Fencing the western frontier

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Putting a spanner in the works on the fencing of the Afghan border by some elements is quite unfortunate. The fact that this obstruction has come under Taliban rule makes it more worrisome. The porous 2,600-kilometre Pakistan-Afghanistan border is one of the least militarised, yet it is most contentious. Assumptions from historic discord have made it irksome, and the imperial Durand Line haunts the psyche of Afghans, especially. But the good point is that political harmony and commonality of wavelength between Kabul and Islamabad has prevented the fissure of disruption from blowing out of proportion, and it is hoped that it would be addressed in a congenial manner.

Reports say as the Extraordinary OIC Foreign Ministers’ conference on Afghanistan was underway in Islamabad, social media was abuzz with video clips showing some Taliban soldiers trying to disrupt the fencing along the eastern province of Nangarhar. The fencing is part of the mechanism to make the border more orderly and prevent undesired free flow of men and material. This is more important in the wake of war on terrorism, and the backlash of terrorist outfits which continue to operate with impunity on both sides of the divide. Pakistani officials claim that 90 percent of the border is now fenced, making the western frontier a relatively serene outpost.

The Nangarhar incident has come close on the heels of a similar clash of Taliban with the Iranian armed forces, over some confusion of legitimacy issues on their respective borders. This indicates that the Taliban, though not a regular army of Afghanistan, are not well-versed in many of the established norms of state business, and are in a learning process of their own. This assumption obviously scales down the intensity of conflict, and this is where confidence building measures should set in.

The good point is that Pakistan and Iran are in talks with Taliban leadership, and it is hoped that such incidents would be off the board. Fencing of the Afghan-Pakistan border with latest gadgets of technology is a tribute to Pakistan’s armed forces, who have manned the world’s most sensitive frontiers with extreme patience. Let fencing become a de jure border in the annals of history.

 

Published in The Express Tribune, December 27th, 2021.

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