Is fencing Afghan border a workable solution? | Pakistan Today

Is fencing Afghan border a workable solution?

  • Rustam Shah says fencing will ‘isolate’ Pakistan internationally
  • Hasan Askari says border wall to help regulate somehow public life

The decision to prevent the illegal crossings and infiltration into Pakistan by fencing the porous border with Afghanistan may not be a workable solution, as diplomats and analysts believe to affect adversely the economy and public life of the people.

Talking to Pakistan Today, former diplomat and security expert Rustam Shah Mohmand said that the border fencing would serve no purpose rather it would further complicate the situation for Pakistan. He said that people of almost all tribes were living on both sides of the borders, who were frequently crossing the border on daily basis because of their kinship.

He said that erecting barriers would badly affect public life as well as small scale business in the areas. On March 26, Pakistan Army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa during his visit to Mohmand and Orakzai tribal agencies made the announcement that the country has started fencing border with Afghanistan in a move to stop the cross-border movement of the militants.

Afghan government spokesman Ahmad Shakeeb Mustaghni strongly reacted to the announcement and warned Pakistan to stop fencing off the border between the two countries. He argued that Pakistan ‘cannot fence the border without Afghanistan’s consent’ and any unilateral action would be a ‘violation’ of international laws.

Rustam Shah said that fencing border would not help rein in the militancy, but would mere augment the hardship and difficulties of the tribal people. “There is a need for more effective border management on the Pak-Afghan border; however, as Pakistan has been unable to develop a positive working relationship with New Delhi and is digging trenches on its border with Iran, so fencing border with Afghanistan will ‘isolate’ Pakistan internationally and promote an image of a country that cannot coexist with its neighbours.

“It would be violation of the agreements signed between Afghanistan and the British Indian government in 1905 under which people within five miles of the border are not required to present any documents and are allowed to travel freely without any hindrance,” he maintained.

Moreover, Rustam Shah said that erecting barriers and fencing 24000 long undefined porous border would not only be a Herculean task, as its maintenance would cost too much, but it might prove counterproductive, because it could create resentment among the people.

“If the government is really sincere in resolution of the problems it should initiate infrastructure development projects in the bordering areas such as education, hospitals, parks, drinking water facilities and dams etc, as it would not only help flourish business activities, but would help control the militancy.

He said that even Afghan could take the issue to UN so it would open a new Pandora box for Pakistan, therefore Pakistan instead of wasting its energy and resources on it should give priority to the development of the area, as it would serve the purpose in a better way.

Ali Wazir, a tribal elder from South Waziristan, said that the undoubtedly fencing would badly disturb their life especially their local trade, because most of their trade is due to Afghanistan. He said that people from rest of the country do their trade with Afghanistan through the local tribes; hence the tribal played a role of bridge between Pakistan and Afghanistan.

The tribal elder said that FATA people did not have enough resources to set up industries and mills, so they run their daily life by doing small business through Afghanistan or went to Middle East countries. “Our people accepted all the military operations and destruction of their homes, but the fencing of border could not acceptable to them,” he added.

To a question, Ali Wazir said that if the government did not provide health, education and drinking water facilities, it should at least give them boundary and peace. However, defence analyst Hasan Askari Rizvi said that the fencing border would not create any problems for the tribal people, because Pakistan was going to fence parts of the border and there were specific routes to be used for traveling purposes.

He said that the fencing would help regulate somehow life of the tribal people; however, he quickly added that the tribes were given exemption from traveling documents. To a question, he said that if Afghanistan raised the issue at international level, it would hardly make any difference, because international community recognised Durand Line as international border and Pakistan and Afghanistan treat this as a divide line.

He said that Afghanistan has theoretical, historical and ethnic based objections, but it would hardly make any difference, because Afghanistan was not in a position to create any problem for Pakistan.