The relations between Pakistan and Afghanistan are becoming tense due to the latter’s inability to restrain the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) militants’ from committing cross-border terrorism. There is an upsurge in the terror strikes by the TTP on the security check posts along the Pak-Afghan border, where a number of casualties of Pakistani soldiers have been reported. In response to these terror acts, the Foreign Office in Islamabad has issued a ‘strong condemnation’ of the use of Afghan soil by terrorists and urged the Afghan government to take strict action against elements engaged in such acts. Earlier, the Afghan government alleged that the Pakistani military had conducted strikes inside Afghanistan and warned the latter not to test their patience as it could create serious repercussions. Now, the scenario is that there is little possibility that the Afghan Taliban will take action against the TTP owing to their strong affiliation with the group while for Pakistan, it is becoming difficult to decide how to deal with the militants who are operating from Afghanistan. In the past, under the National Action Plan, Pakistani authorities had started the process of securing the border by erecting fences. The border has been neglected for decades due to the ‘boundary line dispute’ between the two countries. It is believed that most of the terrorist attacks happening in Pakistan originate from or through the Afghan territory. Moreover, smuggling of goods, as well as drug trade, has continued through the porous border for decades. Pakistan has serious concerns over the activities of the Tehreek-e-Taliban, who have taken refuge in Afghanistan. There is a need for a strong resolve and joint counterterrorism strategy to purge both states of all militants. The establishment of robust border control centres to check the infiltration of militants and better trade and economic relations are also necessary.
The across-the-border nexus of militants operating in Pakistan is an open secret. Since the start of the military operation, most of the militants have fled across the border to Afghanistan. Furthermore, the lethargic response of the Afghan Taliban in taking action against these militants has forced Pakistani officials for stricter control of the border to avoid movement of these terrorists across the border. For peace and stability in Afghanistan, cessation of militancy in Pakistan’s border areas, accusation of infiltration of militants on both sides, unchecked entry of Afghan nationals in Pakistan’s territory, fleeing of militants from Pakistan into Afghanistan, and elimination of cross-border smuggling, it is imperative that a proper system of border security is formed. This is one scenario where a ‘fence’ may worsen an already hostile situation in the short run, but for the long-term peace and improvement of ties between Pakistan and Afghanistan, the fencing of border may just be the window into a new dynamic between the two wary-of-one-another neighbours. Stopgap measures and knee jerk reactions are nothing but band-aiding of an open wound that has become the hallmark of the status quo between Pakistan and Afghanistan, and has been for many bloodied years. It is time to not just mend the fence, but to chalk up a whole new narrative of cessation of hostitilies, and extend a genuinely warm hand of cooperation and friendship. Both Pakistan and Afghanistan would benefit from that. If not today, very soon, and for a long time to come.