Written by: Noman Hossain, a freelance journalist
Years of Pakistan’s hostility towards its border areas with Afghanistan has resulted into a security quagmire for both the countries. At the heart of dispute are Pak actions aimed at forcefully getting its position on Durand line validated by the Taliban regime. The government and army leadership of Pakistan which had perceived the Taliban to be subservient to their strategic interests has gone through a reality check during the past two years. The vision of forcing new Afghan administration to accept its position on contentious Durand line has also been blurred by the regular scuffles along the border. After the transition of power in 2021, the lives of ordinary tribals living along border areas has been in misery due to frequent incidents of firing and violation of Afghan airspace by the Pak security forces. Unilateral establishment of fences and border posts along the disputed border have also been used widely to target the tribals and hamper their movement. The fencing has been quite painful for the closely knit Pashtun and Balochi tribal communities living on both sides of the border, including their agricultural land, traditional trade and movement of labour.
The tribals, especially Pashtuns living in hilly areas on both sides face constant ire of the Pak army which claims to be working to counter terrorism on international border. For more than a year now, Afghanistan has been lodging official protests with Pakistan over the issue of firing, airspace violation and other hostile activities of Pak forces. In June 2023, the Afghan Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA) had reportedly protested Pak firing on Afghan workers engaged in road construction in Gurbaz district of Khost province. During the same month, Afghan Defence Minister Mohammed Yagoob Mujahid reiterated his country’s long held position on Durand line by calling it a ‘fake line’. However, despite highlighting several instances of border violations and unilaterally erecting illegal military installations, Kabul failed to make Islamabad understand its concerns. The Pak security forces continued with the excesses through fencing, military installations apart from firing and pushing drones into Paktika, Paktia and Nangarhar provinces of Afghanistan.
Harsh actions of Pak forces however, have not been without reaction from Taliban. The offensive operations carried out by the Pak forces have started meeting effective counter from them. Overtime, the resistance has taken the form of retaliation which is wide in scale and reach. The attacks inside Pakistan by Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) are also considered to be a manifestation of Pakistan’s failed policy for tribal areas. During the past two years, a spike is observed in TTP attacks in the tribal districts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan. While the TTP’s action initially appeared concentrated in the Pashtun belt of north Balochistan, it later on seemed to be reaching the Baloch-dominated parts of the province (central and south Balochistan). Apart from it, a few attacks were also reported from Sindh and Punjab. Several security analysts point at some understanding between the TTP, Baloch insurgents and the religious militant groups in the former tribal regions.
The developments are likely to muddle the situation further for Pakistan and its military leadership. Of late, the Taliban leaders have been seen issuing provocative statements about Pakistan and its operations. Though many of these statements are not official, their challenging tone is quite clear now. While portraying itself as a victim of terrorism in front of global eyes, Pakistan attempted to establish tactical control over Kabul through the Durand issue. This pursuit of strategic dominance has however led it to a quandary of violence which is rapidly expanding its reach. Going by Taliban’s public denouncement of Pakistani actions, the world no longer seems interested in the Pak narrative of being a sufferer of terrorism.
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