EDITORIAL: The Afghan Taliban are creating unnecessary tensions along the international border between Pakistan and Afghanistan where this side is building a wire fence to stop the TTP (Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan) and other terrorists’ infiltration as well as smuggling. Last month, in a bid to stop work Taliban took away spools of the wire. Yet this side exercised restraint and tried to resolve the issue through talks. In fact, according to senior officials, the matter was resolved and that the two sides had decided that further fencing would be done through mutual agreement. Fresh reports have now emerged of the Taliban taking down the fence and preventing Pakistani soldiers from further work at some points. The issue is not new, though. It may be recalled that the Ashraf Ghani government had also opposed the fence, leading to several bloody clashes at the border. His predecessors, including president Sardar Daoud Khan, too, had refused to accept the Durand Line.
In a recent video post on Twitter Afghan foreign ministry spokesman reiterated the same line claiming that Pakistan had no right to fence the border and create a divide, adding such a move was “inappropriate and against the law.” “Inappropriate” of course is a subjective term. As regards the law he should know that the Durand Line is a legitimate internationally recognised border by dint of several treaties between the British and the Afghan rulers first signed in 1893 and subsequently confirmed in 1905, 1919, 1921 and 1930. Legal precedents in several countries as well as the Vienna Convention have upheld the rule that binding bilateral agreements are passed down to successor states (in this case, Pakistan), hence, a unilateral declaration by one party (Afghanistan) has no effect. As for the ease of movement for the divided tribes agreed under the treaties, Pakistan has continued to abide by it. Despite fencing, people can still travel to either side through designated border crossings without passports, though travel permits are required so that terrorists and smugglers do not pass unchecked through these crossings. Pakistan is within its rights to fence the border to keep out violent extremists endangering the safety and security of its people. 90 percent of the fence along the 2,600km-long porous border has already been completed. It is not going to be stopped no matter what the Taliban say or do. Speaking at a media briefing on Monday, Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi made it clear that “we have erected the fence, and we will continue to fence the border.”
Pakistan, as the Foreign Minister said, has been advocating “constructive and sustained engagement” between the international community and Taliban government to help the latter address multiple challenges confronting the Afghan people, particularly the humanitarian crisis and the risk of economic collapse. But the Taliban need to understand that when it comes to its own security and stability this country will defend it at all costs. Further acts of provocation would only strain the relations, which is in neither side’s interest. The Taliban would be wise to play it cool.