Afghanistan–Pakistan relations

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Pakistan-Afghanistan relations
Map indicating locations of Pakistan and Afghanistan


Diplomatic Mission
Embassy of Pakistan, Kabul Embassy of Afghanistan, Islamabad

Afghanistan–Pakistan relations involve bilateral relations between Afghanistan and Pakistan. The two neighbouring Asian states share deep historical and cultural links, each has declared itself an Islamic republic and both have become members of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation. Relations between the two countries have been strained since 1947, when Pakistan first formed and Afghanistan was the sole country to vote against Pakistan's admission into the UN. Afghanistan immediately armed separatist movements in the nascent Pakistan and made irredentist claims to large swathes of Pakistani territory - which prevented the emergence of normalised ties between the two countries.[1] Further tensions have arisen with various issues related to the War in Afghanistan (1978–present), and with the millions of Afghan refugees who have sought shelter in Pakistan since the start of that war. Water rights, the growing relations of India and Afghanistan,[2][3] Pakistani support of Taliban forces in Afghanistan, and Afghanistan's continued refusal to accept the Durand Line as an international border have further complicated ties.

Bilateral relations between the countries have been poor, beginning immediately after Pakistan became independent in August 1947. Afghanistan's was the sole vote against Pakistan's admission to the United Nations in 1947,[4] due to Afghan discontent with the permanency of the Durand Line. Afghanistan immediately laid irredentist claims over Pashtun-dominated territories within Pakistan,[5][6] and demanded renegotiation of the border with the aim of shifting it eastwards to the Indus River,[7] deep within Pakistani territory. Shortly after Pakistani independence, Afghanistan materially supported the failed armed secessionist movement headed by Mirzali Khan against Pakistan.[8][9] Afghanistan's immediate support of secessionist movements within Pakistan prevented normalised ties from emerging between the two states.[10]

In 1952 the government of Afghanistan published a tract in which it laid claim not only to Pashtun territory within Pakistan, but also to the Pakistani province of Balochistan.[11] Diplomatic relations were cut off between 1961 and 1963 after Afghanistan supported more armed separatists in Pakistan, leading to skirmishes between the two states earlier in 1960, and Pakistan's subsequent closure of the port of Karachi to Afghan transit trade.[12] Mohammed Daoud Khan became President of Afghanistan in 1973, Afghanistan - with Soviet support - again pursued a policy of arming Pashtun separatists within Pakistan.[13]

The Pakistani military have accused Afghanistan of sheltering various terrorist groups which launch attacks into Pakistan,[14] while Afghan authorities have blamed Pakistan's intelligence agency, the ISI, for funding warlords and the Taliban, and for basing terrorist camps within Pakistani territory to target Afghanistan.[15][16][17] There is considerable anti-Pakistan sentiment in Afghanistan,[18] based in large part on Pakistan's ongoing support for the Taliban, while negative sentiment towards the Afghan refugees is widespread in Pakistan,[19][20][21] even in Pashtun-dominated regions.[22]

However, former Afghan President Hamid Karzai (in office 2004-2014) has described Pakistan and Afghanistan as "inseparable brothers",[23][24] which is due to the historical, religious, and ethnolinguistic connections between the Pashtun people and other ethnic groups of both countries, as well as to trade and other ties.[25][dead link] Each of the two countries features amongst the other's largest trading partners,[citation needed] and Pakistan serves as a major conduit for transit trade involving landlocked Afghanistan.

Historical context[edit]

Southern and eastern Afghanistan is predominately Pashto-speaking, like the adjacent Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, Federally Administered Tribal Areas, and northern Balochistan regions in Pakistan. This entire area is inhabited by the indigenous Pashtuns who belong to different Pashtun tribes.[26] The Pashtuns were known historically as ethnic Afghans (and as Pathans in Pakistan and India) and have lived in this region for thousands of years, since at least the 1st millennium BC.[27][28]

The Durand Line border was established after the 1893 Durand Line Agreement between Mortimer Durand of colonial British India and Amir Abdur Rahman Khan of Afghanistan for fixing the limit of their respective spheres of influence. The single-page agreement, which contained seven short articles, was signed by Durand and Khan, agreeing not to exercise political interference beyond the frontier line between Afghanistan and what was then the British Indian Empire.[29]

