Islamabad begins fortification of the colonial era "Durand Line". The border is not recognized by the Kabul authorities. Whole villages are located in between the two states. The blurred boundaries have facilitated the entry of militants, but also the passage of missionaries, sick and goods.
Islamabad (AsiaNews) - "The fence on the border with Afghanistan will not stop the infiltration of terrorists”, Catholic and Protestant leaders in Pakistan tell AsiaNews, commenting on the decision of Islamabad to start construction on the existing border "the Durand Line fortification", the British era, which divides the two countries.
The Rev. Earnest Jacob, Anglican Bishop of Peshawar adds that " the fence can decrease bombings, not extremism. "After 10 bombings in the entire four provinces last month, the nation is finally taking a sigh of relief. However the real peace will only come after tribal people are mainstreamed”. Some activists argue that the measure is not really effective in fighting terrorism. Ata-ur-Rehman Saman, coordinator of the National Commission for Justice and Peace of the Catholic Church in Pakistan, said: "The militants do not use the official boundaries."
On March 25 Pakistani army chief, Gen. Qamar Javed Bajwa, announced that the operations of the fence construction has already begun. The goal of the authorities is "to prevent the movement of militants" who cross the border and sow death and destruction. The initiative comes as a result of the new wave of suicide attacks in late February which has spread terror throughout the territory. The most serious of these occurred in a Sufi temple in the province of Sindh, packed with faithful. The toll was over 80 dead, including many children, and at least 200 injured. Later, the government conducted a series of raids in the strongholds of the militants and has killed hundreds. At the same time it established the closure of the border with Afghanistan, considered the cradle and refuge for terrorists. The passage of people and goods was reopened only after a week.
The decision of Pakistan has been criticized by Kabul, which does not recognize the "Durand Line", the border of 2400 km that was built in 1896 by the British Empire. Last year Pakistan completed the fortification of a 1100 km long trench along the southern half of the border. The current round of strengthening of the boundaries regards instead the northern portion of the demarcation line, which passes in the tribal regions of Mohmand and Bajaur. Criticism also rained from local communities, who have always lived in those territories without respecting a clear demarcation. Residents complain that there are entire villages straddling the two countries, with the entrance doors of mosques and houses located in Pakistan and exit doors located in the territory of Afghanistan.
The border between the two states has always been weak and poorly controlled. This has led to a proliferation of terrorism, but also allowed for ease of movement for merchants and people. The missionaries were able to take advantage of this to comfort Christian families who live over the border. This is the case of Fr. Nasir William, director of the Commission for Social Communications of the Diocese of Islamabad-Rawalpindi, which in 2012 succeeded in visits to members in Jalalabad without possessing a visa. He also reports that "many Afghan patients, suffering from diseases caused by water contaminated by bacteria, could travel to Pakistan and receive treatments." All this, with the new border, could be put at risk.
According Kakkazai Amir, social media expert in Peshawar, "the two countries must work together to stop illegal immigration and smugglers. At the same time, such a fence does not solve the problem of terrorism, because Pakistan has a long history of infiltration from Afghanistan. Rather, the government should open a consulate, easing control on visas, facilitating business travel and those carried out for medical care. "
Alongside these critical positions, Naseem Kausar, teacher and activist for women's rights, welcomes the policy of Islamabad: "Having clear boundaries is a right of every State. All this relates to its sovereignty. Pakistan faces a serious threat, so protecting the homeland is a necessity these days."
(Shafique Khokhar collaborated)