War on terror and the Pakhtun integrity

By Manzoor Chandio
Updated on July 15, 2008

THERE are suggestions from Pakistan that Nato and Americans should increase surveillance, both electronically and physically, of the Durand line from the Afghanistan side, and also seal it to stop Taliban and Al Qaeda infiltration from Fata region.
The border sealing would not be workable in this age of globalisation and free flow of information.
Keeping in mind the history of sealing the borders on different pretexts, one cannot hope that securing the border will prove productive.
The action will only lead to division of Pakhtun nation living on both sides of the border.
Throughout the centuries, governments have used separation walls and security fences for limiting the movement of marauding armies and keeping away people from each other.
The Great Wall of China in the ancient times and the Berlin Wall in the modern times are two famous and infamous walls which separated people.
Israel is the most ‘out of bounds’ country as its borders abutting Lebanon, Syria, Jordan and Egypt are heavily manned, fenced and mined. The country has also erected barriers around the Gaza City and constructed a big wall to separate the West Bank from it. Yet it is not secure.
Perhaps, dividing people on different pretexts is in the interest of world powers.
When the world powers find no religious pretext, they divide people on an ideological basis. Vietnam, Germany and Korea are some examples.
Although Vietnam and Germany retained their reunification, the Korean Demilitarized Zone (KDZ) still separates Koreans on the basis of ideology.
There are talks about ending the Line of Control to unify Kashmiris, then what is the logic behind sealing the Durand Line.
In retrospect, the Afghanistan-Pakistan border is a particularly contentious issue.
Afghanistan and the Pakhtun nationalists in Pakistan have never accepted the Durand Line, demarcated by the colonial masters, between Afghanistan and British India.
Time and again, Pakhtun nationalists have demanded the border should be abolished. Named after Sir Mortimer Durand, the foreign secretary of the British Indian government, the border was aimed at disuniting the Pakhtun people whom the British colonisers feared.
Only recently former NWFP governor Khalilur Rahman said the Durand Line agreement had expired in 1993.
He said: “The Durand Line agreement, signed in 1893, was for 100 years and he had asked President General Pervez Musharraf to talk to the Afghan government for extending the agreement.”
The sealing of the Durand Line would not only divide 15 million Afghan Pakhtuns and 28 million Pakistani Pakhtuns but would also convert the soft border into a strictly regulated border.
The sealing of the border would be against the Treaty of Gandamak signed on May 26, 1879 between British India and the then Afghan ruler. The treaty guarantees free movement of people living on both sides of the border.

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