Shortly after the demarcation of the Durand Line, the British began connecting the region on its side of Durand line to the vast and expansive Indian railway network. Concurrently, the Afridi tribesmen began to rise up in arms against the British, creating a zone of instability between Peshawar and the Durand Line. As a result, travel across the boundary was almost entirely halted, and the Pashtun tribes living under the British rule began to orient themselves eastward in the direction of the Indian railways. By the time of the Indian independence movement, prominent Pashtun nationalists such as Abdul Ghaffar Khan advocated unity with the nearly formed Dominion of India, and not a united Afghanistan – highlighting the extent to which infrastructure and instability began to erode the Pashtun self-identification with Afghanistan. By the time of Pakistan independence movement, popular opinion among Pashtuns was split amongst the majority who wished to join the Dominion of Pakistan, and a minority who wished to join the Dominion of India.[citation needed]

Pakistan inherited the Durand Line agreement after its independence in 1947 but there has never been a formal agreement or ratification between Islamabad and Kabul. The Afghan government has not formally accepted the Durand Line as the international border between the two states, claiming that the Durand Line Agreement has been void in the past.[30] This complicated issue is very sensitive to both the countries. The Afghan government worries that if it ever ratifies the agreement, it will permanently divide the 50 million Pashtuns and thus create a backlash in Afghanistan. Pakistan feels that the border issue had been resolved before its birth in 1947. It also fears a revolt from the warring tribes which could eventually bring the state down as it happened when Ahmad Shah Durrani unified the Pashtuns and toppled the Mughal Empire of India. This unmanagable border has always served as the main trade route between Afghanistan and the South Asia, especially for supplies into Afghanistan.[citation needed]

Shortly after Pakistan gained independence in 1947, Afghanistan crafted a two-fold strategy to destabilize the frontier regions of Pakistan, in an attempt to take advantage of Pakistan's post-independence instability. Firstly, it strongly aligned itself with Pakistan's rival, India, and also the USSR. Secondly, it politically and financially backed secessionist politicians in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa in the 1960s. Afghanistan's policies placed a severe strain upon Pakistan–Afghan relations in the 1960s, up until the 1970s, when the movement[which?] largely subsided as the population came to identify with Pakistan; although, resentment against the Punjabi elite continued to develop. The Pashtun assimilation into the Pakistani state followed years of rising Pashtun influence in Pakistani politics and the nation's bureaucracy, culminating in Ayub Khan, Yahya Khan, Ishaq Khan – all Pashtuns, attaining leadership of Pakistan. The largest nationalist party of the time, the Awami National Party (ANP), dropped its secessionist agenda and embraced the Pakistani state, leaving only a small Pakhtunkhwa Millat Party to champion the cause of independence in relation to both Pakistan and Afghanistan. Despite the weaknesses of the early secessionist movement, this period in history continues to negatively influence Pakistani-Afghan relations in the 21st century, in addition to the province's politics.[citation needed].

Contemporary issues[edit]

George Crile III and Charlie Wilson (Texas politician) with an unnamed political personality in the background (person wearing the aviator glasses looking at the photo camera). They were the main players in Operation Cyclone, the code name for the United States Central Intelligence Agency program to arm and finance the multi-national mujahideen during the Soviet war in Afghanistan, 1979 to 1989.

Relations between Afghanistan and Pakistan began deteriorating in the 1970s after Pakistan supported rebels such as Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, Ahmad Shah Massoud,[31] Haqqanis, and others against the governments of Afghanistan.[32] In April 1978, Afghan President Daoud Khan was assassinated in Kabul during the Saur Revolution. This was followed by the execution of deposed Pakistani Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto in April 1979 and the assassination of Afghan President Nur Muhammad Taraki in September 1979. After the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in December 1979, the United States joined Pakistan to counter Soviet influence and advance its own interests in the region. In turn, Afghan, Indian and Soviet intelligence agencies played their role by supporting al-Zulfikar– a Pakistani leftist terrorist group responsible for the March 1981 hijacking of a Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) plane.[33] Al-Zulfiqar was a Pakistani left wing organisation formed in 1977 by Mir Murtaza Bhutto, son of former Pakistani Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto. Its goal was to overthrow the military regime that ousted Bhutto.[34][35] After March 1981 Al-Zulfiqar claimed no further attacks.[34] The Bhutto family and Pakistani military dictator Zia-ul-Haq shared a common enemy, as Zia was the one supporting attacks against the Afghan government.[36][clarification needed]

