Pakistan’s Legal Right to Fence the Pak-Afghan Border

Pakistan is often lectured on how to design its foreign policy, particularly towards Afghanistan. One prominent piece of advice is to not engage with the current Taliban Government. Afghanis, be it the people who were siding with the Ghani / Karzai administration or the current setup, have also remained somewhat unsatisfied with Pakistan`s foreign policy toward Afghanistan, particularly regarding the fencing of the Pak-Afghan border. Pakistan`s National Security Advisor under Imran Khan`s premiership Dr. Moeed Yusuf gave a befitting reply to the critiques who lecture Islamabad stating that countries that are thousands of miles away from Afghanistan have the convenience to lecture us, but being a neighboring country to Afghanistan, Islamabad does not have the luxury to avoid its [some] 1600 miles border and shared ethnicity, culture & religion with Afghanistan and go for disengagement. However, this piece defends Pakistan`s legal right to fence its border with Afghanistan. 

According to the UN Security Council’s 13th report (May 2022) by its monitoring team on Afghanistan, there is a presence of the most lethal terrorist organizations like the self-proclaimed Islamic State (the Khorasan Chapter), Al-Qaida, and others in Afghanistan. The report calls it a matter of concern for the neighboring states. It claims that the Taliban (Afghanistan Chapter) are losing cohesion since the US withdrawal from Afghanistan, as they no more have the common cause of expelling foreign forces from there. It alarms that Al-Qaida is reorganizing itself to continue its idea of global jihad and Al-Qaida in the Indian Subcontinent (AQIS) or Al-Qaida the sub-continent chapter, has some 180 to 400 fighters. 

Allotting a specific section to Da`esh or the so-called Islamic State Khorasan (ISK), the said report claims that the Da`esh core made $500,000 in late 2021 alone. In contrast, the Taliban are struggling for funds causing some financially motivated defections to join the ISK, and there are reports of Uzbek and Tajik defections among Taliban changing allegiance to ISK. Estimates suggest that the said organization has 1,500 to 4,000 fighters including the former Afghan National Defense and Security Forces who have joined ISK for revenge or protection from the Taliban. The report acknowledges that “Salafi mosques and madrassahs in the Afghanistan-Pakistan border area, where a majority of ISK have their origins,” are the sources of fundraising for the group. And unlike NATO forces, the Taliban regime has no aerial capability, a marginal conventional edge, to operate against ISK. 

The UNSC Report then talks about Tehreek-i- Taliban Pakistan (TTP). It claims that 17 former splinter groups have joined TTP between 2020-21, including Jamaat ul Ahrar. It is estimated that it has 3,000 to 4,000 armed fighters that are located along the east and south-east Pak-Afghan border areas. On March 30, 2022, the group announced to launch a spring offensive against Pakistan Security Forces. As per the report, TTP also enjoys support from a Uighur religious extremist organization – the Turkestan Islamic Party (TIP). 

Now imagine a country with a struggling economy and political instability sharing a 1640 miles long border with such a country and is threatened by TTP – yes, under discussion is, Pakistan. The mentioned report itself indirectly urges Islamabad and Kabul to manage their long border for the safety and security of their people and to ensure peace in the region. 

UN Security Council Resolution 1269 also calls upon states to cooperate with each other to suppress and prevent terrorism. The Taliban regime and Islamabad should comply with this. The resolution also calls upon all states to, a) prevent and suppress the preparation and financing of any acts of terrorism through all lawful means in their territories; b) not grant refugee status to any asylum-seeker before ensuring whether he/she has participated in terrorist acts; and c) “exchange information in accordance with international and domestic law.”

Moreover, UN Security Council Resolution 1373 calls upon all states to, a) take necessary steps to prevent the commission of terrorist acts; b) “deny safe haven to those who finance, plan, support or commit terrorist acts or provide safe havens;” c) bring those to justice who are party to financing, planning, preparation, and perpetration of terrorist acts; and d) “prevent the movement of terrorists or terrorist groups by effective border controls and controls on issuance of identity papers and travel documents, and through measures for preventing counterfeiting, forgery or fraudulent use of identity papers and travel documents.”

In sum, Pakistan has every legal reason and right to fence its border with Afghanistan for the safety and security of its nationals. UN, as per article 55(1) of its charter, which asks it to promote economic and social progress and development which is not possible without peaceful borders should support Pakistan`s decision to manage the Pak-Afghan border through border fencing. Also, the UN General Assembly Resolution 49/60 article 9 solemnly declares that “the UN, relevant specialized agencies, and intergovernmental organizations, and other relevant bodies must make every effort with a view to promoting measures to combat and eliminate acts of terrorism and to strengthening their role in this field.” Hence, UN and relevant agencies should play their role and support Pakistan`s fencing of its Afghan border.

[Photo by Stokpic / Pixabay]

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author.

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