch its strategic clout to Afghanistan. However, it is evident that the Taliban-2 would not bow down to the pressures of Pakistan and would not compromise the long historical, ethnic and cultural linkages with the Pashtun region. Therefore, only time will unfold the trajectories of Afghan-Pakistan relations and their impact on the disputed border and the Afghans living on both sides of the border.

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دوران لائن تنازعہ اور پشتون بحث پاکستان اور افغانستان کو گھیرے ہوئے ہے۔( Durand Line dispute and the Pashtun debate encircling Pakistan and Afghanistan)

پاکستان کے قیام کے بعد سے ، دوران لائن مسئلہ نے پاک افغان تعلقات کے …

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