Few can have foreseen the endless troubles that were ushered in by the drawing of the Durand Line, the agreement for which was signed on 12th November 1893. It has been the source of conflict and bloodshed ever since. Today it is the international border between Pakistan and Afghanistan but is not recognised by millions, among them the terrorist groups that move to and fro. In the last two years, Pakistan has pushed terrorist and extremist groups out of their traditional havens in Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata) and other remote mountain fastnesses. They did not simply disappear into thin air and many groups and individuals have relocated across the border in Afghanistan and from there foment trouble, plan attacks in both countries and carry them out where possible.
Today, there is a fresh offer from the US military to take action against militant groups in Afghanistan that operate along the border, an offer that will hopefully discourage the Pakistan Army firing across the border in response to raids and incursions carried out by militants operating from Afghanistan. The offer includes a commitment to move on intelligence that Pakistan provides, and if the offer is anything more than another set of smoke and mirrors is worthy of consideration.
It was responded to positively by the director of the Inter-Services Public Relations here, and got an unusually positive response in the US Standing Committee on Defence where our ‘valid and justifiable’ concerns relating to the management of border security were accepted. Thus far this is words only and mechanisms and lines of communication will need to be formalised if anything concrete is to come of it. On paper, the most positive move in many months and to find Pakistan and America on the same page in the same playbook is welcome. Yet this is not the first time that commitments to cooperate have been made only to quickly disappear. The recent release of a Canadian-American couple and their children from the Taliban by our forces may be an indicator that the process of trust restoration is operative. We will not count our chickens before they are hatched, and wait with interest.
Published in The Express Tribune, November 23rd, 2017.
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