Tension at Pak-Afghan border


Mohammad Jamil

THERE is no doubt that escalation of tension at Pak-Afghan border is deliberately engineered by the elements opposed to peace talks and improvement of bilateral relations between Pakistan and Afghanistan. Nevertheless, Pakistan is committed to tackle the problem of terrorism emanating from Afghanistan and elsewhere; hence, the effective border management becomes imperative to stop infiltrations and drug smuggling, etc. Both countries would come out of blame game with effective border management, as both sides would be able to counter the free movement of terrorists and drug mafia lords, who are important factors in deteriorating security situation in Afghanistan and its obvious backlash on Pakistan. Despite its slow pace and interruptions, Afghan Peace and Reconciliation process is a reality. The positive trajectory of constructive relations between Pakistan and Afghanistan last year raised alarms bells amongst the adversaries, who were trying to damage the Pak-Afghan relations through sinister scheming.
Therefore, it is imperative for both the countries to develop a framework for strategic dialogue, focused on short, medium and long term solutions. As a trust building initiative, an effective border management mechanism will be beneficial for both countries. Moreover, this would plug in many loopholes exploited by terrorists to conduct cross-border terrorism. In June 2016, Afghan border security force had opened unprovoked firing at Torkham border where Pakistan LEA’s were building a check-post for better border management. This attack from Afghanistan was continuation of hostile posture of security institutions of Afghan Government to thwart Pakistan’s efforts to check the movement of militants across Pak-Afghan border. Afghan leaders continue to propagate against Pakistan with regard to alleged presence of Afghan Taliban on its territory, but they are not ready to cooperate for better border security mechanism to tackle the militants more effectively.
Unless a foolproof border security management is made the terrorists will remain a source of concern for both the countries. Hence, international community must pressurize Afghan Government to cooperate with Pakistan on critical border management and security issues. It is matter of record that post 9/11 attacks, USA had introduced strict immigration laws and improved border management to ensure homeland security in the wake of terrorist threats. A largely free international society, European Union also followed suit, and its member states took measures to check the free movement of people to counter terrorist threats. Many such measures were in fact a source of embarrassment for the international travelers from Muslim countries; and despite unprecedented criticism against these rules, the laws were enacted.

They should persuade Afghan government not to create hurdles in Pakistan’s efforts to secure borders, which is in the interest of Pakistan and Afghanistan.
Pakistan has rendered many sacrifices in the past; for one when it stood by the Afghans in Afghan Jihad against the former USSR and hosted record number of over 3 million refugees. Afghan citizens are allowed to avail medical and education facilities in Pakistan at par with the Pakistani Citizens. Pakistan has funded different educational institutions inside Afghanistan such as Allama Iqbal Faculty of Arts-Kabul University, Sir Syed Post Graduate Faculty of Sciences-Nangarhar University, Liaquat Ali Khan Engineering University-Bulkh, Rahman Baba School-Kabul and Rahman Baba Hostel in Kabul. Pakistan has helped Afghan government in developmental projects and roads infrastructure in Afghanistan. The construction of roads include 75 kilometers Torkham-Jalalabad road, additional carriage way on Torkham-Jalalabad road, three internal roads in Jalalabad, digital radio link between Kabul and Peshawar.
In addition, Pakistan has also given around 100 public transport buses and 200 trucks to the government of Afghanistan for welfare of Afghan public. Pakistan is hosting more than three million Afghan refugees. It is more than three and a half decades now that Afghan refugees are living in Pakistan, and among them there are criminals who are responsible for deteriorating law and order situation of the country. There is a widespread perception that they have become a security risk, as it is difficult to separate extremist elements that live in disguise of refugees. It is high time that they are sent back, as nation wants them to leave country immediately. Since Pakistan joined war on terror, Pakistan suffered heavily in men and material; yet Afghan govt continued to blame Pakistan for any terror act in Afghanistan.
Last year, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) had requested Pakistan to review its December 31, 2015 deadline for the repatriation of Afghan refugees from the country. Officially, the year 2015 had marked the end of the agreement that Pakistan had with Afghanistan and the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR). Pakistan Foreign Office had said that it would like that the UNHCR and international community help the Afghan government in creating necessary environment inside Afghanistan so that these people can return. It has to be mentioned that they are depriving local people of jobs and business opportunities, as many of them are in business and are among the richest people in Islamabad and other parts of Pakistan. In the past, Pakistan had repeatedly extended several deadlines it had fixed for the return of the refugees at the request of Kabul and UNHCR. The last deadline had expired in December 2015; however, it has been twice extended first till June 30, 2016 and then December 31, 2016 on the request of Afghan government and UNHCR.
Pakistan has been trying to help Afghanistan in the peace process, using whatever little influence it had over the Taliban, but Afghan governments have been ungrateful in the sense that they always blamed Pakistan for unrest or any terror attack in Afghanistan. In this backdrop, the government should not extend any more date or give a new timeframe, but ask the UNHCR to make arrangements to repatriate the Afghan Refugees immediately. Apart from the refugee problem, movement of Afghan and Pakistani nationals crossing the Torkhum border without documents is fraught with dangers, as many terrorist and extremist elements can cause enormous damage not only to Pakistan and Afghanistan but also to the relations between the two friendly countries. Therefore border management is the only way to check movements of undesirable elements, and also to have better relations between Afghanistan and Pakistan.