Pak and Afghanistan Relations in the Taliban Era
Historical theories say that for effective control of the subcontinent, it is mandatory to have control of Afghanistan’s border. This is the reason that India also wants full control of Afghanistan without a border. If India would have control over Afghanistan’s border, it would be easy to control Pakistan otherwise India’s interest would be meaningless. In the tenure of the US in Afghanistan, Pakistan’s role has been central. In recent situations, the importance of Pakistan is only because only Pakistan can bring Afghanistan on maintaining normal relations with the whole world. On the other side, Pak and Afghanistan relations are mandatory to keep the peace.
Let’s analyze their relationship.
Geographical Relations & Border Mobility
On the Afhanuistan-Pakistan border, the British established the Durand line. And, now Pakistan has also put a fence on the Torkham border but it is not easy to divide it. It is a vast area and a long border. On this border, to control mobility, a huge number of military personnel and security infrastructure are required on both sides. Right now, the situation is that only visa is checked on this border whereas the remaining 2640 km long border is closed only with a fence. The mobility continues in the remaining area.
To close this long area is very difficult. To reach any city on both sides takes hundreds of miles. In such situations, it is better for both countries to have peaceful relations. It is because any mobility on their border would not be harmful.
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Obtaining a Visa to Pakistan
The Afghan Taliban’s foreign office has been pleading with neighboring countries to relax their visa requirements for Afghans and avoid strict border crossings. Sher Muhammad Abbas Stanikzai, who is known worldwide since the days of Doha Negotiations, is currently the Deputy Foreign Minister of the Afghan government. He pleads to neighboring countries Pakistan and Iran to open their borders to Afghanistan. According to him, if citizens of these countries are safe, it is because of the blood of those Afghan citizens who defeated Russia and America in Afghanistan and secured Pakistan and Iran.
In the joint seminar of Kabul’s think tank “Center for Strategic and Regional Studies” and Peshawar’s “Institute of Regional Studies“, it was revealed that representatives of the Afghan government itself are appealing to Pakistan, Iran, and even Turkey to allow Afghans to relax their visa conditions for Afghan citizens.
On the Afghanistan-Pakistan border, there is a point called Torkham where the visa is checked. There is another point between Kandahar and Quetta which is called Spin Boldak. It is the place from where the people of Kandahar and Hillmand can enter Pakistan. There is no visa mechanism here and people are allowed to cross the border only on Afghanistan’s ID card. However, the next step of the Pakistani government will be to start banning visas in Spin Boldak as well.
When Pakistan’s current ambassador Mansoor Ahmad Khan was asked about the complaints of Afghan citizens and authorities, he said that the impression that visas are being issued with difficulty is not correct. The 1,600 visas we issue daily from Kabul and consulates in other cities add up to a total of 2,000 U.S. visas. This number is more than any other country issues visas to Afghan nationals. Since the establishment of the Taliban government, more than 200,000 people have received visas. Apart from this, there are people who are using Pakistan as a transit country to go to other countries of the world. (BBC)
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How hard is it to close the border?
After the change of government in Kabul last year, many journalists have left the country. Some of them have preferred to remain “silent”. However, the ones who continued journalism, Muhammad Khan Zaheen is one of them. He is doing journalism for 6 years. He is also the author of several books.
When he was asked why most Afghans wanted to get a visa to Pakistan, he said that before the Russian invasion of Afghanistan, when the situation was normal, Pakistan’s border was open and Afghans would come without a visa. Due to this, people started their businesses after going to Pakistan and they continued to travel here like a country. Similarly, there were relations on both sides.
Besides, the language of both sides was the same (Pashtun). So the most suitable country for the people of Afghanistan was Pakistan. From Torkham to Spin Boldak, there was an agency area known as the FATA (Federally Administered Trial Area). Although it was controlled by the federal government, it was practically independent in its internal affairs and governed by local laws. For this reason, the people of Afghanistan did not have any kind of restriction here.
