Durand Line is the root of the AfPak conflict

Posted on | juni 15, 2011 | 14 Comments

The killing of Osama bin Laden in a Pakistan compound was a major success for the US. It may make the commitment for the troop withdrawal easier, but will have no significant effect on the Afghan problem. I had written this piece during the very hours when the operation in Abbottabad was still going on. When I completed it, the news came that the Terrorist No. 1 was gone. A few days later I lost my previous blog so I could not put this online. The second development is that President Karzai is again in Pakistan and both countries have again ‘agreed on a joint commission.’ It is now clear that neither the government in Pakistan nor the one in Afghanistan is willing to fight against terrorism or work for improvement. Both are fraud and corrupt and both are rejected by the people. Furthermore, after using the 10 years’ war for their corruption and money earning, the officials and their networks are now extra busy earning money from selling the deceiving words of peace, reconciliation and reintegration.

These networks have been working under different groups, their main tactic is that they have found some former and ‘reconciled’ Taliban commanders and fighters, and have contacts in the foreign embassies and countries. And when they talk about peace and reconciliation, they create unrealistic and imaginary situations like telling that once the Taliban come for reconciliation, Afghanistan will become an overnight paradise. ‘They are not the Taliban that were 10 years ago. Now they are very moderate, very understanding, and now they respect human rights and democracy,’ these so-called peace-seekers tell their Western audience. But 10 minutes later they hear that a 12-year old suicide bomber has killed more than 20 innocent people and a woman is publicly stoned.

My point is that extremism is the main problem in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Instead of wasting time on reconciliations and peace-talks, which I believe are false and useless, both the countries should put their energies in combating extremism, promoting democracy and civil society, and awareness and education. At the same time the international community needs to work on the long time, trouble-making, problems such as the Durand Line. And following is what I had written about it.

Recently some Afghan and Pashtun intellectuals and nationalists gathered in London and revived their commitment to a cause that has played deep role in the decades long Afghan conundrum. The cause is to denounce the controversial Durand Line and campaign for a united Afghanistan. Messages of Mahmood Khan Achakzai and Afzal Khan Lala, two prominent Pashtun leaders, were read to the gathering. The gathering was arranged by Durand Jirga, a small group based in London. ‘Jirga’ is the traditional Afghan gathering of elders to resolve national and tribal issues.

This meeting took place just a week after Pakistani Prime Minister Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani along with other high level military and civilian officials visited Kabul and reportedly told President Karzai that he ‘should forget about allowing a long term U.S. presence in his country’ and that ‘the Americans had failed them both.’

It is clear that Pakistan is more concerned about a stable Afghanistan than the long term U.S. presence. Pakistan’s support to Taliban and other insurgent groups is no longer a secret. The U.S. authorities, according to latest Wikileaks leaks, even listed the country’s spy agency as a terrorist group. However, little is said about the motivation for Pakistan’s support to Taliban and other insurgent groups as well as former Mujahedeen who first fought against the Soviet invasion and after the Soviet withdrawal got engaged in a civil war that further destabilized Afghanistan and paved the way for international terrorist networks to gain strength and get organized in the scattered kingdoms of jihadi warlords.

From the support to former Mujahedeen to supporting the current Taliban all Pakistan wanted was to destabilize Afghanistan. Remember that Pakistan had started supporting Mujahedeen before the Soviet invasion in order to counter President Daud’s claim for Pashtunistan. And the Pashtunistan idea was based on the Durand Line which is, in the view of nearly all Afghans, an illegitimate and unacceptable border that has divided the Pashtuns in four different administrations: Afghanistan, Pakistan’s North West Frontier Province now called Khyber Pashtunkhwa, Baluchistan, and the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA).

