Figure 1 Pak – Afghan Border (Google Map)
Afghanistan, the immediate neighbours share 2,430 km1 long
border. Both countries despite having a lot of commonalities have not enjoyed
such cordial relations as one would expect them to be. Afghan Government in 1947 pulled ‘The
Pashtunistan stunt in which it claimed entire North West Frontier Province
(currently Khyber Pakhtunkhaw; KPK). This forced Afghan government to vote
against Pakistan in United Nations, which was the only dissenting vote against
membership of Pakistan’2, highlights
Umbreen Javaid. She further argues that the relations between the two countries
further deteriorated when Pakistan joined SEATO and Cento (P 139). The stressed relations continued till Soviet
invasion of Afghanistan in December 1979, when Pakistan became the frontline state
against Soviet belligerence. The following decade witnessed complete influence
of Pakistan over Taliban led Afghanistan till the tragic incidents of 9/11. However,
Post 9/11, with overthrow of Taliban Government in Afghanistan, Hamid Karzai
became the president and clear tilt was seen in favour of India. Maximizing the
offered space since then, India invested heavily in Afghanistan. ‘India’s
extensive developmental assistance program, which now stands at around U.S. 2
a strong reflection of level of seriousness and importance being given by India
to Afghanistan. Additional U.S. 1 Billion were pledged as economic
assistance by India during meeting between heads of states at Delhi.4
Babar Khan Bozdar in his article ‘Blame Game and
Pak-Afghan Relations’ reflects that Pak-Afghan relations have seen good and bad
times for number of reasons. Although, occasional friendly relations between
the leadership of both countries can be found, mistrust and blame game between
the two countries could never help bring them closer with regards various
challenges both the countries are faced with.5 Both
countries are significant at regional level, however have remained suspicious
of each other. Miscommunication has also contributed negatively towards
security and economic interests. The recent incidents of terrorism, both in
Afghanistan and Pakistan have further widened the gap and increased the
phenomena of blame game. Terrorist attacks in Kabul in June 2017 which claimed
150 lives, was again put on the shoulders of Pakistan by Afghan Government,
however, experts are of the opinion that it was a security lapse on the part of
Afghan security agencies. Since attacks carried out in Kabul, Helmand and
Kandahar were all in security zones.
When Hamid Karzai took over as President of
Afghanistan, he was more inclined towards India and wanted more Indian role in
Afghanistan. For the same reason, he
often blamed Pakistan for destabilization in the country. After Karzai,
Pakistan and Afghanistan relations witnessed a ‘subjective change with enhanced
respective relations’ President Ashraf Ghani, after taking over the office displayed
his eagerness activities to work closely with Pakistan, especially to deal with
terrorism. It was a significant development in bi lateral relations, which not
only agitated Northern Alliance, but also created worries for India. Despite
the fact that ISIS claimed responsibility for various attacks in Afghanistan, Afghan
Government has constantly put the blame on Pakistan (Babar Khan).
Amin, while dilating on ‘Security in Afghanistan: Challenges and Solutions’ is
of the view that since formation of National Unity Government (NUG) I
Afghanistan in September 2014, security situation worsened all over the
country, and in contrast to previous years, conditions in the Northern
provinces deteriorated more than Southern and Eastern provinces.6 Presence of
Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) is another serious security concern for
all stakeholders. Afghanistan, despite being an agricultural country, is mostly
dependent on imports from other countries to fulfill her domestic food demands.
On the other hand, Afghanistan is the largest producer of opium (Abdulbaqi P
47). Due to current
instability in Afghanistan and challenges being posed thereof, regional trade
has also been adversely affected (Abdulbaqi P. 48). ‘Afghan-led and Afghan owned’
process, in the wake of present Government’s heavy engagement in armed conflict
is not fully capable of delivering (Abdulbaqi P. 51). Pakistan, on the other hand, as
not only been badly affected by adverse security situation in Afghanistan, she
is also concerned about U.S. encouraging India in increasing her footprint in
Afghanistan, in an effort to compete with China in the region (Abdulbaqi. P 52). Stability in Afghanistan is vital
for stability of the region and war is not a solution to it (Abdulbaqi. P 54)
Pakistan also has invested heavily in building its
relationships with Afghanistan in various fields. 7 Pakistan
has invested ‘US $500 million for capacity building in various sectors including
education, health as well as building schools, hospitals, roads etc’. 8 However, bilateral relations between the two countries remain
wanting despite a lot of commonalities and convergences. Major issues are being
briefly discussed in this chapter, which are considered within the scope of
The Pak-Afghan border used to witness movement of
around 50,000 to 60,000 people daily with more than 90 percent of the flow
originating from Afghanistan.9 Since 2001, both the countries have been
faced with huge security challenges mainly emanating from unrestricted and
unchecked movement of militants across the Pak-Afghan border10. However, whenever
Pakistan has raised the issue of ‘border recognition, management or regulation’,
there has always been a severe opposition from Afghanistan side (Amina &
Faria. P2). Initially, the border issue
was not highest on the agenda points on both states, though in 2013, both sides
agreed to set a ‘border commission’ with common objective of increasing border
control to check militants’ movement.11
The Afghan Government’s fixated stance on recognition of
the border coupled with increase in militancy in Pakistan, cross-border attacks
and unchecked movement of militants across forced Pakistan to advocate for
effective management and regulation of its western border (Amina & Faria.
P2). In June 2016, Pakistan announced new border initiatives to “facilitate
cross-border movement, curb unregulated and illegal cross-border movement”.12 The move
was part of National Action Plan13 (NAP)
which came to front in the aftermath of terrorist attack on Army
Public School in Peshawar on 16 December 2014 leaving 141 innocent dead
including 131 children14.
