Afghanistan and Pakistan have engaged in a military brawl at the Torkham border crossing between the two countries.
In the skirmish, Pakistan lost several soldiers, including a high-ranking officer, possibly a general. On the Afghan, side three enlisted men lost their lives. The senseless confrontation instigated the closure of this extremely busy border crossing for several days.
It is unclear who started the quarrel. Both countries accuse one another for having initiated the argument. The cause for the disagreement was a structure Pakistan had begun constructing on its side of the border. According to Pakistan, the facility was meant to better control the large flow of people crossing the border.
Since Pakistan’s birth as a sovereign state in 1947, Afghanistan has refused to recognize the border separating the two countries. That was the reason Afghanistan reacted sharply, accusing Pakistan of wanting to substantiate its assertion that the present border, the so-called Durand Line, is the definitive border between the two countries.
Afghanistan rejects the Durand Line, claiming as its own certain areas presently on the Pakistani side of the border.
The Durand Line is the 1,510-mile border between Afghanistan and Pakistan. It is named after Sir Henry Mortimer Durand, British diplomat for colonial British India. The border was established after the Second Anglo-Afghan War of 1878-1880. After having suffered a devastating defeat during the First Anglo-Afghan war of 1839-1842, the Second Anglo-Afghan War ended in a resounding British victory.
The war between the two countries was terminated by signing the Treaty of Gandomak on May 26, 1879. However, the British army only left Afghanistan in 1880, having been kept busy inside Afghanistan by several rebellions which anger had sparked off over the enormous territorial losses the Treaty of Gandomak imposed on Afghanistan.
The Durand Line extended British India’s territory to the Khyber, incorporating an area that became the North West Frontier Province — now called Khyber Pakhtunkha — when Pakistan separated from India in the mid-Twentieth Century. The Gandomak Treaty also obligated Afghanistan to give up a part of its possessions in Baluchistan, including the city of Quetta.
Amir Abdur Rahman, Afghanistan’s ruler at the time, accepted the Treaty of Gandomak in return for British recognition of his claim to the Afghan throne and the payment of large monetary subsidies.
The Durand Line agreement itself was signed on November 12, 1893. Its seven articles delineated the spheres of interest of Afghanistan and British India. It also aimed at improving commerce and diplomatic relations between the two countries.
In view of Afghanistan’s repeated insistence on renegotiating the Durand Line, we could look at this agreement in three ways:
- First, we could consider the Treaty of Gandomak and the resulting Durand Line as an unjust settlement that a powerful colonial empire imposed upon a weak princely state.
- Second, we may believe a power-hungry and greedy potentate succumbed to his weaknesses and pillaged his nation’s assets for his own personal gain.
- Finally, we could agree that it was a pragmatic solution to a festering problem between the two neighboring countries.
Today, it really doesn’t matter what happened 123 years ago.
What matters today is that the agreement was agreed to and signed by both parties. Furthermore, the Durand Line was, with minor modifications, reconfirmed after the Third Anglo-Afghan War by the Treaty of Rawalpindi in 1919.
After India’s partition in 1947, Pakistan inherited the Durand Line. There has never been a formal agreement on the Durand Line between Afghanistan and Pakistan. The latter relies on international conventions. Citing uti possidetis juris, Pakistan holds that agreements passed on to successor states remain valid and do not need to be renegotiated.
Besides, over the past decades, the international community has left no doubt that it considers the Durand Line the legal border between Afghanistan and Pakistan.
So, what is the basis for Afghanistan’s claim on the land it lost during the Second Anglo-Afghan War?
Legally, it appears, Afghanistan has no basis to renegotiate the Durand Line. Politically, it seems highly unlikely that the international community would be inclined to support Afghanistan’s claim for adjustment of the Pakistani-Afghan border.
The only possibility available to Afghanistan remains force. However, Afghanistan is financially broke and physically ruined. It neither could — nor should —w age war against any of its neighbors.
As far as Afghanistan’s finances are concerned, the country’s donors are already greatly frustrated by the Afghan government’s wretched corruption, its inability to create a performing economy, and its failure to set up, at least marginally, a functioning administration.
Politically, it seems sheer stupidity to expect the international community to assist Afghanistan to gain the land it lost 123 years ago in a treaty it agreed to and signed—not ones but twice, first in 1893 and then again in 1919.
Before creating enmity with Pakistan, the Afghan government should realize that its provocations are meaningless and the resulting border closures are hurting the Afghan people and damaging their country’s economy.
Similarly, it should not forget that there are about three million Afghan refugees in Pakistan. Those inane rhetorical blusters, coming out of Kabul, heighten the level of dislike among the Pakistani people for the Afghan refugees, setting off violent excesses toward the hapless refugees.
Furthermore, the Afghan government should keep in mind that every day thousands of Afghans cross into Pakistan where they receive medical treatment that is unavailable to them in their own country. Many others cross the border to visit relatives in Pakistan.
These border closures also have grave economic consequences. Hundreds, if not thousands, of trucks, loaded with goods, cross the border in both directions. At this time of the year, Afghan traders ship fresh fruits and vegetables overland to Pakistan. Border closures, even it’s for a few days, cause the goods to perish. There is no insurance that would reimburse traders losses. For many of them these losses mean complete financial ruin.
Instead of wasting time and energy on a hopelessly lost cause — a cause that in reality doesn’t exist as it is in any sense of the word a closed matter — the Afghan government should concentrate on the many solemn promises it has made to its financial supporters and the Afghan people. Two years before, it pledged to improve the county’s lawlessness, corruption, and economy.
It has done none of that. It has failed to prosecute former and present government officials who have committed grave acts of theft and corruption. The infamous case of the Kabul Bank remains unresolved. The multi-billion-dollar robbery by officials of the ministry of urban development and housing remains enveloped in silence.
Perhaps most importantly, neither the unity government nor the parliament enjoy the slightest legality and legitimacy.
I call upon Afghanistan’s financial backers to remember this when they decide keeping this government funded. I am not suggesting that Afghanistan be denied financial support. I urge the donors to think whom they give money to and how they control its disbursement.
I also propose that NATO look carefully how the spoils it bestows onto the Afghan National Security Force is being used and who profits from them personally.
The indifference Afghanistan’s financial backers have displayed in the past has been one element that has led to the corruption in Afghanistan, a debilitating decease that, if not treated, could lead to civil war and/or victory for the insurgents.
I believe that up to now Afghanistan’s financial supporters have let down both the Afghan people for whose benefit the funds were earmarked and the donor-country’s taxpayers whose money was being wasted.
has maintained homes, business interests and dual citizenship in both the United States and Afghanistan for the past three decades. To read more of his work, CLICK HERE NOW.
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