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Afghan - pakistani border region

 

Grenzprojekte_PAK_AFGHThe PATRIP Foundation is currently funding 15 projects along the Afghan-Pakistani border. Implementation partners are CAMP, ORD and BRSP.

The border between Afghanistan and Pakistan is still a bone of contention between the two states. It usually follows the Durand Line - the border agreed in 1893 between colonial British India and the Afghan Emir Abdur Rahman Khan. But this current demarcation line ignores tribal areas, with Pashtuns living in both states and able to cross the border relatively freely. However, the border dispute is not the only matter of concern in the relationship between the two states.

 

Most of the border region is isolated, with no proper access to basic infrastructure. However, certain areas are highly integrated and serve as gateways for imports and exports between the two countries.

 

A further complication is the large number of displaced people who fled their homes during the years of civil war and unrest following the Soviet invasion. After the fall of the Taliban regime, the Afghan Government now faces the huge challenge of socially and economically reintegrating these returnees. Pakistan was initially ready and able to admit Afghan refugees, but its willingness has started to decline in recent years in the face of its own internal political and economic problems.

The current infrastructure in the border region cannot cope with the large number of people living in the area, and Pakistan has implemented programs to send back the refugees to Afghanistan. As a consequence, there is growing friction between Afghan refugees and the Pakistan population.

 

This has led to new forms of immigration, with people making arrangements to live on both sides of the border and crossing it on a regular basis to visit friends and family members, access local infrastructure or find jobs. Some major border posts see several tens of thousands of people crossing every day. But most parts of the region are still extremely isolated and the security situation remains problematic - which further exacerbates the problems of controlling the border.

 

Grenzprojekte_PAK_AFGH_2Especially on the Pakistani side, the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) remain problematic, as the central government is not able to promote stability and the rule of law. The tribal areas function as a refuge for radical Islamic groups in their struggle for political power in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and the lack of any prospects for young people has boosted their recruitment to these movements in recent years. At the same time, ineffectual border controls enable the Taliban and other radical movements to roam freely through the region. In addition, natural disasters have further complicated the situation. Recent years have seen powerful earthquakes and devastating flooding, for example in the SWAT Valley.

 

The FATA are much less developed than the rest of Pakistan. Literacy rates are much lower - about 17% compared with 45% nationally - and the number of people per doctor is about six times higher than the national average. The situation on the Afghan side of the border in Paktia is similarly complicated and fragile. And the northern part of the Pakistani province of Balochistan is also is threatened by destabilization and militarization, even though it is generally more stable than the FATA.

Improved cross-border contacts at a local level using new approaches to governance and enhanced cooperation between local Afghan and Pakistani actors promise to promote economic development in the region. By improving the social and economic infrastructure, general living conditions will be improved and this, in turn, will help strengthen political, economic and social stability in the region.