By Sikander Hayat
There has been a feeling of mistrust between the countries of Afghanistan & Pakistan from the day of Pakistani independence from British rule. Afghanistan tried to stop Pakistan from becoming the member of United Nations as a recognised state. For the record, Iran was the first country to recognise Pakistan as an independent state on the map of the world.
Afghanistan is a country where Pakhtuns have always dominated the corridors of power and their percentage in the ethnic composition of the country is 40% with Tajiks, Hazara, Uzbek and other ethnic group making rest of the 60%. Although there is a large number of non Pakhtun nationals of Afghanistan but still the ruling class of this country look at it as a Pakhtun nation and thereby give itself a responsibility to save the Pakhtuns living in neighbouring Pakistan.
Here I am looking at the issue through the Afghan perspective which has the mindset that somehow people living in the tribal agencies of Pakistan need to be liberated from Pakistan as they were wrongly left on the other side of the Durand Line (International border between Afghanistan & Pakistan).
Mohammed Daoud Khan (an Afghan prince and politician in Afghanistan who overthrew the monarchy of his first cousin Zahir Shah and became the first President of Afghanistan from 1973 until his assassination in 1978) launched an attack Pakistan to conquer the tribal areas but was repulsed by the tribal army of the Pakistani Pakhtuns.
Afghanistan has never been strong enough to conquer Pakistani land but neither it is willing to give up its claim on these tribal agencies. This situation has left a festering wound in the relationship between Afghanistan & Pakistan. In my view this situation has to be solved as soon as possible as it is hurting the development of both countries while Afghanistan is being used by India to train and fund terrorists operating in Pakistan killing Pakistani civilians.
I believe that there are two main solutions which can help resolve the issue of Durand line between Afghanistan & Pakistan.
The first solution is that Afghanistan accepts Durand line. Both countries should remain in their boundaries and there are no more fights. But this solution is hard to sell to
people on both sides of the border. These are same people with same ethnic origin, same religion and same values.
The second solution is that Afghanistan and Pakistan form an economic trade zone with single currency and no border checks so that people can cross over whenever they want.
Pakistan and Afghanistan will keep their political & geographical entities intact but the free movement of people and finance will be guaranteed. Both countries will keep their separate armies, currencies and other arms of state.
We must not forget that there are more Pakhtun living in Pakistan then in Afghanistan so any right to vote for Pakistani Pakhtun in Afghanistan will brutally alter the power structure in Afghanistan by cornering Tajks, Uzbeks, Hazaras and other major minority groups in Afghanistan.
There seems to be a misconception about Afghanistan that it is a Pakhtun state, which is extremely wrong as Pakhtun make about 40% of the total Population with Tajiks, Uzbeks, Kirghiz, and Hazara as the other major groups in the country. Afghan demands for annexation of tribal areas is similar to Canada asking for the annexation of the northern USA because the same people live there as in Canada.
Pakhtun domination will create resentment in other stakeholders in Afghan population and may come to divide Afghanistan into Pakhtun and non Pakhtun areas.
The best possible option for both Afghanistan and Pakistan is to stop stoking flames in each others territories. The only durable option is to allow free movement of people across border and allowing Afghanistan access to Gwadar port.