Pakistan arm-twisting Taliban on Durand Line

Pakistan is said to be arm-twisting the Taliban government in Kabul to accept the Durand Line and to stop opposing the fence being constructed along the border.

Pakistan has threatened to stop transit to Afghans across the Durand Line if
the Taliban government failed to accept the proposition. The Taliban government is reportedly miffed at this Pakistani blackmail and has made it clear in no uncertain terms that such conditions on the Durand Line were unacceptable.

The Taliban government, like the previous governments, is historically
opposed to the Durand line and has expressed unhappiness over the border
fence being constructed by Pakistan. The Pashtuns believe that the Durand
Line divides their homeland.

Pakistan has viewed the Durand Line as critical to its survival as a Punjabi-
dominated Sunni country. Even whispers of Great Paktunistan, a Pashtun
nation encompassing Pashtun-dominated areas across the current border,
raises grave suspicions in Pakistan, especially in the army. The area is home
to some 35 million Afghans, 15 million of them in Afghanistan.

As it began to lose clout over militant groups, once spawned and controlled
by them, the Pakistan Army decided to fence the long and arduous border
with Afghanistan, a move which triggered several run-offs between the
armed forces of both the countries. With the Taliban taking over Kabul,
Pakistan visualised a cakewalk.

But it was not to be, as the recent events had shown. The Taliban government refused to make any commitment on the issue despite Pakistan
making it clear at the outset that it could become a stumbling block in their
relationship. Once the Taliban spokesman made its opposition to the border
fencing, Pakistan hit back with a crippling blockade at Chaman border post
early October. It is the second largest border checkpoint with thousands of
trucks and men travelling across the highway every day. The crossing is a
major source of revenue for the cash-strapped Taliban government.

With border disruptions at Torkham and withdrawal of PIA flights from Kabul, Pakistan’s message to the Taliban is loud and clear—fall in line or face consequences. These brazenly threatening posturing from Pakistan has riled the Taliban government where there is no consensus on any remission on the issue of Durand Line or the border fencing. It is well known how fiercely the Taliban founder, Mullah Omar, had opposed any reconciliatory position on Durand Line.

There is no evidence of any change in the traditional Pashtun opposition to Durand Line. Even if the Haqqani faction in the Taliban government were to favour Pakistani position, other factions remain opposed to border fencing as well as the overall issue Durand Line. Any attempt to force a decision in favour of Pakistan could splinter the Taliban which is already weakened by dissensions since it formed the government in Kabul after a bloody military campaign assisted by Pakistan.

This jockeying has made one thing clear—the honeymoon between Pakistan
and the Taliban is over. Now is the time for realpolitik where Pakistan will
press hard for concessions on boundary issues while the Taliban will resist
any attempt to water down the Pashtun identity. The Durand Line could thus become a point of conflict between the two allies, an eventuality not lost on Pakistan. Hence it is trying to press the floundering Taliban government in Kabul hard and long to step back from Durand Line.