During the 1980s, the Durand Line was heavily used by Afghan refugees fleeing the Soviet occupation in Afghanistan, including a large number of Mujahideen insurgent groups who crossed back and forth. Pakistan became a major training ground for roughly 250,000 foreign mujahideen fighters who began crossing into Afghanistan on a daily basis to wage war against the communist Afghanistan and the Soviet forces. The mujahideen included not only locals but also Arabs and others from over 40 different Islamic nations. Many of these foreign fighters married local women and decided to stay in Pakistan, among them were radical Muslims such those of Saudi-led Al-Qaeda and Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood as well as prisoners from Arab countries.[37]

Following the death of Pakistani President Zia-ul-Haq in 1988, U.S. State Department blamed WAD (a KGB created Afghan secret intelligence agency) for terrorist attacks inside Pakistan in 1987 and 1988.[38][39] With funds from the international community channeled through the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), Pakistan hosted over 3 million Afghans at various refugee camps, mainly around Peshawar in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.[40] The United States and others provided billions of dollars in humanitarian assistance to the refugees. There were no regular schools provided for the refugees but only madrasas in which students were trained to become members of the Taliban movement.[41] When the Soviet Union began leaving Afghanistan, during the Presidency of Mohammad Najibullah, the UNHCR and the international community assisted 1.5 million Afghan refugees in returning to Afghanistan.[42]

Around September 1994, the Taliban movement captured the Afghan city of Kandahar and began its long conquest with help from Pakistan. The Taliban claimed that they wanted to clean Afghanistan from the warlords and criminals. According to Pakistan and Afghanistan expert Ahmed Rashid, "between 1994 and 1999, an estimated 80,000 to 100,000 Pakistanis trained and fought in Afghanistan" keeping the Taliban regime in power.[43] The role of the Pakistani military during that time has been described by some international observers as a "creeping invasion" of Afghanistan.[43] UN documents also reveal the role of Arab and Pakistani support troops in the Taliban massacre campaigns.[44]

In late 1996, the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan emerged and established close relations with neighbouring Pakistan. However, the relations began to decline when the Taliban refused to endorse the Durand Line despite pressure from Islamabad, arguing that there shall be no borders among Muslims.[45] When the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan was toppled and the new Afghan government was formed, President Hamid Karzai began repeating the previous Taliban statement.[46]

"A line of hatred that raised a wall between the two brothers."

The Karzai administration in Afghanistan has close relations with the Pakistan's Awami National Party (ANP) and the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP). In 2006, Afghan President Hamid Karzai warned that "Iran and Pakistan and others are not fooling anyone" when it comes to interfering in his country.

"If they don’t stop, the consequences will be … that the region will suffer with us equally. In the past we have suffered alone; this time everybody will suffer with us.… Any effort to divide Afghanistan ethnically or weaken it will create the same thing in the neighboring countries. All the countries in the neighborhood have the same ethnic groups that we have, so they should know that it is a different ball game this time."[30]

— Hamid Karzai

The Durand Line border has been used in the last decade as the main supply route for NATO-led forces in Afghanistan as well as by Taliban insurgents and other militant groups who stage attacks inside Afghanistan. In 2008, Karzai became frustrated with this and suggested that his nation may order the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) to cross the Durand Line in order to defeat militants hiding in western Pakistan.[47] Leaders in Pakistan warned against the suggestion stating that Pakistan would not "tolerate any violations of its borders." Pakistani Prime Minister, Yusuf Raza Gilani, explained that the Durand Line border was too long to police.[48] The American government decided to rely on drone attacks instead, which began to negatively affect the US-Pakistan relations.

U.S. Armed Forces checking the border checkpoint at Torkham, between Nangarhar Province of Afghanistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa in Pakistan.

Relations have become more strained after the Afghan government began openly accusing Pakistan of using its ISI spy network in aiding the Taliban and other militants. Pakistan usually denies these allegations but has said in the past that it does not have full control of the actions of the ISI. There have been a number of reports about the Afghanistan–Pakistan skirmishes, which usually occur when army soldiers are in hot pursuit chasing insurgents who cross the border back and forth. This leads to tensions between the two states, especially after hearing reports of civilian casualties.[49]

After the May 2011 death of Osama bin Laden in Pakistan, many prominent Afghan figures began being assassinated, including Mohammed Daud Daud, Ahmad Wali Karzai, Jan Mohammad Khan, Ghulam Haider Hamidi, Burhanuddin Rabbani and others.[50] Also in the same year, the Afghanistan–Pakistan skirmishes intensified and many large scale attacks by the Pakistani-based Haqqani network took place across Afghanistan. This led to the United States warning Pakistan of a possible military action against the Haqqanis in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas.[51] The U.S. blamed Pakistan's government, mainly Pakistani Army and its ISI spy network as the masterminds behind all of this.[52]

