A reflection on the history of Afghanistan-Pakistan relations


Pakistan was a remnant of the British Indian Empire’s colonies in the south Asian region. In 1947, because of internal uprisings led by Muhammad Ali Jinnah, Pakistan got its independence from India; but after Jinnah’s death, this country faced the identity crisis of minorities, which led to civil war. Finally, in 1971, Bangladesh separated from the body of Pakistan and recognized as an independent country. The army and its intelligence agency (ISI) due to its continuous enmity with India over the disputed region of Kashmir have monopolized political power in Pakistan. In order to maintain national security and suppress internal and external opposition groups, Pakistan’s intelligence agency (ISI) has started to monopolize power. Therefore, Pakistan’s elites always support resistance groups in the region in order to escape from Pakistan’s internal ethnic identity crisis, Kashmir and Durand border disputes.

The roots of differences between Pakistan and Afghanistan

In order to remove the threats from Afghanistan towards them, the Indo-British government took an imposed action, and finally by sending a British delegation in 1893 AD, the Durand Line was determined as the border between the Indo-British government and Afghanistan. With the signing of this treaty by the government of Afghanistan at that time, this country lost the region of Pashtonistan with a population of about 50 million. Although there was no consultation with the people during the signing of the Durand Treaty by the government of Afghanistan at that time, but for many years, the Indo-British government obtained the seal of approval of the subsequent rulers of Afghanistan by any means (warning of cutting off financial supports) on that treaty. However, as soon as Pakistan formed, sensitivities against the Pashtonistan region were aroused until Afghanistan initially voted against Pakistan’s membership in the United Nations in 1947 AD, but after a while, it voted in favor outside the United Nations Assembly. However, the “Loya Jirga” of 1949 declared Durand’s line invalid. Although this request of “Loya Jirga” sent to Muhammad Ali Jinnah, the founder of Pakistan, he did not accept. However, the tensions between Afghanistan and Pakistan increased until during the government of Sardar Dawood Khan, the relations between these two countries deteriorated.


The region of Pashtonistan belonged to Afghanistan, but after the death of Ahmad Shah Abdali, it taken over by the Sikhs; with the formation of Pakistan, this region became a conflict between Afghanistan and Pakistan. However, the darkening of the relations between these two neighboring countries has different causes and factors. However, the issue of Pashtonistan has been one of the most important of them. Afghanistan claims ownership due to having common cultural, linguistic and ethnic values ​​with Pashtonistan, which was once a part of this country’s territory. But this claim of Afghanistan is ignored by the politicians of Pakistan, even when Hamid Karzai, the former president of Afghanistan, visited Pakistan in 2002 He spoke about the readiness to distribute citizenship cards to the people of Pashtonistan; His words were accompanied by reactions inside Pakistan that had negative effects on the diplomatic relations between the two countries.

On the other hand, in order to be able to use the” Pashtonistan” region for its own benefits, Pakistan has turned this place unstable. The strengthening of Salafism and extremism in Pashtonistan and its role in the instability of Afghanistan has aimed at creating distance between the two ethnic groups. However, the question is why is Pashtonistan important for Pakistan?

Pashtonistan’s access to the open sea through Balochistan has increased the importance of this region; In addition, Pakistan is afraid of the plan to form a greater Pashtonistan and transfer this region to Afghanistan.

Therefore, the government and political elites of Pakistan have adopted a written strategy to thwart the plan of Greater Pashtonistan. The responsibility of implementing this strategy lies with the intelligence agency of that country’s army (ISI); because: Strengthening the extremist in Afghanistan.

Durand line

The Durand Line, which separates the Pashtonistan region from the Afghan territory, has always caused aggravation of Pakistan-Afghanistan relations. The British created this border by putting pressure on Amir Abdul Rahman Khan. Although an authentic document in this regard is not available, some historical evidences have stated that this area handed over to the Indo-British government for a century. Besides, Pakistan, which is a remnant of the Indo-British government, does not have any valid documents that indicate that Durand belongs to that country. The Afghan side does not recognize Durand as an official border and always claims ownership on the other side of this line. Durand has become a complicated issue between two neighboring countries; the effects of this issue sometimes cause tension and darkness in the relations between Afghanistan and Pakistan. Therefore, Pakistan considers all its relations with Afghanistan dependent on the intentions of Afghan politicians in relation to the Pashtonistan region and the Durand Line in any situation, as Dr. Najibullah, the former president of Afghanistan, had anti-Pakistani positions. He was able to infiltrate the Pashtonistan region, which Pakistan was afraid of. Therefore, Pakistan, with the support of America and Arab countries, created and strengthened Mujahideen groups to stand against the government of that time. This action of Pakistan, along with having economic benefit for that country, also weakened the role of Afghanistan in the issue of Pashtonistan and Durrand. However, until a few years ago, Afghanistan had the most imports through Torkham-Pakistan port, which sometimes closed by Pakistan as a tool of pressure. However, with Afghanistan’s access to Chabahar port and air corridor, the intensity of this pressure decreased.

Conclusion and solution

Finally, relations between Afghanistan and Pakistan have faced difficulties since the beginning of the formation of Pakistan. The lack of clarity of the border between the two countries and the assertion of ownership over the Pashtonistan region by both countries and the forcing of the Durand border by Afghanistan have always led to the escalation of disputes and tension. On the other hand, Pakistan uses various tools to cover the border issue and Pashtonistan and use it for its own benefit. Because it supports resistance groups in Afghanistan and border areas. At the same time, Pakistan has been a supporter and protector of the government aligned with its strategy in Afghanistan.

Solution: separatism and territorial disputes among Asian countries have a long history. Durand and Pashtonistan is one of the cases that has caused the strain of relations between Afghanistan and Pakistan. In order to resolve this conflict, it is up to the United Nations and powerful countries to arbitrate between the two countries (Afghanistan and Pakistan) and determine the fate of the Pashtonistan and Durand region, in accordance with international laws and the coordination of the major global regional powers. In case of not resorting to such an action and not cooperating with the great regional powers of the world, the problem of Durand and Pashtonistan will affect both countries.

Note: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of South Asia Strategic Research Center (GASAM)

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