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Border closure

Published Mar 07, 2017 01:02am

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IT is undeniably a humanitarian crisis and an indication of a profound security challenge. The decision, therefore, to allow a temporary and partial reopening of two border crossings with Afghanistan for two days is only a small step in the right direction. Clearly, the problem of anti-Pakistan militant sanctuaries along the Afghan side of the border is an urgent problem that needs sustained attention by both the Pakistani and Afghan states. Pakistan cannot simply allow itself to be attacked from across a porous border and Afghanistan cannot allow the perception that it, at the very least, turns a blind eye to the problem emanating from its soil. Yet, a border closure is a punitive measure that does not do much to address the problem. Militants, as evidenced by the death of five soldiers in an attack in Mohmand Agency yesterday, find alternative ways to penetrate Pakistan when they cannot blend in with legal border crossers. Indeed, the near impossibility of sealing the border with Afghanistan as it exists means the burden will fall on ordinary Afghans, and Pakistanis too. As Afghan officials and media reports have indicated, trade with Afghanistan is declining overall and the recent closure has hurt seasonal Pakistani exports to Afghanistan.

Underlying the effective border closure is an important, unanswered question: what are the objectives and for how long can the closure be maintained? Set aside the bizarre disconnect between a government that is flogging its regional connectivity and trade agenda and a security establishment that is closing borders. Even from a narrow security perspective, the calculation must always be that an action should produce the desired results. Pakistan wants Afghanistan to urgently address the militant sanctuary issue and in the longer term needs cooperation from Afghanistan on border management. But does a border closure make Afghan cooperation more or less likely? Worse, doesn’t it, in fact, complicate the task of interdicting and keeping out Afghan-based militants seeking to re-enter Pakistan? While business as usual is no longer an option, any approach must be rooted in a sensible strategy. Militancy may be defeated eventually, but the war must be fought in a humane, people-centric manner. A border closure amounts to punishing ordinary, law-abiding, peaceful citizens with no sense that the pressure will yield to cooperation by Kabul. Indeed, it may be deepening mutual suspicions and mistrust, making Pak-Afghan ties that much harder to navigate.

Published in Dawn, March 7th, 2017


Comments (5) Closed



Syed F. Hussaini Mar 07, 2017 02:12am

Closing the border for trade is a statement of power the Afghans would naturally challenge in international forums as a matter of rights under related conventions and laws mustering support from as many countries as they can.

Open the border now and avoid that eventuality.

sher Jang Gilgit Mar 07, 2017 11:14am

How can an illiterate, regressive, antiquarian, enemy of progress, unruly and rogue individual like that of the Afghan citizen be a peace loving, law abiding and civilized person? Totally rediculous! A person who does not even know what is the meaning of law can not imagined to be a law abiding person. Had the Afghan people on a larger scale been law abiding citizens than that land locked country would not been a Centre for perpetration of regional destabilization and Pakistan would not been a victim of its double standards. Logic dictates that some elements are meant for dealing in such a way because respect is a reciprocal option and a little leniency on our part can push Pakistan to the brink of self destruction. An economy based upon colossal foreign debt can not have the potential to be regionally connected because, as a matter of precedent, the outcomes prone to go into the coffers of witless politicians.

Iftikhar Husain Mar 07, 2017 06:09pm

The question is can India solve the massive problems of Afghanistan by giving aid to the elites India is only interested in creating problems for Pakistan so that Pakistan stop supporting the cause of Kashmir.

jehanzeb Mar 07, 2017 06:18pm

What is this cry about plight of people ? Pakistan is well within right to demand travel through proper procedures and permissions. We are not a thoroughfare for Afghans specially when they are collaborating with India to destabilize us

Mahesh Mar 07, 2017 08:08pm

Afghanistan should approach UN for redressal. This is violation of their basic human rights.