Peace within and peace without – Part I The Durand line

In South Asia on 17. May 2012 at 18:23

This series of three articles sets the focus on Pakistan’s relations with its neighbors and the nation’s internal security threat. The first article will be about the western border, better known as Durand line, followed by an analysis on the Kashmir conflict and the sister nation in east and in the end on the internal security threats.

“Our object should be peace within and peace without. We want to live peacefully and maintain cordial and friendly relations with our immediate neighbors and with the world at large. We have no aggressive design against any one. We stand by the United Nations Charter and will gladly make our full contribution to the peace and prosperity of the world.”

Mohammad Ali Jinnah, on the occasion of the inauguration of the Pakistan Broadcasting Service, August 15, 1947

The Durand line

Afghanistan has always been a trouble neighbor in the eyes of Pakistan and its predecessor the British Indian Empire. In such a process the British Indian administration and the Amir (King) of Afghanistan negotiated the border agreement in 1893. The current border is thus known as Durand line named after the Foreign Secretary of British India, Henry Durand.

Two years after independence one Pakistan air force plane bombed a village just across the border in order to suppress a tribal uprising. This led to heavy reactions from the Afghan King Zahir Shah who declared that all previous agreements including that of the Durand line was hereby void. In other words, Afghanistan all of the sudden did not recognize Pakistan’s border, and therefore automatically laid claim to its Pashtun dominated province cross the border.

Even though the relations got into normalization, the suspicion still stayed. Afghans enjoyed close relations with India, Pakistan’s nemesis, and was hostile to China, Pakistan’s fresh ally. As a consequence, Pakistani military and civilian leadership has always sought a government of liking in Kabul, by any means necessary.

This was a major reason for Pakistan’s willingness to fight the pro-Soviet communist regime during the Soviet-Afghan war, and the sole aim to support Hezb-e-Islami and later Taliban during the civil war in the 90s. Taliban thus became an ally, and Northern Alliance the enemy. The latter well supported by India.

Our war

In came the twin tower terrorist attacks, followed by Washington’s will to play cowboy once again in the region. ISAF forces led by USA engaged relations with warlords who opposed Taliban, even though they were at least or even more brutal in their conduct against civilians. Some warlords even fought USA while at the same time being allies of the pro-US Karzai government.

Pakistan on its side agreed to give NATO access to supply routes, air space routes and some airfields. Further Pakistan was willing to cooperate on the intelligence part to search up members of the Al-Qaida network who found refuge among supporters in Pakistan’s urban cities. This was done off course because the prize was right, and the pressure incredible tense.

So far, all is well known. But we could not comprehend that this war is ours as well.

As a result of state propaganda since the 80s our mass-media and sections of the political specter found the war in Afghanistan against Taliban a war declaration against an ally and a brother in Islam. Especially right-wing groupings, which shared ideological values with Taliban were fierce in reaction and used each possible opportunity to fire up militant rhetoric.

Now, each state is responsible not to let its territory be used to attack another state. It is one of the basic understood rules in the international community, and understood as a declaration of war if not handled properly. When Taliban fled Afghan lands and entered Pakistani tribal areas, they automatically forced Pakistan to react with force. Taliban managed to form a Pakistani front to deal with the Pakistan army operations against Al-Qaida.

Suicide bombs in markets, schools, governmental buildings. Blood, gore, limbs, cry, horror, fear. It all became a part of the daily picture. The war became costly, and had a great effect on the economy of the country.  Causalities are almost up to 40.000 individuals, of them 12.000 civilians, about 4.000 security personnel and the rest allegedly terrorists and insurgents.

But this could not have happened all of the sudden. Suicide bombers, fighters, gun-loaded insurgents cannot all of the sudden become hateful or that blind to violence that they do not see the value of human beings. These young cadres of terrorist outfits have been indoctrinated in seminaries, and now when Pakistan tries to enter its own territory to get rid of Al-Qaeda operatives they turn against the state.

There is a powerful message in this deep tragic state of affairs. Pakistan cannot call interference by terrorist organization in Afghanistan to be strategic depth, while at the same time calling terrorist organizations at home front to be a threat. Both are harmful, and both are creating tension. But the Pakistani public was not aware of the massacres the Taliban and the warlords performed on the beaten afghan people, and therefore lived with the picture of these fighters as holy warriors who did a noble cause. The majority media is still reluctant to nuance this picture.

The war has always been Pakistan’s own, this need to be understood in order to end this bloodshed. The state alone cannot fight an ideology of hate, which is by the way not Islam, but it needs to fight thugs legalizing their conduct from religious sources and needs to claim the writ of state on all its territories.

The major reason for why this is Pakistan’s war is because it’s our intelligence networks and our army commands and our politicians who sought and supported the Taliban regime to power in Kabul. Ahmad Shah Masood of Northern Alliance had almost defeated these youth mercenaries, but all of the sudden, huge amounts of weapons, ammunition and manpower arrived and formed Taliban to be a nationwide powerbroker. A militant network which behaves autonomous, will behave so under any circumstances, which is happening now as these groups have sought shelter in Tribal Areas.

