November 25, 2016
ISLAMABAD, PAKISTAN — Afghanistan denounced as “improper and provocative” a unilateral flag-lowering ceremony Pakistan recently introduced at a main border crossing with its western neighbor.
An Afghan foreign ministry statement Friday warned that the Pakistani action at the Chaman crossing point violates bilateral commitments and “in the present sensitive situation could further vitiate bilateral relations.”
Kabul traditionally opposes Pakistani attempts to construct permanent structures at the border because it does not recognize it as an international boundary between the two countries.
Some view the ceremony, including a border force parade, as another attempt by Islamabad to formalize the nearly 2,600-kilometer, mostly porous border, known as the Durand Line.
The Afghan objections also underscore growing strains in bilateral relations stemming from terrorism allegations.
Tougher border controls
Pakistani authorities in recent months have tightened border controls and rebuilt well-equipped facilities at several crossings on the Afghan border.
Islamabad says the measures will help deter illegal crossings and address mutual concerns about militant infiltrations in both directions.
The Afghan ministry dismissed those claims and instead reiterated its call for Pakistan to step up efforts to remove militant sanctuaries on its side, citing them as “the real obstacle” to peace and stability in both countries.
Pakistan discounts objections
There was no official response from Pakistan to Friday’s Afghan assertions.
Islamabad rejects all Afghan objections with regard to the Durand Line. It insists the 1893 demarcation by the then-British rulers of the Indian subcontinent is “a settled issue” and it is an “internationally acceptable frontier” Pakistan inherited when it gain independence in 1947.
For decades, authorities on both sides issued special travel passes permitting divided tribes to meet with family members in Afghanistan and Pakistan. But all Pakistani travelers are now required to use national passports with valid visas under the new regulations Islamabad has put in place.
Afghanistan alleges that militant sanctuaries on Pakistani soil have enabled Taliban insurgents to intensify and prolong the Afghan war, charges that Islamabad rejects.
In turn, the Pakistan government blames the Afghan intelligence agency for harboring fugitive anti-state militants involved in terrorist attacks in Pakistan.
The allegations and counterallegations have almost halted talks at political and diplomatic levels, taking relations between Pakistan and Afghanistan to new lows in the past two years.