No ‘Formal Border’ between Afghanistan and Pakistan, says Noori

Afghanistan has asserted that it lacks a “definitive” border with neighboring Pakistan. Acting Afghan Minister of Borders and Tribal Affairs Noorullah Noori, speaking to the media at the Torkham border crossing, stated that the border between Islamabad and Kabul remains “unclear” and characterized the demarcation as consisting of “imaginary lines.”

Torkham, one of the key border crossings linking Afghanistan’s northeastern Nangarhar province with Pakistan’s northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, serves as a focal point for this assertion.

Addressing periodic border tensions, Noori emphasized Afghanistan’s efforts to address them in a “proper way.” He contended that Afghanistan does not have a formal border with Pakistan and lacks a designated zero point, describing the Durand Line as a mere “imaginary line” between the two nations.

Afghanistan’s refusal to recognize the Durand Line, citing its origins under British colonial rule as a means to divide ethnic Pashtuns, contrasts with Islamabad’s position, which upholds the Durand Line as a permanent border between the two countries. The Durand Line, a 2,640-kilometer (1,640-mile) border established in 1893 through an agreement between British colonial India and Abdur Rahman Khan, Afghanistan’s ruler at the time, remains a point of contention.

The border between Pakistan and Afghanistan features 18 crossing points, with Torkham and Chaman serving as the primary conduits for trade and people movement, connecting Pakistan’s southwestern Balochistan province with Afghanistan’s southern province of Kandahar.

In 2017, Pakistan initiated border fencing activities under the pretext of curbing terrorist cross-border movements, a measure that drew condemnation from Kabul. Pakistan attributes a surge in terrorist attacks to the Afghan Taliban’s return to power in Kabul in August 2021 and accuses Afghanistan’s interim Taliban government of providing refuge to members of the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), a coalition of Pakistani militant factions known for attacking Pakistan. The Afghan Taliban have consistently refuted these allegations.

Additionally, the border region between Pakistan and Afghanistan has historically been a complex and volatile area, influenced by geopolitical dynamics, tribal affiliations, and ongoing conflicts. The porous nature of the border has facilitated cross-border movement of people, goods, and militants, contributing to both cooperation and tensions between the two nations.

Efforts to formalize and demarcate the border have faced challenges, including disputes over territorial claims, ethnic divisions, and competing political interests. The lack of a mutually recognized boundary has hindered efforts to establish stable bilateral relations and promote regional security and cooperation.

Furthermore, the relationship between Pakistan and Afghanistan has been characterized by periods of cooperation and discord, often influenced by broader regional dynamics and the involvement of external actors. Both countries have faced common security threats, including terrorism and insurgency, which have underscored the importance of enhanced cooperation and dialogue to address shared challenges.

Despite these challenges, both Pakistan and Afghanistan have expressed a commitment to strengthening their bilateral ties and addressing mutual concerns through diplomatic channels and multilateral forums. However, resolving longstanding disputes and building trust between the two nations remain key challenges for achieving lasting peace and stability in the region.