Even Afghan warlords who were completely in the midst of a chaotic anarchy and entirely dependent on other countries’ support refused to accept Durand Line as a legitimate border or further divide Afghanistan. According to Ahmad Rashid: In 1988-1989, the KGB tried hard to convince General Abdul Rashid Dustam to create a buffer state. He refused. In the 1980s, and again in the 1990s, Iran tried to persuade its Shia and Hazara protégée to create a Shia corridor linking western and central Afghanistan with Iran. They refused. In the mid-1990s some of Tajikistan’s leaders tried, and failed, to persuade Ahmad Shah Massoud to build a Greater Tajikistan. In 1996, Pakistan’s ISI suggested the Taliban create their own state in the south. They refused.

Similarly, from Zahir Shah to Hamid Karzai, none of the Afghan leaders has ever accepted the Durand Line. And any such attempt is most likely to face strong resistance from all sides, including the Taliban. The American Institute of Afghanistan introduced a lengthy report after its conference on Durand Line in July 2007 titled: The Durand Line: History, Consequences, and Future. ‘No Afghan government ever accepted the Durand Line as an international border. This refusal has continued for more than a century under regimes of all political stripes, some of which called for the reincorporation of the territory into Afghanistan or the creation of a new state of Pashtunistan,’ wrote the report.

On the Pakistani side, at least three Pashtun nationalist political parties, including Awami National Party led by Asfand Yar Wali Khan, grandson of Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan aka Bacha Khan who was a staunch supporter of Pashtunistan, have publicly rejected the Durand Line as a border. Awami National Party now rules the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province. Mahmood Khan Achakzai’s Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party has a strong following in Baluchistan and some areas of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. Followers of this party never identify themselves as Pakistanis, rather they introduce themselves as Afghans and their homeland as part of Afghanistan.

Fayeq Khan, one speaker of the gathering in London, who is affiliated with this party, called the Durand Line a ‘Black Line,’ and told the audience that ‘unless Kabul and Kandahar are honoured, you will never be honoured, O Peshawaris,’ referring to the people of Peshawar, center of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

‘Our Afghan land has everything, but our enemy is determined to destroy it. Our children are being killed in Mohmand Agency, our elders are being assassinated in Helmand province, our people are being massacred everywhere in our Afghan land,’ he added. His entire speech was in Pashto, but when he came to the point to talk about Pakistan, he switched to English and bluntly said: ‘Pakistan has occupied 124000 square miles of our land. And by Pakistan we mean Punjab.’

The third, a small but relatively popular, party is Afzal Khan Lala’s Da Pakhtun/Afghan Qawmi Wahdat (The Pashtun/Afghan National Unification). Afzal Khan Lala is based in Swat Valley, a militancy affected Pashtun area, was once a federal minister in Pakistan, and has been campaigning for the reunification of Pashtuns with Afghanistan by removing the Durand Line. In several conferences on this issue, I have heard him saying that if the Germans could demolish the Berlin Wall, the Pashtuns and Afghans also can destroy the Durand Line.

Historically, the Durand Line was disputed from the very day it was established. The Durand Line agreement was entered into by the Afghan emir Abdul Rahman Khan and Foreign Secretary of the colonial government of the British India, Sir Mortimer Durand, in 1893. Majority of the Afghans and Pashtuns think the agreement was forced on the emir. Afghans and Pashtuns who think it was voluntary label him as a ‘puppet.’ In both cases they are not ready to accept it. When the British left the region, and Pakistan was created, the Durand Line remained in place and the area came under the control of Pakistan. The Afghan government and the Pashtun leader Bacha Khan refused to accept this. That was the beginning of the tension between Pakistan and Afghanistan and continues to be the cause of tension till this day.

The Durand Line is a sensitive issue both in Afghanistan and Pakistan. In Afghanistan nobody is ready to speak in favour of it. In Pakistan, anyone who speaks against the Durand Line is labeled as traitor. Bacha Khan had spent a big part of his life in Pakistani prisons under this label.

