Pakistan emphasises border security to curb militancy

By Javed Mahmood


Pakistani border troops prepare to deploy to the Afghan frontier at a camp near Chaman late May 5. Pakistan plans to install more than 400 check-posts and forts by 2019 to protect its borders from militancy. [Banaras Khan/AFP]

ISLAMABAD -- Pakistan aims to have more than 400 security check posts and forts installed on its side of the Pakistan-Afghanistan border by 2019 to curb illegal cross-border movement and discourage militancy.

Pakistan has decided to construct 443 small and large security forts in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), 35 forts in Malakand District of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP), 54 in Bajaur Agency and 55 in North Waziristan, according to a July 17 report from the Institute of Strategic Studies Islamabad (ISSI), a security think tank.

Seventy-seven are under construction in various parts of the seven agencies, the report said.

About 205 security check-posts exist on Pakistan's side of the border, while there are 133 in Afghanistan.

These security check-posts are in addition to the fencing of Pakistan's border with Afghanistan. The Durand Line extends for 2,430km.

"Aerial surveillance and special radar systems have also been installed," the report said.

For years the Pakistan-Afghanistan border has been witnessing daily unmonitored movement of about 50,000 to 60,000 people, and more than 90% of the flow consists of Afghan nationals entering Pakistan, the report said.

Pakistan announced new border management initiatives in June 2016 to facilitate regulated cross-border movement and to control unregulated and illegal cross-border movements, the report said.

These measures included the construction of a gate at the Torkham border crossing, requiring valid travel documents for all Afghan nationals entering Pakistan, and a special identification card and gate for Afghan schoolchildren who enter Pakistan daily for their studies.

Securing borders to deter terrorism

"Pakistan must secure its entire border with Afghanistan to discourage terrorism," Imtiaz Gul, executive director of the Centre for Research and Security Studies in Islamabad, told Pakistan Forward.

This move will discourage terrorist elements that are using bases in Afghanistan to carry out attacks in Pakistan, he said.

"Fencing the border is not a political solution; Pakistan and Afghanistan must join hands to eliminate militancy," he said, adding that both countries should develop a joint mechanism against terrorists to end militancy on both sides of the border.

"Pakistan must take every measure that protects the country from extremism and militancy," Karachi-based senior security analyst Col. (ret.) Mukhtar Ahmed Butt told Pakistan Forward.

Some terrorist attacks in Pakistan in early 2017 indicated that the masterminds, suicide bombers and other attackers came from Afghanistan, he said.

"Pakistan's government and military have taken stringent security measures against militants within the country, and now they are tightening border management to stop penetration by bombers," he said.

"Pakistan has the right to protect its border with Afghanistan, and that is the only way to defeat the elements who seek to shed blood in the name of religion," he said.

Manning mountainous areas is very difficult and security forces must use drones and helicopters to secure areas that ground troops cannot reach, Karachi-based security analyst Col. (ret.) Muhammad Sabahuddin Chaudhry told Pakistan Forward.

"There are several narrow, very deep and zig-zag tracks in border areas with Afghanistan that militants can use," he said, adding that "hard-core militants often use locals for transportation of terrorists and weapons by paying them".

"The Pakistani army should also keep this factor in mind and forewarn the public to discourage this form of collaboration between militants and locals," he said.

Furthermore, Chaudhry suggested that border guards receive orders to "shoot on sight".

"That would be a major deterrent for the militants, and it could keep such elements away from our border," he said.

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