Thursday, March 23, 2023

Af-Pak border tribes continue to face the ire of Pakistani forces 

By Hamid Pakteen

Pakistan’s vindictive insistence on its own view on border dispute with Afghanistan continues to claim innocent lives. Those losing their lives include poor tribals from both sides who are living through the uncertainty for more than a century now. At the heart of the dispute is the disagreement of the two countries on Durand line which is a border established under British colonial rule. Ironically, the line divides the traditional Pashtun areas and population between Afghanistan and Pakistan. Afghanistan has always dismissed all Durand Line agreements maintaining that Afghan rulers were coerced by British pressure. 

Pashtuns on both sides view the line with contempt and resentment, calling it an arbitrary action ignoring geography, history and culture of the region. Unilateral establishment of fences and border posts along the disputed border by Pakistan have only worsened the situation. Disagreements over border demarcation and fencing have particularly escalated after last year’s power change in Kabul. The fencing work has major consequences for closely knit Pashtun and Baloch tribal communities living on both sides of the border, including their agricultural land, traditional border trade and movement of people. This prompts frequent protests by the local tribes. 

However, the opposition is taken an offence by Pakistan, making Pashtuns a constant target of Pak army’s attacks carried out on the pretext of countering terrorism. The last one year has been particularly volatile with several instances being reported of firing and violation of Afghan airspace through Pak Army drones. Apart from it, there have been instances of unprovoked firing on civilians crossing ‘border’ despite reminders from the Afghan side that such movements are within the framework of a bilateral agreement.

Of late, the Pak Army is being seen deploying means other than mortar firing and invasion by drones. Among these are harsh economic measures on Afghan people through frequent blockades at Chaman and Torkham border points. These are two key crossings for men and goods and also a major source of revenue for the Taliban government. According to some recent reports, Pakistani military is even planting anti-personnel landmines in the areas of Gomal district of Paktia province along the Durand line. This has invited stern reaction from Afghan Foreign office which has reportedly demanded Pakistan to refrain from resorting to such measures. Similarly in early October 2022, there were reports of Afghanistan reprimanding the Pakistan mission in Kabul for frequent violations of Afghan air space in areas along the border. 

While the border areas remain the combat zone, Pak Army’s hatred for Afghans seems to have reached the interiors of Pakistan now. Reportedly, Afghan officials in Kandahar recently protested with Pak Consulate on the issue of Afghan nationals living in Pakistan being repeatedly harassed by Pakistani authorities, citing various social media reports about manhandling of Afghan nationals in Pakistan. Several reports which went viral contained audios/videos of Afghans in custody of Pakistani authorities. The authorities are not even sparing Afghan females on Torkham border who are being hassled on the pretext of security.

Repercussions of on-ground hostilities have been felt at diplomatic level as well. Pak ISI is frequently found targeting staff employed at the Afghan Consulate in Peshawar. Nevertheless, Afghanistan seems determined to confront Pakistan on the continued hostilities. Taliban regime recently lodged a strong protest with Pakistan alleging that two of its diplomats on a visit to Bara, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa for inspecting the properties owned by Afghanistan were harassed by the ISI. The Afghan side is believed to have expressed concern about the “physical & psychological security” of its diplomatic & non-diplomatic staff in Pakistan. In September 2022, the country’s Deputy Foreign Minister Sher Muhammad Abbas Stanekzai had strongly countered Pakistan Prime Minister’s anti-Taliban statement at 77th United Nation General Assembly (UNGA) in New York wherein he had listed Tehreek-e-Taliban (TTP) among major threats to the security of the region. 

There is nothing new in the offensive attitude displayed by the Pak armed forces towards Afghans. The little hopes of improvement in Pakistan hostilities after the regime change of 2021 also proved to be short-lived. However, Kabul’s new resolve to confront Pakistan has brought a welcome change. Through its recent postures, the Taliban administration has made it clear that it is not ready to provide further leverage to Islamabad.

Note: The contents of the article are of sole responsibility of the author. Afghan Diaspora Network will not be responsible for any inaccurate or incorrect statement in the article.

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