But one thing is important to note. The Pakistani attitude to impose the Durand Line as a fact is mainly military. Pashtun nationalists who opposed and condemned this border were put in jails in the past. During the later decades, Pakistan has mainly used Islam and jihadists to destabilize Afghanistan and suppress the Durand Line issue. On the contrary, the hate for the Durand Line has become a part of the Afghan being, the Afghanism, and a big part of Pashto poetry revolves around this. Interestingly, the decades long war and chaos in Afghanistan has never discouraged the Pashtun nationalists in Pakistan to stop their campaign for reunification with Afghanistan. This poem, which has become folklore, was from a Pashtun poet on the Pakistani side: ‘The Khyber Pass is our travelling route; the Afghan is one in Kabul and Peshawar.’

So to understand the current conflict in the AfPak region, it is necessary to understand the root cause which is the Durand Line. The Pakistani establishment has this obsession that a stable and strong Afghanistan will enable it to raise the issue of the Durand Line or Pashtunistan again. They don’t want to see another Sardar Daud Khan and for this reason they are willing to support any group that can destabilize Afghanistan.

As is suggested to resolve the Kashmir issue for peace between India and Pakistan, it is equally important to resolve the Durand Line issue for peace between Afghanistan and Pakistan. Unless this issue is resolved, Pakistan will continue to destabilize Afghanistan by any means no matter whoever rules the country. A withdrawal of the international community from Afghanistan without resolving this problem can further intensify the conflict and strengthen extremism in the region. However, if a solution is worked out, it can significantly increase the chances of a final solution of the ongoing war.

AUTHOR: Hadi Hairan
URL: http://www.hadihairan.com
E-MAIL: ahhairan [at] gmail.com


14 Responses to “Durand Line is the root of the AfPak conflict”

  1. Tom
    juni 15th, 2011 @ 16:10

    Merge Pakistan and Afghanistan into one country.

  2. Editor Rupee News
    juni 15th, 2011 @ 21:08

    The names you mention are irrelevant to any discussion. The couldn’t win the seat they were sitting on.

    Pakistanis and Afghans have voted with their boots and guns.

    Afghanistan was an artificial state put together by the th colonialist as a buffer between the British Empire and Tsarist Russia in 1893. Before that no such country existed

    It is a hodge-podge mixture of Pakhtuns, Tajiks, Hazara, Shia, Sunni, Uzbeks, Darris, and others with no loyalty to Kabul.

    As the Americans withdraw from the land between the Indus and the Oxus, this rump land will hurtle back towards its inevitable union with the 5000 year old civilization that existed on the banks of the Indus–today known as Pakistan.


    Erase the Durand Line–from Karachi to Kabul, from Karakorum to Kandhar–one country which was formerly known as Khorasan.


    BTW: The “A” in Pakistan stands for “Afghania”.

  3. Gulap
    juni 16th, 2011 @ 00:13

    Do you think US and allied forces really want to resolve the world issues? They loves chaos, they create chaos . . . it works very well for them :)

  4. nazarrabi
    juni 16th, 2011 @ 19:30

    nice story long live pashto

  5. jamal Nasir
    juni 17th, 2011 @ 13:43

    I think the Pakistani pathans believe in the Federation of Pakistan.And they will be more happy if Afghan Pathans wanna merge in Pakistan as a new province.

  6. Chris Higgins
    juli 5th, 2011 @ 11:04

    Pakistani Military on the Wrong Border

    Pakistani Military on the Wrong Border

    For years, instability and militancy in Pakistan’s Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) have threatened not only Pakistan’s internal security, but also stability in Afghanistan. The situation in Pakistan’s tribal territories has become a growing concern, with coalition troop withdrawal approaching and transition of security to Afghan forces slowly gaining momentum. Current Pakistani military efforts to combat militancy in the FATA have been very weak, as indicated in early June in South Waziristan, where 150 militants seemingly effortlessly attacked a Pakistani security check post.

    Pakistan must step up its military efforts and improve security in FATA. As this article argues, the strength of militancy in the tribal belt is largely due to insufficient Pakistani troop presence there, due to the deployment of Pakistani troops on the India border at the expense of sufficient troop strength at its western border. As so often is the case in Pakistan’s history, an important Pakistani interest is being held hostage by the country’s difficult relationship with India. The India-Pakistan rivalry is diverting Pakistan’s military resources, undermining the country’s stability and its chances for economic development.

