Ever since partition and independence in 1947, the Pakistani state has always feared a threat from the eastern frontier, from India. That has been the raison d’etre for the massive military-intelligence establishment’s supremacy and its standing in the eyes of the average Pakistani.
However, ever since the Afghan Taliban took over in 2021, it is Pakistan’s western border that is causing greater security challenges for Pakistan. And yet, the Pakistani deep state is reluctant to acknowledge this reality as that would mean admitting that its proxies – the Taliban – are no longer willing to remain subservient.
Repeated attacks against Pakistani security forces along the border, the attack on Pakistani embassy in Kabul, and the loss of Pakistani civilian lives is tragic. What is worse is that the Afghan side has shown no qualms about targeting civilian areas.
In the latest flare-up, according to Dawn, “the Afghan side opened indiscriminate fire on civilian areas in Chaman resulting in at least one death and multiple casualties. Reportedly, the violence was sparked when Pakistani personnel were repairing a border fence and came under fire from the Afghan side, with Pakistani forces returning fire. This incident comes soon after another clash, in which several people were killed on the Pakistani side.”
While border clashes between Pakistani and Afghan forces are not new, the Pakistani military establishment had long argued that these took place because the regimes in power were not friendly to Pakistan. The notion that once the Afghan Taliban take over taking the reins in Kabul a more ‘pliant’ regime next door would bring some calm to Pakistan’s western border, however, has proven wrong.
As columnist and author Zahid Hussain notes, “IF there were any illusions about Pakistan having secured peace on its western frontier after the Afghan Taliban’s return to power last August, they should have been dispelled by now.”
Hussain concludes by warning “Pakistan needs to review its policy on dealing with the Afghan Taliban regime in order to make its western border secure. It is important to engage with the Taliban administration but Islamabad must also take a firm position on the terrorist attacks stemming from Afghanistan.”