Relations with the USA

USA did two great mistakes in its relations with Pakistan. It did not accept Pakistan as a nuclear weapon state which was a reaction to India’s ambitions to acquire the same, which again was in reaction to China’s nuclear ambitions. This has made the military commanders highly suspicious of US ambitions in the region.

Second fault has been the USAID. It has surely helped Pakistan’s poor during hard times as famines, floods, earthquakes and other national disasters. But most of the aid US has channeled has gone to military. Building of cantonments and upgrading the hardware are some examples. Such has only benefitted an oversized military, and strengthened its position.

While the west looks upon USA in a great degree of being a defender of democracy and freedom, the Pakistani counterpart looks the cynical superpower which supported bloodthirsty militants against Soviet Union. In Pakistani eyes, it is a cunning ally who can betray, and do whatever it takes to get to its goal. And it is a correct perception as far as Pakistanis have experienced Americans. West needs to look the whole affairs from Pakistani perspective as well.

Pakistan does not have the military manpower on western front compared to the amount which is fixed towards India. The country also lacks experience to fight on the hilly terrains of the border region in tribal areas. To gather knowledge of the field, as well as strengthening the forces in the face of an enemy which is invincible is difficult. Even USA had to admit defeat in Vietnam. Further there is distrust in between Afghan and Pakistan army. Without reducing this distrust and without engaging a common border force agreement there will not be an effective crackdown on terrorist outfits.

The higher objectives, which are eradication of militant outfits and a peaceful and stable Afghanistan, will not be achieved if Pakistan is not along the road. The inhabitants of Tribal Areas do shun Al-Qaida and Taliban, but they also shun USA and its Drones. According to gallops they are more comfortable with the Pakistan Army conducting operations against terrorist outfits. But then the Pakistan Army is cherry picking from among which of the outfits to consider friend or foe. There is no such thing as “good” or “bad“ Taliban.

This dual line from Pakistani side is not without reason. In Pakistani eyes the US counterpart has gone tired of this engagement. American opinion is now not to fight Taliban, develop Afghanistan and secure the rights of women in the country, its main objectives is to leave the region without much fuss about losing to Taliban. While US can leave, Pakistan cant, Taliban will be more powerful, boosted by the opinion that they defeated coalition forces. Pakistan will have to have such a force as an ally rather than an enemy. The diplomacy with certain segments of extremists is thereby both to have power share in Kabul, but also to reduce enemies in a post-NATO scenario. Even USA and Kabul for years had backchannel diplomacy with Taliban which is now official.

Durand Line – Border between Afghanistan and Pakistan

Defend Durand

Afghanistan has four major cities, Kandahar, Kabul, Herat and Mazaar-e-Sharif. Of them, the first two have major economic influence from Pakistan. This influence needs to be made official, hence the need for trade relations which are ongoing between the two governments. You will find currencies with Jinnah’s picture trading at bazaars in Jalalabad for instance. In 2000-01 Pakistan’s export to Afghanistan amounted 140 million dollars while import was at 30 million. In 2010-11 the export was 2.340 million while imports amounted 172 million.

The coalition government in Pakistan can rightly be criticized for much in the country, but it does deserve kudos for its diplomatic relations and means in order to strengthen the economics. In 2010 the Afghan-Pak Transit Trade Agreement (APTTA) was signed and both states agreed to make it easier for trade routes to improve and be more efficient. Afghanistan did get access to Pakistani markets including seaports but also Indian which will benefit the small scale businesses in all three countries. In return Pakistan got access to Afghan markets and those of Central Asia. Further Pakistan, Indian, China and other nations Railway authorities have also kept a keen interest in Afghanistan.

In all this, if incidents occur as where 24 Pakistani soldiers were killed by US gunship helicopters at the Salsala checkpost 2,5 kilometers inside Pakistani territory then the needed cooperation will backfire. It is highly important that such incidents don’t occur at all. This requires cooperation on intelligence regarding the Durand line and coordination on targets so innocent lives are not wasted further escalating diplomatic row and sorrow for those families who loose sole breadwinners.

Pakistan’s foreign office has made it clear that Pakistan does not seek any strategic depth in Afghanistan. These remarks are welcomed, and civilian governments should be given the chance to set the agenda for peaceful solution to a conflict in where all are to be blamed.

From the army perspective there is a great fear that Indian forces get influence among Afghan Army commanders. Pakistan has one of the finest military academies in region. The Kakul academy has been open for Sri Lankan and Middle Eastern officer cadres and could be open for Afghan army officers as well. Further, the Army could willingly provide its training experience to garrison and organize brigades and battalions. For Afghanistan it’s a challenge to fill army ranks where ethnic composition represents the demography.

A sustained, developing and stable Afghanistan is for the best for Pakistan and the region. Only civilians can on both sides engage to end this vicious cycle of warlords, terrorist outfits and secure trade which will benefit the ordinary citizen and the state revenue.


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