Pakistan threatens to fence off Afghan border

As a war of words breaks out between Hamid Karzai and Pervez Musharraf over accusations of Afghan insurgents using Pakistani territory as a staging ground, Islamabad broaches actually fencing off the border the way Pat Buchanan wants to fence off Mexico. Once again, this is only likely to enflame the situation. The increasingly restive tribal peoples of Pakistan’s border zone will not be happy about being cut off from their kin folk across the frontier. This could only cement an alliance between the neo-Taliban and Pakistan’s Pashtuns, who increasingly seek a unified “Pashtunistan” straddling both sides of the international line. Not that this is likey to be a consideration for policy-makers, but the fence could also spell cultural extermination for the Kuchi nomads, an already gravely threatened people who have for centuries moved across what is now the Afghan-Pakistani border in seasonal migrations. Other small ethnicities, such as the Kalasha of Kafiristan, are already divided by the border, and will face escalated pressures if the fence extends into their remote territories. From Pakistan’s Daily Times, March 7:

ISLAMABAD — Pakistan has said that it is considering fencing its 2,500-kilometre long border with Afghanistan.

“We will consider fencing our own side,” Foreign Office spokeswoman Tasnim Aslam told a press conference on Monday.

She urged the Afghan government to show “seriousness and commitment” in the war on terror and curb movement of militants across the border into Pakistan.

The Foreign Office spokeswoman said that Pakistan has taken “effective and comprehensive measures‿ and deployed over 80,000 troops along the Afghan border “to stop the movement of terrorists‿. She said that the Afghan government should “seriously cooperate with us‿ instead of “making allegations and maligning Pakistan‿.

About the list of suspected Taliban hiding in Pakistan provided by Afghan President Hamid Karzai on his visit, Aslam said that Afghanistan had not shared this information with Pakistan or even the US Central Intelligence Agency. She said that differences between Pakistan and Afghanistan should not affect the war against terrorism. She said that the US, Afghan and other multinational forces in Afghanistan should stop terrorist infiltration into Pakistan.

Aslam said that US Central Command head General John P Abizaid will be visiting soon, and Pakistan will discuss the Afghan government’s allegations with him. The Tripartite Commission is another platform where this issue can be taken up, she said.

President George W Bush appreciated Pakistan’s contribution in the war against terrorism during his recent visit, she said.

See our last posts on Pakistan and Afghanistan.