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Factbox: Historical Context Of Afghan-Pakistani Relations

Afghan President Karzai (left) with Pakistan President Musharraf in Islamabad last month (epa) Relations between Afghanistan and Pakistan can be best described as tense ever since the creation of Pakistan in 1947.

Afghanistan took the first political shot at its new neighbor with a demand that Pashtun and Baluch tribes on the Indian subcontinent be granted the right to self-determination as the process of partition was beginning. The British decision to offer the tribes the choice of joining either Pakistan or India (they chose the former) was rejected by Kabul, which called for a third option: the creation of "Pashtunistan" -- a homeland for Pashtuns in the geographical area that now constitutes Pakistan's Northwest Frontier Province, Baluchistan, and the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) of Pakistan. India, at the time of partition, supported Kabul's cause. Afghanistan announced its policy regarding "Pashtunistan" by casting the lone vote against Pakistan's admittance to the United Nations in 1947.

Early Hostility

While Afghanistan and Pakistan did not engage in full-scale military action, mutual relations were hostile at best. Pakistan and Afghan ally India have engaged in three major wars.

In 1965, in a conflict over the disputed territory of Kashmir, Indian forces approached the gates of Lahore, Pakistan's second-largest city. Later in 1971, Pakistan lost a major portion of its eastern territory, which became modern Bangladesh, due in part to Indian military strength.

While India has moved on from concentrating solely on the threat emanating from Pakistan and has sought to become a true global player, Pakistan has yet to move beyond an Indocentric worldview that regards India as an aggressor in Kashmir and as an existential threat to Pakistan. Confrontation with India has thus become part of Pakistan's national identity.

Pakistani policies are aimed in part at securing Afghanistan as a strategic safeguard against the perceived India threat. Islamabad received a helping hand toward effecting that goal when the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan in 1979. Overnight, Pakistan became the center of an international effort to defeat Soviet forces in Afghanistan.

Islamabad Disappointed

Islamabad was hoping to see a client government in a weak and dependent Afghanistan in exchange for its hosting of millions of Afghan refugees and its masterminding the strategy to bring anticommunist forces to power in Kabul.

But when the communists were finally driven from power in 1992, Pakistan's main Afghan ally, Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, failed to gain control of the government and Afghanistan was plunged into a bloody civil war.

Pakistan's second major attempt at controlling Afghanistan began with the fundamentalist Taliban regime's ascent to power in Kabul in 1996. The Taliban policy came to a deadly end after the Al-Qaeda terrorist network -- which had enjoyed safe haven in Taliban-led Afghanistan -- attacked the United States on September 11, 2001.

The outcome of the resulting U.S.-led international military intervention to replace the Taliban regime with a system to lead Afghanistan toward democracy did not yield the results that Islamabad had sought.

The Islamabad-friendly Taliban were ousted and replaced by a government that Pakistani President General Pervez Musharraf accused on March 6 of housing elements that are promoting a "deliberate [and] articulated conspiracy" against his country. One day earlier, Musharraf had accused Afghan President Hamid Karzai of being "totally oblivious of what is happening in his own country," where he charged that anti-Pakistani policies are being pursued. After September 2001, Afghanistan had also become a center for international military and economic activity in which Pakistan's role was marginal. Lastly, and perhaps most disturbing to Islamabad, the new Afghan government has reinvigorated friendly ties New Delhi and began retooling its "Pashtunistan" policies.

Allegations By Kabul

For its part, the Afghan government has repeatedly accused Pakistan of serving as a base for much of violent insurgency directed against Afghanistan. Karzai himself, however, had maintained a more diplomatic line. Then in January, after a wave of dozens of suicide attacks that had killed nearly 100 people since mid-November, the Afghan president charged that "a neighbor" of Afghanistan had had a hand in the recent upsurge in violence. "The reason for these attacks is the continuation of subversive endeavors" by foreigners whose aim is "to dominate" Afghanistan, Karzai said. The former Taliban regime, the Afghan president continued, was part of a "hidden invasion" of Afghanistan "by a neighbor for the second time" since the Soviet Union invaded the country in 1979.