    The latest chapter in Pakistan’s troop deployment began with the 2008 Mumbai attacks, which deteriorated India-Pakistan relations just as they had begun to show very shy first signs of détente after the departure of President Pervez Musharraf. The Mumbai attacks were conducted by Lashkar-e-Taiba agents with close connections to Pakistan’s Inter Services Intelligence (ISI). The resulting outrage in India and internationally led the Pakistani government to fear that the Indian government would retaliate with a ground attack across the border. These fears prompted the Pakistani government to move about 20,000 ground troops fighting militants in the tribal areas to the Indian border. With these troops gone, extremist groups gained freedom to maneuver, expanding their influence and ability to wage attacks on both sides of the Durand Line.

    In April 2010, almost one-and-a-half years after the Mumbai attacks, Pakistan finally began moving about 10,000 troops back to the Afghan border. While this may have signaled the Pakistan government’s commitment and desperate need to solve the domestic insurgent threat, the violence of the past months indicates that it may be too little too late for success in FATA.

    Impact of Pakistani Military Operations in FATA

    In his April 2011 bi-annual report on Afghanistan, President Barack Obama highlighted the ineffectiveness of Pakistan’s military in FATA. The report stated that the 147,000 Pakistani troops involved have been unsuccessful fighting the tribal belt militants and that the Pakistani government needs to commit more resources to FATA.

    A closer look at the impact of recent Pakistani military operations in the region, particularly North Waziristan, demonstrates the price Pakistan has paid for diverting its resources to the Indian border.
    Over the past few years, the military cleared some tribal agencies of militants in FATA only to lose the territory shortly after, due to the lack of troop strength.

    In early 2010, the Pakistani military claimed they had cleared Mohmand Agency in FATA. These claims were undermined by Taliban-led attacks in the agency as early as July 2010, which killed over 100 civilians. The Taliban once again controlled the Mohmand agency in 2011, which forced the Pakistan military to again conduct major operations there in February 2011. These operations displaced 25,000 people.

    In June 2011, the Pakistani military claimed that Orakzai Agency was clear of extremist militants after hundreds were killed. However, the history of military claims in Mohmand Agency raises doubts that this claim is true. Orakzai Agency had only recently become home to insurgent group – groups that fled there when the Pakistan military launched operations against militants in South Waziristan.

    The conclusion is clear: even if the Pakistani Military clears a tribal agency of extremists groups, it is merely a matter of time until the militants regain power in a neighboring agency. There are simply not enough troops to secure the entire FATA region. The movement of insurgent groups in FATA from one agency to another proves that the Pakistani military is unable to maintain any security in the seven tribal territories as a whole. This demonstrates that the Pakistani military needs to use a holistic approach to the tribal territories and increase overall military strength there.

    Lack of Financial Resources for FATA Operations

    The Pakistani government’s concern over India’s intentions has not only diverted troops to their shared border – it has also tied up major financial resources related to that troop deployment. In 2009, Islamabad continued to ignore warnings from the World Bank that the millions of dollars being spent on maintaining troops on the border threatened Islamabad’s economic capability. In this context, it is worthwhile pointing out that troop expenses and additional services that the Pakistani military gives to the families of soldiers deployed along the Indo-Pakistani border has directly drained financing for military operations in FATA. The World Bank also noted that an improved relationship with New Delhi would boost economic prosperity.

    Recent developments have confirmed that the World Bank’s warnings were accurate. In January 2011, as the Pakistan military was preparing for military operations in the insurgent hotbed of North Waziristan, the Federal Finance Ministry stated that Pakistan’s struggling economy could not handle any more substantial military operations. This further delayed the crucial military operations in North Waziristan, one of the most dangerous and unstable regions in Pakistan. Instead, the money meant for operations in North Waziristan went to stationing Pakistani troops and resources on the Indian border.

