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Taliban’s blunt message to Pakistan—Durand line as border is history

Durand line (Google Images)

In a blunt message, the Taliban has announced that it wants a new border alignment with Pakistan, and the Durand line—the British era frontier between the two countries—is history.

“The Durand Line has divided one nation along both sides. We do not want it at all. We want a rational and logical solution to the problem,” said the Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid on Monday. This was the most unvarnished reaction from a senior official of the Sunni Pashtun group since it captured power in Afghanistan with the overt help of the Pakistani army in August last year. 

“The issue of the Durand Line is still an unresolved one, while the construction of fencing itself creates rifts between a nation spread across both sides of the border. It amounts to dividing a nation," said Mujahid in response to the statement given by the Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi. Qureshi acknowledged that there were “some complications” regarding the Durand Line and he blamed “certain miscreants” within the Taliban for blowing up such incidents out of proportion referring to incidents where the Taliban fighters removed the barbed fencing on the Durand Line.

“We are not silent. We have installed the fence and, God willing, this effort will continue,” Pakistani daily Dawn quoted Qureshi as saying. According to Pakistani sources, this was conveyed to the top Taliban leaders that, “Pakistan was observing maximum restraint to avoid any escalation in tensions.”

Earlier the Defence Minister of the Taliban regime, Mullah Yaqoob ordered his fighters in Kandahar that “if Pakistani soldiers take a step towards our land then don't wait for my order and don't even inform me.  Report it whenever you destroy them and take them out of the ground”.

Pakistan began fencing most of the 2,600 km frontier with Afghanistan along the Durand Line four years ago, with almost 90 per cent of the border fenced off today.   The previous governments in Kabul objected to the fencing of the border and even the Afghan side tried to stop Pakistan from erecting a fence.

The Taliban and its ally, the UN designated terror outfit Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) says that the real reason for Pakistan to fence the border is to divide the Pashtuns.

The Pashtuns as an ethnic group straddle between the AfPak border. In Afghanistan, they constitute 42 per cent of the population. Meanwhile, in Pakistan, the population of Pashtuns is 25 percent.

“Taliban's official position remains that there should be no borders between Muslims. Repudiation of Durand Line could be construed as strategic posturing by other Afghan regimes, but for the Taliban, rejecting the border with Pakistan has basis in their religious ideology,” says Shemrez Nauman Afzal, a Pakistani journalist.

According to Pakistani media reports, the Pakistani officials do not want to get bogged down with these incidents. "We are looking at a bigger picture. There may be elements in Afghanistan who want to provoke us," the reports said, quoting official sources.

Also Read :  No end to border spats between Taliban and Pakistan along the Durand Line