Hostilities on Afghan-Pak border increased in 2022

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Last year saw increased hostilities on the Afghanistan-Pakistan border with the Durand Line being the main dispute, according to the International Forum for Right and Security (IFFRAS).

Pakistan is facing an emerging security situation in its border provinces and an assertive Afghan Taliban is unwilling to accept any ‘one-sided’ change in the status quo ante on the Durand Line issue.

Border tensions between Afghanistan and Pakistan are reaching an unprecedented level after recent incidents of violence along the Durand Line.

The vulnerable community of Pashtuns who have long been victims of Pakistan’s unilateral thrust regarding borderline with Afghanistan continued to lose innocent lives throughout 2022, reported IFFRAS.

The ethnic group, which comprises people from both sides of the border is still haunted by the century-old Durand line which is a disputed border established by British colonial rule. Ironically, the line divides the traditional Pashtun areas and population between Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Maintaining that Afghan rulers were coerced by British pressure, Afghanistan has always dismissed all Durand Line agreements. Terming it an arbitrary action ignoring the geography, history and culture of the region, the resentful Pashtuns on both sides view the Durand line with contempt.

The sentiment has, however, been a constant target of Pakistan, which aims to crush it through the unilateral establishment of fences and erecting border posts, reported IFFRAS.

Disagreements over border demarcation and fencing have particularly escalated after the power change in Kabul in 2021. The period since then has been quite volatile with numerous instances of cross-border firing and violation of Afghan airspace by Pak Army drones.

There have also been cases of unprovoked firing on civilians crossing the ‘border’ despite reminders from the Afghan side that such movements are within the framework of a bilateral agreement.

The year 2022 which started with reports of violation of Afghan airspace by the Pak aircrafts/drones in January in Nangarhar province and heavy firing in February in Kunar did not witness a respite from the Pak attacks till the end of the year, reported IFFRAS.

However, the Taliban forces have now started to offer spirited counters to the attacks. The latest border clashes in December 2022 witnessed Taliban fighters and the Pakistani forces exchanging heavy artillery fire on each other near the Spin-Boldak-Chaman border, which reportedly killed civilians from both sides.

The two sides also clashed (Dec 7, 2022) over the construction of check posts by the Pakistan army along the disputed Durand line in the Dangam district of Kunar province. Skirmishes were also reported between the border forces of the two countries in the earlier months.

Citing eight incidents of Afghan airspace violation by Pak forces during October-November 2022, the Taliban regime had reportedly conveyed (Dec 2022) displeasure to Pakistan on the issue.

The Taliban Foreign Ministry also lodged a protest against the construction of a watchtower by Pakistan in the Kunar province of Afghanistan, reported IFFRAS.

Earlier, the Afghan Ministry had protested against the installation of barbed wire fencing and forcible construction of checkpoints at eight different locations in Kunar and Nangarhar province by the Pakistan army in November 2022.

A ground-level meeting between border management and security representatives from both sides was held to defuse the tension. In what has become a routine affair by now, the Pakistan side assured of desisting from firing and air space violations.

However, considering Paksitan’s record of reneging till now, Afghan officials do not seem much hopeful. They, however, appear determined to effectively counter the Pakistan policy against Pashtuns, reported IFFRAS.

Moreover, for a cash-starved Taliban regime, the challenge is not only to establish an equality based governance and social-economic system but to protect the borders and citizens living along them.

With its indications of taking an independent policy line, it has created a serious adversary in Pakistan. Going into 2023, tacking hostilities of Pakistan forces will take precedence over other strategic matters for the regime, reported IFFRAS.