Since physical measures by Pakistan have been effectively put in place, cross
incidents from Afghan side have seen an upward trend. These clashes have costed both
sides in terms of lives and further deteriorated already fragile relations. Similarly, despite agreement by both sides to carry
out joint operations on either side of the border under U.S. supervision15,
no solid steps have been seen so far from Afghan side to reciprocate.
In December 2017, Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) of
Pakistan approved design for construction of three state of the art ‘border
complexes’ at Torkham, Chaman and Wagah to reduce processing time for
cross-border movement of goods and services16. The envisaged
deadline for completion is December 2021. The proposed complexes are part of ‘Integrated
Transit Trade Management System’ to facilitate trade without compromising
security of the global supply chain. With construction of these complexes, expected
dwell time of goods at border points will likely reduce by more than five
times. Physical work on projects at Torkham and Chaman is planned to commence
in April 2018, whereas work on Wagah is scheduled to begin in September 2018.17
Thus far, efforts to secure Pak-Afghan border are
unilateral by Pakistan, it remains to be seen whether these ‘joint operations’
can facilitate to bring the two countries on same page while putting aside
their differences. Afghanistan must show requisite resolve and commitment by
cooperating with Pakistan by implementing border security mechanism towards her
side for ‘long-term peace and regional stability’.18 (Amina
& Faria. P5)
With Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, Pakistan became
host to approximately 3.5 million Afghan refugees, which swelled to 5 million
in the wake of U.S. led attack on Afghanistan post 9/11.
Despite the fact that Pakistan is not a signatory to the United Nations (UN)
1951 conventions related to ‘Status of Refugees’ and 1967 protocol, hosting
over such large number of refugees for over 38 years has brought in a baggage of
its own. Pakistan’s weak economy could never take the full burden of additional
3 to 5 million refugees (Umbreen P. 145). Besides, the issue of refugees who
have been living in Pakistan for over two decades and moving freely without any check, has been adding to the domestic problems for
Pakistan including smuggling, narcotics and other crimes (Umbreen P. 145).
In the aftermath of APS attack in December 2014,
“formulation of a comprehensive policy to deal with the
issue of Afghan refugees, beginning with registration of all refugees” 20 was
1 “New Page 1,” accessed December 22, 2016,
2 Umbreen Javaid, “Analyzing the Dynamics of Pakistan-Afghanistan
Relations: Past and Present,” South Asian Studies 31, no. 1 (June 2016).
3 Ibid. P 144.
4 India offers $1bn in fresh aid to Afghanistan.” DAWN.COM.
September 14, 2016. Accessed December 15, 2017. https://www.dawn.com/news/1283902/india-offers-1bn-in-fresh-aid-to-afghanistan.
5 Bozdar*, Babar Khan. “Blame Game And Pak-Afghan Relations –
OpEd.” Eurasia Review. June 10, 2017. Accessed November 22, 2017. http://www.eurasiareview.com/11062017-blame-game-and-pak-afghan-relations-oped/.
6 Dr Abdulbaqi Amin, “Security in Afghanistan: Challenges and
Solutions,” ed. Sarah Siddiq Aneel, in Evolving Situation in Afghanistan: Role
of Major Powers and Regional Countries (Islamabad: Abdul Manan Graphics, 2016),
7 Embassy of Pakistan, Kabul,” 2016, accessed December 13, 2017, http://pakembassykabul.com/index.php.
9 Khan, Amina. “Pak-Afghan Border: A Case Study of Border
Management.” Strategic Studies 3 (October 2, 2017): 22-40. Accessed
December 13, 2017. doi:10.18411/a-2017-023.
10 Khan, Amina, and Faria Pitafi. “Pakistan-Afghan Border.”
Issue Brief, July 21, 2017, 1-5. Accessed December 13, 2017.
11 Akhlaque, Qudssia.
“Pakistan, Afghanistan agree on ‘border commission’.” The Nation.
December 03, 2013. Accessed December 13, 2017.
12 Khan, Tahir .
“Afghanistan, Pakistan agree on ceasefire along Torkham border: Abdullah
Abdullah.” The Express Tribune. June 13, 2016. Accessed December 13, 2017.
13 “National Action Plan.” Moib.gov.pk. Accessed December
13, 2017. http://moib.gov.pk/InnerPage.aspx?Page_ID=46.
14 Khan, Ismail. “Taliban
massacre 131 schoolchildren: Principal among 141 dead in attack on Army Public
School, Peshawar.” DAWN.COM. December 17, 2014. Accessed December 13,
15 Amiri, Sharif.
“Pakistan To Conduct Joint Ops With Afghanistan Along Durand Line.”
TOLOnews. July 5, 2017. Accessed December 14, 2017.
16 Khan, Mubarak Zeb. “FBR approves three border complexes.”
DAWN.COM. December 13, 2017. Accessed December 13, 2017. https://www.dawn.com/news/1376230/fbr-approves-three-border-complexes.
18 Khan, Amina, and Faria Pitafi. “Pakistan-Afghan Border.”
Issue Brief, July 21, 2017, 1-5. Accessed December 13, 2017.
doi:10.18411/a-2017-023. P 5
19 Umbreen Javaid, “Analyzing the Dynamics of Pakistan-Afghanistan
Relations: Past and Present,” South Asian Studies 31, no. 1 (June 2016). P.145
20 National Action Plan.” Moib.gov.pk. Accessed December 13,