FATA merger with KP: Afghan gov’t must adopt rational stance

Sunday, 27 May 2018 03:24 Written by  Read 91 times

The National Unity Government (NUG) often embraces a deadly silence on highly national issues. Government leaders always react to trifles, but maintain silence on very key issues that pertain to the country’s territorial integrity and future. One such recent example is the government’s quietude over the decision of Pakistan’s parliament to merge the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP). Without consulting Afghanistan that lay claim to the Pashtun-dominated territories, including FATA, and holding a referendum in the tribal region, the Pakistan’s National Assembly unilaterally approved the FATA-KP merger bill last week, a move that effectively deprives the tribal people of autonomy.
The Federally Administered Tribal Areas retain their semi-autonomous status based on the colonial-era agreement (the Durand Line Agreement) imposed by Britain on Afghanistan. The tribal belt had been accepted by the then Afghan and British Indian governments as a buffer zone, meaning that even parties to the Durand Line Agreement – Afghanistan and British India -- did not have the right to intervene in or occupy the region. Pakistan was not a party to the agreement because it did not exist at that time. Nonetheless, Pakistan which also cannot be considered the heir of British India because India itself exists as a country not only did not relinquish control of the region to Afghanistan after the expiry of the 100-year term (1893-1993) of the Durand Line, but also continued to usurp the tribal regions through different names and means. Now, it has decided to merge FATA with KP, and therefore deprive tribal people of autonomy.
The most worrying factor in the issue is the position of Afghan government. Afghanistan is yet to officially react to the FATA-KP merger motion days after it was passed by Pakistani parliament. Except the individual opposition of some government officials, neither the Presidential Palace nor the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has made a stand against the unilateral decision. NUG’s silence has no other meaning, but being in cahoots with Pakistan over the policy. The government has to clarify its official stance, and should not forget that it becomes part of the history. If Afghan government remains tightlipped, its silence can be construed as consent whenever time to decide the fate of Durand Line comes, something which is against the standpoint of absolute majority of Afghan people. It is true that Afghanistan now may not be able to reclaim the territory separated from it by the British colony, yet the government’s stance will stay as an evidence; therefore, it should adopt a stance which will not earn the rulers an embarrassing epithet in the history.

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