    In March 2011, the Pakistani military deployed around 20,000 troops to North Waziristan in preparation for military engagement. Ironically, the number of troops was the exact same amount of troops moved from the tribal territories to the Indian border in 2008 after the Mumbai attacks. Even so, Islamabad leaders continued their claims that they would not make a decision on the operations, due to lack of resources. It is not surprising that the Obama administration’s bi-annual report on Afghanistan in April 2011 concluded that Pakistan’s economic situation poses the country’s greatest short-term threat to its stability.

    Overall Effect of Troop Redeployment

    Pakistan’s inability to clear FATA of insurgents has only led to increased speculation over the ISI’s involvement with the Haqqani Network in North Waziristan. Although it is difficult to determine the exact extent that Pakistan’s troop redeployment had on the Pakistani government’s ability to take control of FATA, it is clear that the move crippled the country’s ability to combat the extremist insurgent groups on their western frontier.

    Moving forward, it will be very important that leaders in Pakistan and Afghanistan come to terms with a role for India in Afghanistan that takes into account the legitimate strategic interest of both countries. Such an understanding will first and foremost have to be found between Afghan and Pakistani leaders. If achieved, this may also lead to more detente in the troubled relationship between Pakistan and India.

    By Brad L Brasseur

  7. NewLine
    juli 11th, 2011 @ 20:55

    How can Afghans, merge into their enemy? Live along with animals? Afghan means Pashtun so how can they merge out of Afghanistan? This theory against logic!

  8. kakar
    juli 25th, 2012 @ 19:17

    pakistan means panjabistan and panjbistan will never get durand line for some pashtuns who call them self pakistani it means they sold there soul there mother father history to a tribes of sikhs panjabis what happens to your fathers pride im pattaan what doese it mean find out pattan man long live bacha khan fakher afghan he is gon but his children are alive and well soon his dream will come true

  9. kakar
    juli 25th, 2012 @ 19:23

    pakistan is a faild state in few years time will be gon and some of pakhtunkhwa real children are waking up day by day if you pashtun your afghan your child or son of khushal khan khatack hamza baba ahmd sha baba meer wais khan neeka and bacha khan fakher afghan,ETC no to qaidazam he is father of panjabis im pashtun if i call my slef pakistani accept the state of pakistan it means i giv up my history 500 years my pride khushal khan khatack he always been afghan and bacha khan and i can never replace my great hero to a qaidazam father of panjabis long live children of ahmd sha durani khushal khan khatack

  10. kakar
    juli 25th, 2012 @ 19:25

    pakistan never alow pashtuns to study in there pashtu language or learn anything becous pashtu and pashtuns poetry is the main thing in every life of pashtun but thoes who stutied a bit of pashtu they call them self afghan blood but they been forced to be called pakistani but those who been forced to study panjabistani education they call them self pakistani be couse they not aware of there language culture or history

  11. kakar
    juli 25th, 2012 @ 19:26

    long live awami national party rise up and free ur self from pakistan

  12. saif khan afridi from uk
    november 20th, 2012 @ 15:42

    hisoke na she kawaliy che pa resmi togha durand line karkha oupejane ou zama pa nazr har agha soke che waiy zanta pakhtun bia hum zan pakistane ghare pakhtun na de agha ka da khyber pakhtunkhwa da semiy hum we pakhtun na de
    Saif khan Afridi England uk

  13. saif khan afridi from uk
    november 20th, 2012 @ 15:50

    da khyber dara khu lar da tlo da
    pa kabul ou pekhawar ki afghan yo de

    pokhtanoo weikh shiy da khuba pasaiy da khpal
    ratloonke nasal pa khatir da khpal haq pokhtana
    oukre ou da punjabi sara da duran line che moung warta toora karkha waiyo khabare oukiy
    ou da hum pa khatir ki ousatiy che moung la bal
    ahmad shah baba na razi ou na sardar daoud
    long live pashtunistan lar ou bar yo afghan yo

  14. saif khan afridi from uk
    november 20th, 2012 @ 15:55


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