While clearly pointing to -- but refraining from directly identifying -- Pakistan, Karzai added that since the collapse of the Taliban regime following the U.S.-led invasion in late 2001, those "who controlled Afghanistan during the Taliban regime have not altered their intentions." Karzai went on to say that the unnamed neighbor has continued to interfere in Afghanistan's internal affairs and, for "this reason, terrorism and attacks [are] still widespread."

In order to take his case to Musharraf personally, Karzai traveled to Pakistan in mid-February. According to Afghan sources, Karzai presented a list containing the names of former Taliban leaders living in Pakistan. For several days, Islamabad denied having received a list from their Afghan counterparts. Finally, in an interview on February 27, Musharraf defended his country's efforts in the war on terror, adding that the list Karzai had handed to him contained a "ridiculous" number of names. Two-thirds of the leads were "a waste of time," he added. Musharraf said that he had ordered his intelligence agencies to take foreign intelligence agents to the addresses supplied by the Afghans "so that their lies are once and for all nailed down."

...And From Islamabad

Since 2003, Islamabad has accused its arch nemesis India of setting up camps in Afghanistan to train Afghans and Pakistanis as terrorists to destabilize Pakistan. With the recent and current instabilities challenging Islamabad's authority in Baluchistan and the FATAs, the fingers of accusation to India's involvement from across the border in Afghanistan have become louder in Pakistan.

Kabul also has revived its "Pashtunistan" policies, although it has avoided labeling them as such. During his recent visit to Pakistan, Karzai advocated an open-border policy between Afghanistan and Pakistan -- rejecting Musharraf's idea of fencing or mining the border. More ominously -- and perhaps less visibly -- Kabul, in a move reminiscent of the 1950s-80s, is inviting delegations of Pashtuns from the Pakistani side of the border to visit Afghanistan. A visit by a delegation from Kurram, one of the FATAs, to Afghanistan in early March, reportedly included a pledge of support by the Pakistani Pashtun delegation to the Afghan government. Media also carried a statement apparently made by the leader of the delegation suggesting that there is no difference between Pashtuns living in Afghanistan and those in Pakistan.

While Pakistan and Afghanistan are playing an old hand that has already been overplayed, the terrorists and their allies on both sides of the border are emboldened. Unless Pakistan accepts Afghanistan as an independent country -- one not subservient to its demands -- and Kabul begins to concentrate on events inside its own borders, international terrorism will reap benefits.

Helmand Province Governor Comments

Helmand Province Governor Comments

U.S. Marines operating in Helmand Province in 2002 (epa)

RULING A RESTIVE LAND: On February 12, RFE/RL Radio Free Afghanistan correspondent Jawaid Wafa spoke briefly with Helmand Province Governor MOHAMMAD DAOUD about the ongoing violence in his restive region on the border with Pakistan.

RFE/RL: Recently, there have been many clashes and attacks by insurgents in Helmand Province. What in your view facilitates these attacks, especially in Helmand?

Mohammad Daoud: This province has a 160-kilometer border with Pakistan's Baluchistan Province. In reality, armed people, armed terrorists, from the other side of the border cross the border into Helmand. They carry out attacks and return back. It is a serious problem in Helmand that within our borders there is neither tribal good will, nor are there are special military or security measures to prevent enemies from crossing back and forth.

RFE/RL: The attacks and clashes have not only been between government forces and insurgents. There have been various clashes in different parts of Helmand between police and purported drug smugglers. How do you explain this?

Daoud: Drug smugglers also use the border for their own purposes. They have opened markets on the border and process opium there. This is a serious problem along our border. We are in touch with our authorities on this problem.

RFE/RL: There are government border police patrol your border. What is their role in preventing illegal crossings?

Daoud: Along this 160-kilometer border, there are car routes, walking routes. We have border police, but unfortunately, either because of their own problems or because of weak administration, they have not been able to stop the crossing.


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