Home South Asia Afghanistan Another ‘Thirty-Eighth Parallel’: Reality or Myth of the Durand Line?

Another ‘Thirty-Eighth Parallel’: Reality or Myth of the Durand Line?

Myth
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Zain Ullah Khattak |

Durand Line is a boundary between Pakistan and Afghanistan, it spans from north Wakhan (KP) to the south in Chagai (Baluchistan) covering 2430 km in area. The area where Durand line was drawn is the Rocky Mountains and semi-fertile valleys. The Tribal belt was converted into a buffer Zone on Pakistani side between Afghanistan and settled Districts of Punjab (Currently KP). The Durand line was drawn through an agreement between Amir of Afghanistan Amir Abdul Rahman Khan and British government representative Mr. Mortimer Durand on November 12, 1893, at Kabul capital of Afghanistan.

The Durand line agreement, a short document of seven articles, was signed officially without mentioning any time period or duration of expiry and later on four different commissions– Hindukush commission, Kurram Commission, Waziristan Commission, and Baluchistan Commission– were appointed to practically demarcate the line between Afghanistan and British India. These commissions faced no hurdle in carrying out neither their responsibilities nor any sort of opposition from the local communities due to the fact that the area on the east of Durand line was already under the administrative control of British India.

Moreover, it is to be mentioned that the British conquered the area from the Sikhs. The Amir of Afghanistan Abdul Rahman Khan was very happy and satisfied over the border agreements established with British India. He remarked as “at the same time when I was occupied in breaking down the feudal system of Afghanistan and molding the country into a strong consolidated kingdom I was neither unaware nor neglected of the necessity of defining my boundaries with the neighboring countries. I well knew that it was necessary to mark out the boundary links between my dominions and those of my neighbors for the safety and protection of my kingdom and for the purpose of putting a check on their advance and getting rid of misunderstanding and disputes.”

The Durand line was drawn through an agreement between Amir of Afghanistan Amir Abdul Rahman Khan and British government representative Mr. Mortimer Durand on November 12, 1893, at Kabul capital of Afghanistan.

Amir Abdul Rahman Khan got an allowance of Rs 1.8 million from the British government as a result of the agreement. So it proved that the Durand line agreement was not introduced through the use of the force or threats, but by both parties mutually agreeing over it diplomatically. Abdul Rahman Khan and Sir Mortimer Durand privately conducted negotiations. Sir Mortimer Durand was an expert of Persian language so they talked in the Persian language. The boundaries are drawn in order for good will’s of human to bring development and prosperity in the region. It is not drawn for the division of the Peoples.

The Durand Line agreement ends all sorts of fears of Afghanistan as stated by Amir of Afghanistan “The misunderstandings and disputes which were arising about the frontier matters were put to an end after the boundary lines had been marked according to the above-mentioned agreement by the commissioners of both Governments a general peace and harmony reigned between the two Governments, which I pray God may continue forever.” After the death of Amir Abdul Rahman Khan, Amir Habib Ullah Khan, son of Amir Abdul Rahman was appointed as a ruler of Afghanistan.

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Amir Habib Ullah Khan agreed and honored all the treaties conducted between his father and the British government. The next king of Afghanistan Aman Ullah Khan signed the Treaty of Rawalpindi in 1919 with the British government. The Rawalpindi treaty paragraph number 05 stated that ‘the Afghanistan government accepts the terms and conditions of the Durand Line accepted by the late Amir’. King Nadir Shah of Afghanistan in his 1931 inaugural speech said, “in accordance with the principles of international laws I recognized all the treaties with the friendly states”. Nadir Shah reaffirmed the Rawalpindi treaty.

In 1947 Afghanistan would not raise the issue of the Durand line during independence established between India and Pakistan nor would they raise objections over the referendum of the NWFP in 1947. Following the independence of Pakistan in 1947, the Afghanistan leadership did not question the validity of the Durand Line Agreement. The Afghanistan representative to the United Nations Mr. Hussain Aziz said during a General assembly session of the UN in September 1947 as “we cannot recognize the NWFP as a part of Pakistan so long as peoples of NWFP have not been an opportunity free from any kind of influence.

