Dawn News

Untenable claim

IF there is a point on which all Afghans unite, it is on the Durand Line. The British-drawn frontier is more than a century old and has been accepted by the world community as an international border. But Afghans to this day have shied away from recognising this reality. On Oct 21, Marc Grossman said in a TV interview that the US considered the Durand Line an international frontier. A few days later, the Kabul government rejected the views of America’s special envoy, prompting the State Department to reiterate its position by upholding Mr Grossman’s declaration. On Thursday, the Foreign Office reaffirmed Islamabad’s position on the issue and said the international frontier between Pakistan and Afghanistan was “a closed and settled issue”.

Irrespective of tribal, ethnic, political and ideological differences, the Afghans speak with one voice on the Durand Line and refuse to abandon a stance that has been rendered obsolete by the march of time. Since 1947, Afghanistan has seen governments that differed in internal makeup and foreign policy orientations. The overthrow of the monarchy by Daud Khan, Zahir Shah’s cousin, and the establishment of a republic made no difference to Kabul rulers’ stand on the border with Pakistan, and the four communist rulers who followed them — Nur Mohammad Taraki, Hafizullah Amin, Babrak Karmal and Mohammad Najibullah — shared the royalty’s view of the border drawn as far back as 1893. Because Kabul’s communist rulers received greater support than before from the Soviet Union, their stance on the Durand Line and the issue of Pakhtunistan was hawkish. True, their views were echoed by many Pakhtun nationalists here but the bigger challenge of militancy among Pakhtuns has now taken precedence. Understandably upsetting for Pakistan, the victorious Mujahideen showed no interest in having the issue resolved and accepting the line. Even the Taliban, perceived to have been created, funded, armed and trained by Pakistan, showed little gratitude towards their hosts and preferred to follow their royal and communist predecessors in rejecting the status of the Durand Line.

The Durand Line is a fact, and no day passes without Kabul acknowledging its de facto existence by talking about cross-border incursions. One can understand Kabul’s anti-colonial approach in the 19th and early part of the 20th century. But cataclysmic events have unleashed new forces, altered the area’s geopolitical picture and rendered old concepts incongruous. Manned checkpoints on both sides testify to Kabul’s de facto recognition of the line. President Hamid Karzai should realise that official recognition of the Durand Line would serve as a confidence-building measure, remove a source of friction and help in fighting a common enemy.

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Comments (14) Closed

Oct 28, 2012 08:14pm
Durand line was accepted and ratified by the then king of Afghanistan and the issue cannot be reopened. All the noise against the Durand line comes from the west of that line and none from the East of it. Every Pakistani Pashtun is 100% loyal to and happy in Pakistan They will never want to join a primitive country still centuries behind Pakistan.
Oct 28, 2012 12:42pm
With due respects, your de jure or your de facto being some Latin law terms [ which I do not understand] will not work because differences of culture and way of life.In the case of East and West Berlin the people had the same culture and way of life.Only thing separating then was the political impasse between the communist and the democratic system.Afghanistan and it's people will not change . They have not done so for years.I and the world have no concern for this country.It is the way they treat their women folk that troubles us.
Oct 28, 2012 09:45pm
"They have not done so for years." - Same is true for FATA. As for women are concerned - the whole world know where Taliban come from and hence the term "AfPak". If the difference in quality of life is a decider then forget about Balochistan or make sure you milk it completely - Try to hold Balochistan first which is de jure and de facto and then worry about just the de-facto :)
La Ilha
Oct 28, 2012 03:18pm
Durand line is a permanent settlement between India & Afghanistan and not between Pakistan Administered Kashmir & Afghanistan.
Oct 28, 2012 01:56am
I am certain that the author would not have the same views because as much as the Durand line is accepted by all and sundry in the world as undisputed border between Afghanistan and Pakistan - in the same manner the LoC is considered as a disputed border. The name in itself indicates it's temporary nature., Neither India nor Pakistan claim the LOC as the border..both sides claim land well within the boundaries of the LOC on either side. And the international community recognizes that a referendum is required to determine the outcome peacefully.so both are unrelated issues,
Does not matter
Oct 28, 2012 03:02pm
I don't know who gave you the idea of Afghans ruling the Indian sub continent but if you read the history, Maharaja Ranjit Singh of Punjab pushed the Afghans out of today's Pakistan.
Does not matter
Oct 28, 2012 02:55pm
I don't think any Afghan would accept the Durand line. Just like any Pakistani does not accept the LoC to be de facto border between India and Pakistan. Pakistan very conveniently accept the Durand Line treaty between Durand and Abdur Rehman Khan but still make noises for treaty between Hari SIngh and Indian government.
akhter husain
Oct 28, 2012 02:52pm
You may be right in your views.Afghans ,by nature are sword-men and want the rest to serve them.for their merry making.They want subjects and not citizens with equal rights..Having said that, I May add that durand line was the result of agreement between Afghan rulers and british raj to end the hostilities.There was no hue&cry since the agreement was made and Britishers were here..
Oct 28, 2012 12:04am
With the 'march' of time, the disgraceful Durand Line --a sordid legacy of the British colonialists--will meet the same fate as that of Berlin Wall . You have referred to the concept of de facto , but deliberately have chosen not to mention the legal concept of de jure, which is far more important than the one you have cited (de facto).
M. Asghar
Oct 27, 2012 09:54am
This problem with the Durand Line is part of the mayhem that has been going for quite some time in the region. Bringing peace with good neighbourhood should resolve this "problem", too.
Does not matter
Oct 27, 2012 02:08am
I wonder if author has the same view for the LoC between India and Pakistan.
Oct 27, 2012 02:12am
" Even the Taliban, perceived to have been created, funded, armed and trained by Pakistan " Percieved ? How long we want to keep fooling ourselves ? Why truth is so hard to swallow ?
Sardar KHAN
Oct 27, 2012 06:10pm
Durand Line is a permanent border between Pakistan & Afghanistan and must be accepted by afghanis.
akhter husain
Oct 27, 2012 04:40pm
We or rest of the world may consider the Durand line as a closed issue,but the Afghans who have ruled Indian subcontinent for centuries ,still think it their property.Even in early days of Pakistan ,Zahir Shah had proposed a union of Afghan-Pakistan,he himself being the king.though the proposal was outrightly rejected by Quaid-E-Azam. No wonder if present ruler do not recognize it.They are master of keeping such issues alive till it materialises.We must remain alert.for all time to come...