Thousands of Afghan villagers along the Durand Line have received a national identity card from Pakistan, all though they hold valid Afghan tazkira (national id card). Pakistan is alleged to have issued national identity cards in the Af-Pak border villages – which were the site of fierce battles between Afghanistan and Pakistan over their territorial dispute. Last week, a reliable Afghan news wire published a news article which reads “Luqman and Jahangir villages, in the Spin Boldak district of southern Kandahar province near the Durand Line have been issued Pakistani identity cards.”
Pakistan earlier initiated a census study in the surrounding areas of Luqman and Jahangir villages and claimed the two as their territory. When Afghan security forces attempted to stop them, it escalated into fierce battles. The Provincial government in Afghanistan is believed to have started probing the case. An official from the Kandahar governor’s office told the media that apart from Kandahar, few localities of Helmand, Uruzgan, and many other provinces might be holding Pakistani identity cards as they were refugees and now commute between Pakistan and Afghanistan. Similar incidents are reported in Khost and Nangarhar provinces- where villagers have Pakistani ID cards in addition to their Afghan tazkira.
Pakistan’s fencing along the border has severely affected the residents on both sides of the Durand Line. Pakistan has almost fenced the whole of its disputed 2,670-kilometer border with Afghanistan. According to the DG ISPR of Pakistan, 94 percent of fencing is complete. Last year Pakistan set up 67 new wings of Frontier Corps Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa to ensure strict border policing. Pakistan will further establish 6 more wings.
Since the process of fencing which started almost five years back, jobs have disappeared from the bordering areas. In Nangarhar, small and medium-sized businesses are dying without the ease of cross-border trade. The Pushtun are separated by the fencing along the Durand Line. The Pashtun tribes living in the borderlands were exempt from the visa requirement following the treaties Kabul and Pashtun tribes made with the British Raj much before the partition in 1947. Just a year before starting fencing along the border, Islamabad made visas mandatory for all Afghans entering Pakistan.
The Durand Line, the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan is named after a British colonel from the 1890s. Albeit Pakistan and the international community recognize the Durand Line, Afghanistan has always denied to accept it formally. According to the Afghans, it was forcefully imposed on suzerain Afghan kings who had the blessings of the British.
Most recently, videos were viral on social media which showed the Taliban uprooted a part of the fence along the Pak-Afghan border, demanding that the fencing had demarcated and forcefully occupied Afghan territory. Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi and Afghan Foreign Ministry spokesman Abdul Qahar Balkhi have spoken to resolve the issue. There are also serious allegations that Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan is operating from Afghanistan. It has become a massive security threat to Pakistan.
Pakistan’s NSA Moeed Yusuf had to cancel his visit to Kabul on Jan 18, following a massive protest at the Kabul airport. On January 29, NSA Moeed Yusuf met with Deputy Prime Minister Abdul Salaam Hanafi and Foreign Minister Amir Khan Motaqi in Kabul. The two sides discussed trade, transit and connectivity. The Durand Line crisis was also on agenda. Despite Islamabad having an upper hand in the Taliban’s cabinet, the Taliban-led government, however, is not recognized by Pakistan.
Why Pakistan has been issuing the id card is not clear yet. By issuing citizenship to Afghan nationals across the Durand border, Pakistan may bring a demographic change to the territory. Pakistan’s act of forcefully issuing id cards to Afghan nationals is not just an authoritarian move but it raises questions on Afghan sovereignty. This incident occurs at a time when Afghanistan is severely suffering from a slew of challenges and relying much on Pakistan to get out of the trauma.
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