Pakistan, Afghanistan must enhance border security: report

By Javed Mahmood

Afghan refugee families return home via the Torkham border crossing in September. [Shahbaz Butt]

Afghan refugee families return home via the Torkham border crossing in September. [Shahbaz Butt]

ISLAMABAD -- It is in the best interests of both Pakistan and Afghanistan to establish additional border check-points to curb illegal border crossing, militancy and improve bilateral relations, the Institute of Strategic Studies Islamabad (ISSI) said in a recent report.

In addition to two recognised check-points at Torkham and Chaman, the countries should strive to make 700 other check-points legal entry and exit points, the ISSI said in a September 26 report titled "Issues in Pak-Afghan Border Management".

Stronger borders, improved relationships

These additional border crossings would mark an important step toward better border management and reduction of tension between the two neighbours, the report said.

"The Pakistani side manages 535 border posts on the Durand Line, while Afghanistan controls 145 check-points," Amina Khan, ISSI research fellow on Afghanistan and the Pakistani Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) and author of the report, told Pakistan Forward.

For Pakistan, border management has become even more pivotal to support the success it has achieved as a result of Operation Zarb-e-Azb, she said, referring to a counter-insurgency offensive that the army launched in June 2014 in North Waziristan.

Apart from the large gate, crossing terminal and associated infrastructure recently constructed at the Torkham crossing, Pakistan has planned the construction of similar infrastructures at seven other entry points along the Pakistan-Afghan border, she said.

These include Arandu in Chitral District of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP), Ghulam Khan in North Waziristan, Angoor Adda in South Waziristan, Newa Pass in Mohmand, Gursal in Bajaur, Kharlachi in Kurram in FATA, and at Chaman in Balochistan.

This plan will facilitate legal movement of humans and goods and prevent the illegal movement of militants, drug smuggling and arms trafficking, she said.

With improved border management, insurgent groups will not be able to take advantage of crossing points that lack surveillance, she said.

"It is time for both countries, especially Pakistan, to tighten management of the border to put an end to illegal border-crossing and cross-border militancy," Amina Khan said. "Doing that would improve security and end differences between the two countries over terrorism."

Curbing flow of militants, smuggling

Pakistan has legal and documented borders with other countries and this international norm can also be applied by Pakistan and Afghanistan, observers say.

"Pakistan and Afghanistan share about 2,640km of border," said Brig. (ret.) Mehmood Shah of Peshawar, former security secretary for FATA. "Both countries should improve border management to get rid of terrorism, unlawful border-crossing, smuggling and trafficking of narcotics and arms."

Without tightening border management, Pakistan and Afghanistan will not be able to eliminate terrorism and illegal border crossings, he said.

"Pakistan has taken some serious initiatives to improve border management that should be supported by Afghanistan and all the other stakeholders who are fighting militancy and cross-border terrorism," he told Pakistan Forward.

Pakistan and Afghanistan have made major strides in crushing militancy in recent years and both countries should support strategies that continue these gains, he said.

"Senior officials of Pakistan and Afghanistan should hold regular meetings to improve security, co-ordination and border management with the aim to defeat militancy, strengthen their bilateral ties and improve security," he added.

"Whatever situation we are witnessing today along our border or in the tribal areas is due to lax policy adopted over decades along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border," said Imtiaz Gul, chairman of the Centre for Research and Security Studies in Islamabad.

"Approximately 60,000 to 70,000 Afghans cross the border every day without visas," he told Pakistan Forward. "This situation cannot go on indefinitely especially when Pakistan is faced with grave security threats."

Documentation of border crossings is part of border security everywhere, he said, adding that regulation of the border cannot take a back seat to the emotional attachments of Pakistanis and Afghans who have relatives across the border.

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