The security problem with Afghanistan is becoming serious, there is an increase in terrorist attacks in Pakistan, even Tehreek e Taliban Pakistan is also getting active and has threated top political leadership including PM. Sarband police station, Peshawar was attacked on 14th January 2023 and once again, the TTP has taken the responsibility of the attack, whereas, back-to-back bombings in Quetta and Islamabad are notable. According to a report by a local think tank, there were more than two dozen terrorist incidents in the country in December 2022, compared to 376 for the entire year, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Baluchistan being most troubled. The National Security Committee (NSC) directly called on Kabul and its ruling government to take control over terrorism and make sure that Afghan soil not to be used for “extraterritorial adventures”.
These tensions between Islamabad and Kabul dates back to partition of Sub-continent in August 1947 which led to emergence of Pakistan along Afghan eastern frontier, and the two countries have had strained relationship since; Afghanistan was the only country to vote against Pakistan’s admission into UN following the latter’s independence.
So-called Durand line, Pak-Afghan International Border, has been a significant conflict that has caused tensions between the two states. The boundary was formed following 1893 Agreement between Amir Abdur Rahman Khan of Afghanistan and Mortimer Durand of colonial British India to define the boundaries of their respective domains of influence. Durand and Khan agreed to refrain from political intervention outside of the border between Afghanistan and the British Indian Empire in the one-page agreement, which had seven brief provisions. Although there has never been an official agreement or ratification between Islamabad and Kabul, after getting independence Pakistan inherited the Durand Line accord.
The Durand Line is not formally recognized as the border by Afghanistan declaring it null and void. This unmanageable border created serious issues between 2 countries. The Afghan government has always been worried that if it ever ratified the agreement, it would permanently divide millions of Pashtuns creating a backlash in Afghanistan and this unmanageable border is a main trade route between Afghanistan and South Asia.
Afghanistan tried hard to destabilize the frontier regions of Pakistan, taking utmost advantage of Pakistan’s post-independence instability.
Afghanistan crafted a two-fold strategy. First and foremost it aligned itself with India, and also with the USSR. Second, it politically and financially backed secessionist politicians in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa in 1960s.
The tensions kept on rising between 2 Muslim brotherly countries. The relations became more strained when Pakistan shook hands with US to do operations in Afghanistan Back in 2001 (as Pakistan had no other option) when US invaded in Afghanistan, it offered Pakistan to choose between two either disavow Taliban and support US, or it could continue supporting the group and become a de facto enemy of US. The then General Pervez Musharraf, had decided to help US armed forces and let them use Pakistani roads and airspace. Hence, Pakistan helped US in every way, but America was never satisfied with Pakistan’s effort and came up with moto “DO MORE”. The whole scenario gave nothing to Pakistan but tensed the ties with both Afghanistan and US. After withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan it was assumed that foam will settle down and relations will be better and Taliban government will fulfill its promises and will help in negotiations too; on the contrary the situation turned into disappointment.
Islamabad and Kabul’s hostilities are getting worse. While Pakistan has made attempts to mend the growing rift, reopening a crucial border crossing at Spin Boldak-Chaman, closed after cross-border gunfire killed a Pakistani security guard on November 13, and sending its minister of state for foreign affairs on an official visit to Afghan capital at the end of November. There are clear indications that Pakistan’s leverage with the Afghan Taliban appears to be eroding quickly.
The TTP consider Afghan Taliban to be their role model and have started terror campaigns in north Waziristan on November 30th a suicide bomber blew himself up near a police truck killing 3 and injuring 28. The TTP took responsibility by justifying this barbarous act, a reprisal for the killing of Abdul Wali, (Omar Khalid Khorasan) in Afghanistan one of its senior commanders. Now the ceasefire is ended by TTP and it came to an end at a time of transition for Pakistan’s military, with Gen. Asim Munir succeeding Gen. Qamar Javed Bajwa as COAS. It remains to be seen what government’s policy will be regarding peace talks with the TTP.
Moreover, it is reported that Taliban are tearing down the border fence alongside Pak-Afghan border opposing Pakistan’s border-fencing actions, which they perceive as one-sided, “illegitimate,” and an attempt to upend the status quo ante. One Pakistani analyst said that since the Taliban retook power in Afghanistan, there has been a 50% increase in terrorist strikes in the nation, underscoring the rapidly deteriorating security situation. An alarming rise in violence is being seen across Pakistan’s borders. Though Pakistan was confident that Afghan Taliban would help control TTP, but the latter have not acted against their ideological counterparts in Pakistan.
Since past events and war on terror has strained the relations of two states.
Both the sides are aware of the consequences of a further deterioration in relations. Islamabad is in favor of giving the Afghan regime more political space. Pakistan’s ambitious plans to create a transcontinental trade network with Central Asian republics cannot materialize without the Afghan Taliban’s support. On the other side, the spokesperson for the Taliban has expressed sorrow over the cross-border firing incident while reassuring Pakistan that Afghan soil would not be used for militant attacks in Pakistan. The issue once again returned to fore on Dec. 1, however, following a suicide bombing in southwestern Pakistan. Islamabad pinned responsibility for the attack on Pakistani Taliban fighters based in Afghanistan, Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah said, if proven, the TTP’s involvement should be a matter of concern for Taliban.
Reeling from multiple crises at home, including a sharp economic downturn, political turmoil, flooding earlier this year, Islamabad’s shaky relationship with Afghan Taliban makes the situation tremendously perilous for Pakistan.
The writer is Islamabad based regular contributor.