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The recent disturbances at some points along Pak-Afghan border under the newly-installed Taliban regime underline the need for revamping border management and control measures. Borders define the limits of a nation state and the exercise of sovereignty and writ of the state. Semi-porous borders with Afghanistan are serious challenges as they pass through a difficult and rugged terrain. It is hoped that with the advent of new technologies, especially Information technologies, sensors, and SOPs borders can be monitored and controlled better than before.

Most of the borders, especially in the developing world, are poorly controlled due to colonial creations, inter-nation disputes, and lack of capacity or writ exercised by states through levies, border police, and inadequate border development. With globalization, there has emerged the concept of “borderless” of the world where human traffic, goods and material for trade and commerce often crisscross. If countries have porous and open natural borders items and commodities, men and material can cross easily. Hence, illegal smuggling of people, goods and contraband goods, terrorists and illegal migration tend to takes place.

However, borders act as ‘filters” or “sieves” against such activities. Still, most of the contraband traffic takes place by sea and land. What role then can newly emerging information technologies play in protection of borders, at principally land, but also at sea and air?

‘Border, Management’ is frequently mentioned while dealing with border issues. Related to these are ‘Border Areas’, ‘Frontiers’ and ‘Security’. The key word ‘management’ is like organizing through division of labor of various departments, formal lines of authority and mechanism adopted in coordinating diverse functions and roles. Moreover, it is sharing vital intelligence, ensuring tighter coordination and perfecting fool-proof techniques of immigration and customs checks.

Is ‘Management’ a science or an art? The debate goes on but suffice it to say that it is a process used to accomplish organizational goals, be it in factory, office, organization, school, business, or any other outfit. In classical security concept, mandatory tasks are assigned to armed forces, immigration, port, health, customs, police, security forces, plant and animal quarantine and others. Management is like organizing through division of labor of various departments, formal lines of authority and mechanism used in coordinating diverse jobs and roles.

‘Border Management’ is closely linked to border security. By security, it means how best to counter threats that have arisen or are likely to occur in future. In order to attain security, it requires mounting some means and counter-measures that will make borders relatively safe and secure them from different kinds of threats: both conventional and non-conventional.

All nations perceive some threats from within, which fall under the rubric of non-traditional security i.e., economic, climate, health poverty, terrorism, water and energy; and the ones which emanate from cross-border movement terrorism militancy, or smuggling of illegal contraband. In today’s crime-prone environment it is virtually impossible to operate independently when loose and fluid network structures have replaced coherent, single crime entities. By relying on own resources and membership, these syndicates are geographically based, involve specialized networking and perform specified functions. Thus, it has become a chain operation with many partners in maintaining secrecy, flexibility and profit.

Ironically, once security forces have dismantled these networks new ones tend to be created. Out of the three transportation modes—land, air and sea —the cheapest is the land route which involves less documentation and minimum security, except the open unguarded routes that are easily crossable with impunity. On the other hand, the air routes tend to be more expensive and have higher security risks; lastly, the sea route is more dangerous but enjoys some advantages too as it transports large volumes of materials and brings maximum profits.

With dissemination of knowledge and globalization, ingenious ways are being devised by some crime syndicates and terrorist groups who are engaged in the sale and smuggling of related technologies. The smuggling operators have become agile, flexible and savvy in beating the passport, banking, and custom regulations. So, in order to remain a step ahead for governments there is a greater need in framing adequate policy measures.

Hereunder are given are some generic and specific policy measures.

Mostly, policy recommendations tend to be idealistic in nature and hence need to be customized to cater for local capabilities and conditions. Despite the imperatives of ‘must,’ ‘should’ and ‘ought’ to be done, ultimately the devil lies in finer details and on stringent implementation. As always, long-, medium- and short-term measures are in order. Some of the suggestions may be overlapping, but the idea is to raise the level of consciousness in terms of border security and management.

National measures in addition to UN regulations, have to be incorporated into national legislation with due sensitivity to the rule of law, human rights, counter-proliferation, poverty and good governance.

Border agreements with states and stakeholders can secure borders with neighbors, extradition pacts and anti-terrorist pacts are useful measures.

Exchange of information, intelligence, joint training and capacity building should be part of border agreements.

Reforming Structures and approaches to personnel management will necessitate formation of an effective personnel selection and management system, which includes clear definitions of appropriate functional duties and delegation of authority. This will also strengthen border security by allowing for effective operational planning and accomplishment of border control by defining unambiguous procedures for checking individuals and materials at international airports and other checkpoints.

Practical Training of checkpoint officers in border protection, including passport control techniques as well as procedures and techniques for fighting terrorism, drug trafficking, and smuggling of materials.

(To be continued)

(The writer is former Advisor, Centre for Policy Studies, COMSATS, Islamabad, former President of Islamabad Policy Research Institute and ex-Head Department of International Relations, NUML University)

Copyright Business Recorder, 2021

Dr Maqsudul Hasan Nuri

The writer is former Adviser, Centre for Policy Studies, COMSATS, Islamabad, former President of Islamabad Policy Research Institute, and ex-Head Department of International Relations, NUML University, Islamabad

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