In 2018, under the 25th amendment, FATA has been merged into KPK. However, the traditions there are the same and people are not changing their minds. This is the reason why Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) is insisting that the FATA law be restored. Similarly, if the people of Afghanistan go anywhere in the world, the easiest way is Pakistan, so the people of Afghanistan demand a visa for Pakistan.
The trend of Visas Due to Taliban Restrictions
After spending 20 years in Afghanistan, it was a great effort by the US to somehow connect Afghanistan with the rest of the world. For this, extensive infrastructure was also established in Afghanistan. There are many rules of the modern world that religious traditions do not accept. Among them, there are many businesses that are prohibited by religious people, especially the transaction of interest. It is certain that the economy of the modern world system cannot advance even a step without interest and the concept of banking is linked to interest. This and many other similar businesses have been closed since the arrival of the Taliban. Similarly, the world of showbiz cannot flourish in the Taliban era.
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As a result, people who were involved in these professions now want to leave Afghanistan and want to live in Pakistan. It is because here they can do all their work freely. It is also a tough test for Pakistan whether it can persuade the Taliban to allow all the businesses that were established here in America to open. Otherwise, Pakistan will have to issue visas and maybe even citizenship to such people.
Call for leniency in visas by the People of Pakistan
The voice of Afghan citizens traveling in and out of Pakistan without a visa is not only from Afghanistan, but some people are also doing this from within Pakistan. One in the KPK government in this regard is the personality is of Rustam Shah Mohmand. Rustam Shah Mohmand is the Chief Secretary of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province bordering Afghanistan as well as the Secretary of the Interior Ministry. Earlier, he was also the ambassador of Pakistan to Afghanistan. Besides, he is also a member of former Prime Minister Imran Khan’s party Tehreek-e-Insaaf.
He says that Pakistan should no longer annoy Afghan nationals over the issue of visas and should allow them to cross the border only on identity documents. Rustam Shah Mohmand says that due to Pakistan’s border policy, not only trade is being affected, but people of both countries are also finding it very difficult to maintain relations.
They demand that Pakistan should give citizenship under the Citizenship Act 1951 to every Afghan resident who has been in Pakistan for five years and is not involved in any crime. Ratam Shah also talks in a practical context, those people who have been living in Pakistan for 40 years and are benefiting Pakistan by doing business and other jobs here, then they should not be sent back under any circumstances. Doing so will increase the difficulties of Pakistan itself. Rustom demands that the government of Pakistan should not beat all Afghans with the same stick in this regard.
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Perspectives on International Law
Afghans are not common, but they are special people, i.e. refugees. And, there is a separate law for those who are refugees, with which there are UN protocols, there is also an act of 1945 and a UN protocol of 1967. Pakistan’s problem is that it has not signed these two laws, so it is not bound by these agreements. Under the law of Pakistan, if an Afghan citizen has been living in Pakistan for five years before 1979, he can get citizenship in Pakistan. However, if he comes to Pakistan after that, he can get citizenship under the laws of the United Nations, but not under the laws of Pakistan.
Despite these legal problems, a large number of them were given permanent residence in Pakistan and a large number of them were given citizenship. But if we talk about following the law now, Pakistan cannot give citizenship to any Afghan under its law. The interesting thing is that the Afghan resident before 1979 did not even apply for Pakistani citizenship because there was no need for it at that time. After 1979, they could not do so according to Pakistani law. Therefore, in principle, Afghans cannot acquire citizenship here. This is possible only by changing the law.
Durand Line Treaty
If we talk about British India, the British had signed the Durand Line Treaty with Afghanistan. The last time it was discussed was in 1919. In principle, after the formation of Pakistan, these agreements continued as they were, but the government of Afghanistan did not recognize it and kept raising the issue at various forums that the Durand Line agreement should be terminated. But Pakistan is right to maintain it under the agreement of the British Government.
Pakistan is willing to accept that Afghans can be granted Pakistani citizenship, but Pakistan wants to keep the Durand Line at all costs and insists that it be renewed by the Afghan government. The talks that are going on with the Taliban are about the TTP and they want to restore the FATA laws. Now it is to be seen whether Pakistan controls Durand Line from the Taliban or not.