Afghanistan’s Border is Indus River: Army Chief

Daily Outlook op-ed published on July 28.

Recently I was watching a TOLO TV talk show hosted by Dawood Sultanzoy. He was interviewing the Chief of Armed Forces General Shir Ahmad Kairimi about the capability of Afghan security forces and the transition of security from international troops to Afghans. During the questions, Sultanzoy asked General Karimi about the rocket firings from Pakistan into Afghanistan which made hot headlines in recent weeks when Chief of Border Police in Eastern provinces resigned asking President Karzai to allow him to strike back on Pakistani security forces in response to the rocket attacks.

General Karimi gave a shocking explanation, saying Afghanistan’s border is the Indus River in Pakistan. I am quoting a translation of General Karimi’s words.

 “Durand Line agreement was for hundred years, it’s over now and Afghanistan has the right to claim its territory in Pakistan. Durand Line agreement signed in 1893 for hundred years was imposed by the imperialist power of the time. It was a political game by the imperial power in the region, and divided our borders, and we lost our territory. Our border is known, it’s the Indus River. Even Chatral was part of Afghanistan, we have documents to prove, the ruler of Chatral was appointed by Afghanistan. Pakistan and its military know that we don’t recognize the Durand Line.

Since 60 years, we have been claiming it. The last time it was martyred Sardar Dawood, former President of Afghanistan, who claimed our Pashtunistan land officially. Pakistan after 66 years of its birth has now claimed some changes in the Durand Line saying that the real line was some kilometers inside Afghanistan. ISAF (International Security Assistance Forces) have drawn their claim on map, it’s with me. It’s a political game by Pakistan to persuade the international community to come and see.

Both lines that they claim will be in favor of Pakistan, asking us to sign. Pakistan is trying to make us recognize the Durand Line that way. The purpose of the recent rocket attacks is to provoke us for a reaction. President Karzai announced that we won’t attack Pakistan. Because if we attack on the other side of the Line [Durand], it’s our own territory, we will attack our own brothers. We won’t react and undermine our future with their provocation, but I want to make it clear for the international community that our border is not the Durand Line, it’s the Indus River. We will even not talk on Durand Line, when you call us to come and resolve the issue of some kilometers on that line”.

That was the summary of what the Chief of Afghanistan’s Armed Forces said. The issue of Durand Line is an unspoken root cause of disputes between the states of Afghanistan and Pakistan for the past several decades. It reached peak during the rule of President Dawood, when the slogan of Pashtunistan and claims beyond Durand Line were the official mantra of the time. Both Islamabad and Kabul started proxy campaigns when President Dawood allowed the mass migration of Baloch separatists in Kabul who were fighting in the mountains of Balochistan against Pakistan Army.

In response, Islamabad for brief period raised the slogan of independent Hazarajat through some circles in central Afghanistan. A media war through Radio Kabul and Radio Pakistan became the channel of that proxy campaign. The Islamic fundamentalists who were fighting against President Dawood were supported by the then Pakistani Prime Minister Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto. President Dawood made new claims extending the supposed Pashtunistan territory in parts of Balochistan province.

Most successive Afghan Governments have been taking up the issue of legitimacy of Durand Line not accepting it as international border. But strange is that, the state never officially condemns the brutal dictator of the time Abdul Rahman Khan who signed the Durand Line Agreement in 1893. It’s a bogus stand to keep mum on the deeds of this tyrant ruler, but denounce his agreement.
Previous Afghan Governments have questioned the legitimacy of Durand Line. In 1949, the Afghan parliament cancelled all previous treaties with Britain, including the Durand Line Agreement. But strangely, following governments kept requesting the British Government to intervene in the cold war between Afghanistan and Pakistan in that era.

The Afghan governments in the period from 1949 to 1973 have all failed to persuade the international community and forums to intervene on the issue of Pashtunistan. The international community considers the Durand Line as the international border between Afghanistan and Pakistan. Even if the current crippled Government which cannot control our present territory and extend the write of Government, succeeds in bringing the issue of Durand Line on international level, it will be almost impossible to prove the stance our previous governments have been taking. When we cannot control the current territory and masses don’t trust our security forces to maintain their security, the Army Chief talks about a non-existent dispute which should have been resolved long ago.

The statement of General Karimi has come in the context of recent Pakistani attempts to make the Afghan state recognize the border officially. But our Army Chief makes claim all across the Sindh river. Its good he didn’t go too far across Indus inside India and claim the territory invaded by Ahmad Shah Abdali or even back in the era of Mehmood Ghaznavi.

We are going to get to nowhere with such foolhardiness. The Durand Line dispute has been a game of interest between rulers in Kabul and Islamabad. I conclude this piece with words of Daily Outlook’s former executive editor Musa Khan Jalalzai, “The people of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa across the Durand Line are not willing to join Afghanistan.

Pakistan and Afghanistan must not allow the Durand Line to become a flashpoint. Most of the Asian frontiers have not been demarcated by Asians themselves, but by colonial powers, therefore nobody can insist on the inviolability of any frontier, including the Durand Line. The Great Game and military confrontations between Russia and Great Britain caused the fixing of the Durand Line, which brought the Khyber Pass and Quetta under British-Indian control”.

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