"In choosing to use violent extremism as an instrument of policy, the government of Pakistan, and most especially the Pakistani army and ISI, jeopardizes not only the prospect of our strategic partnership but Pakistan's opportunity to be a respected nation with legitimate regional influence. They may believe that by using these proxies, they are hedging their bets or redressing what they feel is an imbalance in regional power. But in reality, they have already lost that bet."[53]

U.S. Ambassador to Pakistan, Cameron Munter, told Radio Pakistan that "the attack that took place in Kabul a few days ago, that was the work of the Haqqani network. There is evidence linking the Haqqani Network to the Pakistan government. This is something that must stop."[54] Other top U.S. officials such as Hillary Clinton and Leon Panetta made similar statements.[52][55] Despite all of this, Afghan President Hamid Karzai labelled Pakistan as Afghanistan's "twin brother".[56] Such words in diplomatic talks mean that Afghanistan cannot turn enemy against the state of Pakistan to please others. The two states are working together to find solutions to the problems affecting them. This includes possible defence cooperation and intelligence sharing as well as further enhancing the two-way trade and abolishment of visas for "holders of diplomatic passports to facilitate visa free travel for the diplomats from the two nations."[57][58]

After the May 2017 Kabul attack, the Afghan National Directorate of Security (NDS) claimed that the blast was planned by the Afghan insurgent group Haqqani Network, and reiterated allegations that those elements had support and presence across the border in Pakistan.[59] Afghan President Ashraf Ghani stated that Pakistan has instigated an "undeclared war of aggression" against the country.[60] Pakistan's Foreign Ministry spokesman, Nafees Zakaria rejected the Afghan allegations as "baseless".[61]

Afghan-Pak Transit Trade Agreement[edit]

In July 2010, a Memorandum of understanding (MoU) was reached between Pakistan and Afghanistan for the Afghan-Pak Transit Trade Agreement (APTTA), which was observed by U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. The two states also signed an MoU for the construction of rail tracks in Afghanistan to connect with Pakistan Railways (PR),[62] which has been in the making since at least 2005.[63] In October 2010, the landmark APTTA agreement was signed by Pakistani Commerce Minister Makhdoom Amin Fahim and Anwar ul-Haq Ahady, Afghan Ministry of Commerce. The ceremony was attended by Richard Holbrooke, U.S. Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, and a number of foreign ambassadors, Afghan parliamentarians and senior officials.[25] The APTTA allows Afghan trucks to drive inside Pakistan to the Wagah border with India, including to the port cities of Karachi and Gwadar.[64]

In November 2010, the two states formed a joint chamber of commerce to expand trade relations and solve the problems traders face.[65][66] The APTTA agreement has taken effect after several Afghan trucks delivered fruits from Afghanistan to the Wagah border with India in June 2011. With the completion of the APTTA, the United States and other NATO states are planning to revive the ancient Silk Road. This is to help the local economies of Afghanistan and Pakistan by connecting South Asia with Central Asia and the Middle East.[67] The APTTA is intended to improve trade between the two countries but Pakistan often delays Afghan-bound containers,[68] especially after the 2011 NATO attack in Pakistan.

In July 2012, Afghanistan and Pakistan agreed to extend APTTA to Tajikistan in what will be the first step for the establishment of a North-South trade corridor. The proposed agreement will provide facilities to Tajikistan to use Pakistan’s Gwadar and Karachi ports for its imports and exports while Pakistan will enjoy trade with Tajikistan under terms similar to the transit arrangement with Afghanistan.[69] Trade between Pakistan and Afghanistan is expected to reach $5 billion by 2015.[58] Afghanistan's economy is one of the fastest growing economies in the world. A 2012 World Bank report added, “In contrast, Afghanistan’s economy grew robustly by about 11 percent mostly due to a good harvest.”[70]

Towards the end of the same year, both the governments of Afghanistan and Pakistan drafted plans to talk to the Taliban.[71]

Cooperation between the two countries includes possible defence cooperation[72][73] and intelligence sharing as well as further enhancing the two-way trade and abolishment of visas for diplomats from the two nations.[57][58]

See also[edit]


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External links[edit]