2.2 Strained relations

Tensions between the two had reached the international stage before Pakistan could barely walk. “From almost Hie first day of Pakistan’s existence as an independent country, relations between the two states were strained” (Lesniewska, 2002, p.4). Afghanistan showed its frustration over the referendum when it voted against Pakistan’s entry into the United Nations in September 1947 stating that Pakistan shouldn’t join the “brotherhood” of peaceful nations in the UN (Dupree, 1973, p.450) until it satisfactorily solved the Pashtunistan issue. The Afghan representative, Hosayn Aziz, is quoted to have said, “We cannot recognise the North-West Frontier as part of Pakistan so long as the people of the North-West Frontier have not been given an opportunity, free from any kind of influence, to determine for themselves whether they wish to be independent or to become part of Pakistan ” (United Nations, 1947, p.313-314).
This opposition from Afghanistan is often exaggerated, however, by various Pakistani historians (Amin, 2004, p.6). Afghanistan withdrew the negative vote within one month and was willing to establish diplomatic relations with Pakistan in February 1948 and enter discussions on Pashtunistan through diplomatic channels.
Pakistan took the initiative in December 1947 to discuss the issue with Afghanistan in Karachi. The afghan representative, Najibullah Khan wanted the Durand Line to be seen as null and void and also wanted Pakistan to allow the establishment of Pashtunistan. Zafarullah Khan, Pakistan’s Foreign Minister, tried to reassure Afghanistan that the Pashtuns of the frontier “would enjoy equal and autonomous status within Pakistan” (Misra, 1981, p.90).
However, Pakistan was very aware of the danger Pashtunistan advocators and supporters posed to the stability of the country and so resorted to air attacks on places thought to be incurring the most tribal unrest, such as the on the strongholds of the Faqir of Ipi who was threatening law and order in the tribal territory of South Waziristan. The village of Moghulgai was bombed on June 12 1949. This intensified
tension and led to the Afghan government convening a ‘Loya Jirga’ or National Assembly in Kabul on 26 July 1949 to officially declare that they no longer recognised the 1893 Durand Line Agreement, the Anglo-Afghan Treaty of 1905, the Treaty of Rawalpindi of 1919 and the Anglo-Afghan Treaty of 1921. A “Pashtunistan Day” is officially celebrated each year in August to reaffirm this declaration.
On August 12 1949, the Pashtun Afiidi tribe established a Pashtunistan Assembly with the Faqir of Ipi elected as its president. This gave rise to three Afghan ‘lashkar’ columns, one led by the Pashtun leader from the Afridi tribe, Wali Khan Afridi. He crossed the Durand Line in 1950 to lodge Pashtunistan flags on the Indus River. Pakistan complained about mis and the first blockade of Afghan in-transit goods took place. Afghanistan denied being linked to the tribal uprisings, stating that they were ‘freedom fighters’ trying to free their Pashtun brothers from the “imperialistic yolk of Pakistan” (Dupree, 1973, p.493).
Kabul Radio in appeal to appeal to “Pukhtoon Bretheren” December 22 stated inter alia “freedom cannot be achieved through begging, it will have to be courted and wooed with red, fresh blood. Offer your blood at the altar of freedom and she is yours. If you hesitate others will snatch her away from you and you will ever afterwards curse your cowardice. This is the time to set and set at once ” (Kabul Radio, 1952).
With propaganda such as this, it is not surprising that Pakistan would complain about Afghanistan interfering in Pakistan’s affairs. However, Afghanistan feels she is wholly justified in being concerned about the Pashtuns on the other side of the Durand Line.
The One Unit Plan further strained relations between the two. On 27 March 1955 Pakistan decided to merge the provinces and states in West Pakistan to create a centralised state, with Dr. Khan Sahib heading it as the Chief Minister (The One Unit Plan ceased to exist when Pakistan re-instated the old provinces of Punjab, Sindh, Baluchistan and NWFP on July 1 1970). This was criticised by the Afghan Prime Minister, Sardar Daud, who was a strong supporter of the Pashtunistan issue, having it at the core of his foreign policy when he went on to become President of the country in 1973, fearing that Pashtuns there would be lost to Pakistan. Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan also protested against the One Unit Plan but was arrested in 1956 by the government of his own brother. At his trial in September 1956, Ghaffar Khan confirmed and reminded the Pakistani Government of his desire to have an autonomous province for the concerned Pashtuns, not an independent state. This prompted the ‘Flag Incident’ in which Pakistani flags were ripped down and the Pashtunistan flag raised on the chancery of the Pakistan embassy in Kabul. Diplomatic relations were broken off when Afghanistan refused to provide Pakistan with satisfaction on the incident and ambassadors were withdrawn in October 1955 also. Pakistan took advantage of Afghanistan’s landlocked location by inflicting an economic blockade on Afghanistan. Afghanistan then mobilised in preparation for war but the international community were quick to get the two countries to agree to international mediation of the dispute. Fearing that the pressure from Pakistan may push Afghanistan to establish close relations with the Soviet Union, the United States indicated three times that it was willing to mediate on the Pashtunistan problem but neither Afghanistan nor Pakistan could agree. Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Saudia Arabia and Turkey also tried unsuccessfully to mediate between the two countries. Pakistan’s refusal to enter discussions was in the hope that it would pressure Afghanistan into loosening its grip on the Pashtunistan issue. With the withdrawal of India’s support for Pashtunistan in the early 1950s, Afghanistan was left to deal with the issue alone. The worsening of relations forced Afghanistan, to America’s disappointment, to turn to the Soviet Union for support as Pakistan was already receiving the same from the U.S. In a meeting of the South-East Asia Treaty Organisation (SEATO) held in Karachi on 6 May 1956, the US fully supported Pakistan’s stand on Pashtunistan and the Durand Line,
Relations were resumed only after me Prime Minister of Pakistan, Suhrawardy paid a visit to Kabul in June 1957. King Zahir Shah returned the visit with his arrival in Karachi in January 1958. This resulted in an agreement being signed on May 29 1958 for the improvement of relations between Afghanistan and Pakistan. However, it did not take long for relations to deteriorate again. The pro-Pashtunistan speeches of King Zahir Shah and Prime Minister Daud Khan were protested against by Pakistan in September 1959. As a result, the Afghan government refused to renew the visas of Pakistanis living in Afghanistan Once again, in Pakistan’s eyes, Afghanistan was