These commissions faced no hurdle in carrying out neither their responsibilities nor any sort of opposition from the local communities due to the fact that the area on the east of Durand line was already under the administrative control of British India.

I repeat free from any kind of influence to determine for them whether they wish to be independent or to become part of Pakistan.” The Afghan government of that time did not claim control or ownership over the Pashtun belt nor reject the Durand line. Shah Wali Khan was the first Afghan ambassador to Pakistan, who stated that “we have no dispute whatsoever with the government of Pakistan.” Such statements along with similarly consistent remarks and policy positions by Afghanistan representatives it has been made clearer that after the independence of Pakistan, Afghanistan has made no claim over Durand line not rejected any of the established treatise arrangements governing those relations involving the Durand line.

The Pakistani Pashtuns have expressed their desires through a referendum held on 16 July 1947 under Independence Act, 1947, 99.9 % votes cast in the favors of joining Pakistan. Therefore, Afghanistan’s demands for the right of Pashtun self-determination is out of mind. On 23 October 1947 Afghanistan withdrew its negative votes against Pakistan and recognized the validity of Durand Line border. After 1947 Pakistan became a member of the commonwealth.

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The Secretary of State for commonwealth Relation during his speech in British House of common on 30 June in 1950 stated that “his majesty’s government in the United Kingdom has seen with regret the disagreement which there have been between the government of Pakistan and Afghanistan about the status of the territories on the northwestern frontier. It is his majesty’s government view that Pakistan is in international law the inheritor of the right and duties of the old government of India and of his majesty’s government in the United Kingdom in these territories and that the Durand line is the international frontier.”

In 1956, the prime minister of UK Sir Anthony Eden remarked about Durand line as “in 1947 Pakistan came into existence as a new sovereign independent member of the commonwealth. The British government rejected her as having with the full consent of the overwhelming majority of the Pashto speaking peoples concerned both in administrative and non-administrative areas successes to the exercise of the power formerly exercised by the crown in the Indian North West territory of the subcontinent”. The British prime minister statement proved the validity of the Durand line as the international border between Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Such statements along with similarly consistent remarks and policy positions by Afghanistan representatives it has been made clearer that after the independence of Pakistan, Afghanistan has made no claim over Durand line not rejected any of the established treatise arrangements governing those relations involving the Durand line.

The Vienna Convention on Succession of States in Respect to Treaties (VCSSRT) article number 11 stated that succession of states cannot impact international border created through agreements. Councils of Foreign ministers of the South East Asia treaty organization in their meeting held in Karachi on 6th to 8th November 1956 declared that the members of councils severely declared that their government recognized that the sovereignty of Pakistan extended up to the Durand line the international boundary between Pakistan and Afghanistan.

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It was consequently affirmed that the treaty area referred to in article 4 and article 8 of the treaty includes the area up to the Durand line. So International organizations declared Durand line as the international border between Pakistan and Afghanistan. Durand line issue always has been raised by extreme nationalists and propagandists of Pakhtun belt. They have no legal reason to support their argument against Durand line. The mainstream Pashtun is supporting the Durand line as an international border. In international law, Pakistan is the inheritor of the right and duties of the old government of India.

Currently, Durand line has much more geostrategic importance due to the War on Terror. Despite a large number of Forces on the Pakistani side and NATO, Afghan, and American Forces on the other side of the border, there are cross-border allegations. Therefore, it is need of the hour to make it inaccessible for illegal movement across the Durand line.

Zain Ullah Khattak is  Research Scholar in Areas Study Centre (China, Russia, Afghanistan, and Central Asia) at the University of Peshawar, Peshawar. He is Visiting Fellow at International Islamic University, Islamabad. He has extensively published his articles on socio-political thoughts and issues, education reforms, Sufis thoughts, and Philosophical issues. The views expressed in this article are author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Global Village Space. 


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