Living with ideological frontiers
Pakistan’s ideology is a myth of its own kind as it reshapes the country into an enigmatic geography which is the very base of the volatility of its boundaries. It is a country on the surface of the planet which exists with its ideological frontiers rather than tangible borders. The borders of Pakistan revolve around its ideological frontiers and geostrategic overconfidence. The mountains of the Karakoram Range in the north and the Arabian Sea in the south though work as natural borders but still lack the status of the well-defined boundaries. The cases of the Durand Line in the west and the Line of Control (LoC) in the east are even more enthralling due to controversies over the recognition of their status as permanent international borders. The reservations of Baloch separatists over Pakistan’s border with Iran and their ongoing rebellion in Balochistan are an intricate challenge for the country.
The authors of Pakistan might have some inspirations in their minds which encouraged them to promote the notion of ideological frontiers to maintain the state on the map of the globe despite the ambiguity of its borders. Pakistan itself does not accept the Line of Control (LoC) as a permanent border due to its timeless claim on the Kashmir legacy. The LoC is not considered as a legally recognized international border as was pronounced in the Simla Agreement of 2nd of July, 1972, which recognized it as a de facto border between Pakistan and India. The LoC was mistakenly termed as the “Ceasefire Line” as often time clashes take place between Pakistan and India in the area because of the contradiction over its status as a permanent border dividing the two parts of Kashmir. However, both of Pakistan and India always blame each other for violating the LoC.
On the other hand, Afghanistan never accepts the legal status of Durand Line as a border due to its claim on a vast area of northwestern Pakistan. Afghanistan was the first country which refused to recognize Pakistan after its formation on 14th of August, 1947. Recently, after the border clash between Pakistani and Afghan security forces, the Afghan President Hamid Karzai said at a press conference in Kabul on 4th of May, 2013 that Afghanistan never recognized the Durand Line. However, two days after the President Karzai’s press conference, spokesman of Foreign Office of Pakistan Aizaz Ahmed Chaudhry said that the Durand Line was a settled issue which should not be discussed anymore. Afghan top level officials have been rejecting the legal status of the Durand Line as an international border between the two neighboring countries. On the other hand, Pakistan supports its standpoint on the Durand Line with the 1893 MoU and the 1919 Treaty of Rawalpindi, while Afghanistan considers that the agreement was expired after completion of its hundred years in 1993.
Similarly, the Baloch separatists consider Pak-Iran border as a line that separates Seestan and Balochistan. These separatists are active for the unification of Baloch areas – Seestan in Iran and Balochistan in Pakistan – to form their independent state. Due to the same fact various uprisings have taken place in Balochistan. In July 1948, with the Afghan aid and the assistance of tribal leader of Zarakzai, Mir Gohar Khan Zehri, Prince Abdul Karim Khan organized a rebellion against Pakistan who was later on arrested with his 142 followers. In 1958-59, Nawab Nowroz Khan, the head of Zarakzai tribe, started an uprising for the liberation of Balochistan but he was arrested on 6th of October, 1958. Five of his sons and nephews were hanged while he died in captivity. The Baloch also started revolt against Pakistan when Zulfikar Ali Bhutto dismissed the government of Balochistan in1973 on the charges of encouragement of a secessionist movement, smuggling and opposition to modernization. It continued till the fall of Bhutto’s government in 1977 and release of jailed Baloch leaders. The recent riot of 2004 has its root in the strategic importance of the region which still continues. The ongoing uprising was ignited after the demise of Nawab Akbar Khan Bugti on 26th of August, 2006. In Balochistan, People’s Liberation Army, Balochistan Liberation Army and Balochistan Liberation Front are active and launching attacks against the government installations and security forces across the province. These separatist groups do not accept the division of Baloch people across the Pak-Iran border.
The mountains of the Karakoram Range are though serving as a natural wall in the north but do not guarantee any permanent posture as a well-defined boundary line between Pakistan and China. Moreover, Gilgit-Baltistan, forming the northern areas of Pakistan, is a self-governed region which was considered a part of the disputed Kashmir region. Gilgit-Baltistan borders China and Indian Held Kashmir. Most importantly, Kashmir has been divided among India, Pakistan and China namely Indian held Ladakh, Jammu and Kashmir, Pakistani administered Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan, and Chinese occupied Aksai Chin. Similarly, the Arabian Sea does not provide any stable border as the bordering capricious waters always create defense issues due to territorial vulnerability to the foreign aggression.
Though Pakistan claims that it has best geostrategic and geopolitical position in the entire region, but it remains only with one option to secure its territorial integrity and that is the notion of its ideological frontiers as its tangible borders do not have the concrete form. Literally, the armed forces of Pakistan provide real borders to the country as their defensive position, along which they serve, secure the territory. The roots of ongoing conflicts inside Pakistan lie in the vulnerability and volatility of its borders. The controversies over borders with the neighboring countries are making them porous which are providing opportunities to the foreign forces to interfere in the country. Pakistan needs to define its borders and make them concrete for the purpose of its own security and sovereignty. It should sign agreements with the neighboring countries to give international recognition to its borders. This will not only stop foreign interference in the country but will also halt the path of terrorism and extremism. Only in this way, Pakistan can accomplish the goal of progress and prosperity; otherwise, future is even darker than the present.
The writer is Islamabad based Researcher and Broadcaster. He tweets as @haaimbangush