Significant shift in Afghan policy?

Closing down Durand Line for Afghan presidential elections marked a departure from our age-old Afghan policy.

M Ziauddin April 08, 2014
The writer is Executive Editor of The Express Tribune

With the election officials of the war-torn country claiming an unbelievable voter turnout of over 50 per cent, the third presidential elections in Afghanistan on Saturday, April 5, passed off in relative peace. It seemed that the Afghan Taliban had either willingly taken the Saturday off or perhaps, the official security measures were too tight for them to penetrate.

Or perhaps, Pakistan’s security agencies had really done a very good job of effectively securing the Durand Line, making it impossible for the Afghan Taliban hiding in the safe havens on our side of the border to cross over and disrupt the Afghan polls. Or perhaps, it was a combination of both: the Afghan security forces taking effective care of their Taliban inside Afghanistan and Pakistani security agencies effectively blocking “our” Afghan Taliban from mounting bloody mischief across the border.

Come to think of it, perhaps, it was for the first time in our 67-year-old eventful history that we were able to close down the Durand Line so effectively (since so far Kabul has not complained of any cross-border infiltration on election day, it is, perhaps, safe to assume that the closure was really effective). It must have taken a lot of manpower, money and technology to mount such a tight security wall across 2,640 kilometres of border even for one single day. But then if the benefit is mutually so enormous, why mind the cost.

And many in Pakistan, who had never favoured the strategic depth idea and had always opposed those handful of Pakistanis who looked at Afghanistan as our backyard or even worse, as our satellite, would like to see the wall made permanent, no matter what the cost because in the long run, it would still be a highly profitable arrangement.

For one thing, a fully secured Durand Line would make it next to impossible for the mischief mongers to launch attacks on our western neighbour from our side of the border or provide safe two-way passage across to terrorists, criminals, absconders, murderers, car lifters and smugglers, causing enormous social and economic losses to Pakistan, while at the same time, turning the country into what can only be called as the world’s softest state.

This would also help us in isolating the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) from Mullah Omar’s bunch and perhaps, even neutralising them because most of their supplies of money and weapons come from across the Durand Line.

One would like to assume that the decision to close down the Durand Line on the day Afghanistan was holding its presidential elections marked a significant but welcome departure in our age-old Afghan policy, which used to be dictated, until the advent of the third Nawaz government, by the hegemonic mentality of our establishment.

The porousness of the border, its extraordinary length, dotted with almost impossible accesses and the fact that the Durand Line had cut through thousands of households separating brother from brother, with one living on the Afghan side of the border and the other on the Pakistani side, were the main arguments used by the Pakistani establishment to camouflage its strategic depth intentions and its long-term plan to turn Afghanistan into Pakistan’s satellite.

But this policy did not win any friends in Afghanistan for us. In fact, over time, we became a butt of their hatred. And our continued failure to stop the Afghan Taliban from launching attacks across the border from our soil won us the ire of the US-led international forces stationed in Afghanistan, which were the main targets of these attacks.

The Nawaz Administration, it is assumed, took the right decision at the right time, of course with decisive input from the army and its intelligence agencies, to close down the Durand Line for a day to facilitate elections in Afghanistan. But this is only the first step towards mending fences with the people of Afghanistan. In the coming days, weeks and months, we will be called upon to take many more such steps to win Afghan hearts and minds. But our good intentions would finally be tested against our ability and willingness to take on the Afghan Taliban hiding on our side of Durand Line after the foreign troops leave Afghanistan.

Published in The Express Tribune, April 9th, 2014.

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sterry | 7 years ago | Reply

@Noor Nabi: The point is that 60 years of Afghanistan working with India to gain strategic depth in Pakistan has brought nothing but turmoil for Afghanis. Hopefully they will focus on doing what is best for their people instead of interfering in the border regions of Pakistan where people have spurned Afghan interference in KPK and Baluch issues. It doesn't make sense to run to Pakistan for safety and jobs but then work with India to undermine the country where you are living as a refugee. My own relatives in Peshawar want to see Durrand Line mined and fences where possible so it doesn't matter what Afghanistan government says about the border.

Asjad | 7 years ago | Reply

While it is interesting that the author thinks that its all down to Nawaz's administration and not the army. Moreover, the justification of not closing down the border as defined

"the fact that the Durand Line had cut through thousands of households separating brother from brother, with one living on the Afghan side of the border and the other on the Pakistani side"

Cut out Durand line and replace it with Wagah, Tharparkar or any other Indian border, the same could apply there as well. Ever thought on those lines?

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