The Afghan narrative on the Durand Line was crafted to lay claim on Pakistan’s Pashtun belt despite the fact that the treaty was willingly signed by Amir of Afghanistan Abdur Rahman Khan in 1893 and the border was duly demarcated under the supervision of Afghan and British officials.

 Hence, the Durand Line is a settled matter and both Pakistan and Afghanistan need to look beyond the border issue to strengthen their mercurial bilateral relations.

This was stated by experts of Pak-Afghan affairs at a roundtable conference titled ‘Pak-Afghan Relations and the Durand Line Issue’ organized by Institute of Policy Studies (IPS), Islamabad.

The keynote speakers included well-known author Juma Khan Sufi, researcher and historian Dr Lutfur Rahman and Ambassador (retd) Ayaz Wazir. The roundtable was chaired by Khalid Rahman, Executive President IPS, and moderated by Brigadier (retd) Said Nazir Mohmand.

The speakers were of the view that the Afghan narrative on the Durand Line was built on a myth while Pakistan’s narrative was based on verifiable evidence and history of British India.

Juma Khan Sufi debunked the claim of Afghan nationalists that Amir Abdur Rahman was under duress when he inked the treaty with British India. The author questioned the authenticity of ‘Pata Khazana’, supposedly the oldest Pashto poetry book that was “discovered” in 1944, and believed the “discovery” of the book was meant to substantiate the ‘Pashtunistan’ narrative crafted by Abdul Haye Habibi and Gul Mohmand, Afghan literary figures, to fan Pashtun nationalism across the Pak-Afghan border. This helped Kabul to enjoy leverage in the former FATA and NWFP regions.

He stated that the Durand Line issue was created to justify meddling in the internal matters of Pakistan by subsequent Afghan governments. The speaker believed the Peshawar valley, and not Kabul, has been the epicenter of Pashtun culture and history.

Dr Lutfur Rahman was of the view that the mutually signed Durand Line treaty is for perpetuity and had already established the border between Afghanistan and British India. Thus, it cannot be terminated unilaterally according to international laws. He opined that Amir Habibullah, who succeeded Amir Abdur Rahman, also endorsed in 1905 the treaty which demarcated the “sphere of influence” of the British Raj at that time.

With the help of copies of the original maps that he claimed are rare to find in Pakistan, the historian underlined the fact that the whole Pak-Afghan border, excluding a 22-mile area, was demarcated by boundary commissions formed after the treaty was signed.

Ayaz Wazir underscored the need for having amicable bilateral relations with Afghanistan as Pakistan has aided the Afghans time and again. He deplored the volatile nature of Pak-Afghan relations and hoped both countries would take measures that could bridge the gulf of mistrust.

Said Nazir said the time has come for Pakistan to distance itself from the yoke of Indo-Pak hyphenation and consider itself a part of Central Asia. He added that the ‘Pashtunistan’ slogan is outdated and must not be taken seriously.