meddling in Pakistan’s internal situation but to Afghanistan, this was not seen as such a violation, rather standing up for Pashtuns and their rights. Relations between the two neighbouring countries entered a new phase after Ayub Khan came to power in Pakistan in October 1958. Although a Pashtun himself, he adopted an aggressive approach towards Afghanistan and the Durand Line. So far the dispute had been confined to international bickering, inciting hostile speeches and withdrawal of diplomatic presences in each other’s country. The beginning of the 1960’s saw the dispute intensify. The Afghan Army was deployed into Pakistan, taking hold of a relatively small amount of territory. Nevertheless, the Pakistani army were quick to force them out. Between March and May 1961, similar border clashes took place, with Pakistan accusing Afghanistan of intruding on her territory, and Afghanistan blaming Pakistan for their aggressiveness towards the Pashtuns.
On August 23 1961, after apparent harassment of Pakistani officials by the Afghan government, Pakistan declared the closing of her consulates in Kandahar and Jalalabad and demanded the same of Afghanistan. The Afghan responded by proposing to cut off diplomatic relations if Pakistan’s demand was not withdrawn. Pakistan refused to meet these terms and so Afghanistan proceeded to sever diplomatic relations on 6 September 1961 by closing the border. During this crisis, the Soviet Union took advantage of Afghanistan’s difficult situation to further strengthen ties between the two by pledging moral support to Afghanistan. After a visit to Kabul in March 1960, Nikitar Khrushchev said “Pashtunistan always was a part of Afghanistan” (Lesniewska, 2002, p.5).
The hostile situation prompted Pakistani attempts to prevent nomads crossing the border in the same year. Fortunately for Afghanistan,this gave Pashtunistan “a regional and international respectability it had never before enjoyed” (Dupree, 1973). Pakistani officials demanded passports and visas off of the nomads, ‘Kochyan’ in Pashto, that were crossing into Pakistan. However, these tribal nomads obviously did not have either. The Pakistani’s used this to blame the Afghan government for refusing to issue the nomads, passports. The Afghan government were aware that the issuing of valid


Afghan passports and Pakistani visas would enable Pakistan to claim that the Afghans had accepted the Durand Line as an international boundary, since they had given passports to the nomads. Pakistan were issuing ‘Red Passes’ to the nomads, not Pakistani passports, which seemed to indicate that even the Pakistanis continued to respect the independence of the tribal groups (Dupree, 1973).
The Shah of Iran offered to mediate the dispute, which resulted in direct talks being held in Tehran between Pakistan and Afghanistan on May 1963 with the re-establishment of diplomatic relations also agreed upon. However on 29 May 1963, it was claimed that the Afghan Minister, Sayyid Rashtyia said in Tehran that Afghanistan had never recognised the Durand Line as a legitimate frontier and that Pashtunistan continued to divide the two countries, while the Pakistani delegate, Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, said that Pashtunistan was a dead issue (Qureshi, 1966, p.107). The border did eventually open on July 20 1963.
By the beginning of 1974 the relations between the two countries were not good. Mainly due to revolts and unrest in the NWFP. Sardar Daud Khan, in response to Ali Bhutto’s accusation that the Afghan government was interfering in the internal politics of Pakistan said that “Pakistan’s NWFP had always been an integral part of Afghanistan and that the British, through imposing unequal treaties unacceptable to his government, had severed these regions for Afghan Sovereignty” (Ghaus, 1988, p.113).

Continue reading – 2.3 The Daud Years