The Durand Line: The borders the British drew up between Pakistan and Afghanistan

Amir Sher Ali Khan, who ruled Afghanistan between 1863 and 1879, had made numerous breakthroughs. The restructuring of the state administration, using modern methods, was first done during his term. The first military school, the first official mailing network, the first publishing house, the publication of the first periodical newspaper in history, and the printing of banknotes bearing the name "Afghan" all took place upon Sher Ali Khan's orders. After Ali Khan was toppled in 1879 as a result of the British's intervention in Afghanistan, his cousin Abdurrahman Khan became the country's Emir in 1880. Amir Abdurrahman, who continued his predecessor's modernization moves, would also rule over Afghanistan in its current borders.

Abdurrahman Khan, who ruled the country for 21 years until 1901, was a powerful ruler with excellent diplomatic skills, exceptional political maneuver capacity. Running a country stuck between the Russian and Great Britain empires, and succeeding to do this without allowing any outside military intervention was a difficult task. As Afghanistan's northern border with Russia was not yet demarcated, the east and southeast could only be protected from being attacked by getting along with them. Abdurrahman Khan adopted this policy. It did not take him long to clutch an annual economic support of 1.85 million rupees thanks to his adopted policy, on the condition that Afghanistan keeps in line with London.

When the Russians started to pressure Afghanistan from the north, despite all the balances Amir Abdurrahman Khan strived to establish, the British felt the need to determine the border between Afghanistan and British Raj - of course, there was no such country as Pakistan back then. This would also reduce the risk of Russians passing through Afghanistan and heading into India.

The "Crown Commission" established in London appointed Sir Henry Mortimer Durand, the government's foreign minister Delhi, to head the delegation to be sent to Kabul for the negotiation of the Afghanistan-India border line. Durand, who went to Afghanistan in October 1893, and the delegation that accompanied him, held strict negotiations with the representatives of the Afghan government, and determined the border between the countries. The deal signed on Nov. 12, 1893, drew a 2,640-kilometer line between Britain and India. The most interesting aspect of the border the British imposed on Afghans was that it divided a vast region inhabited by the region's most crowded ethnic group, the Pashto, into two.

Amir Habibullah, who came to power after his father Amir Abdurrahman Khan, confirmed that he recognizes the border line known as the "Durand Line" - to spite the chief British negotiator - with a new agreement he signed with the British in 1905. In the deal signed between the Afghan government and the U.K. in 1919, and which gave Afghanistan its independence, it was stated that all the previous reciprocal guarantees were accepted. Independent Afghanistan thus recognized the Durand Line as its official border with British Raj.

When British Raj was divided into two in 1947, and two independent states called India and Pakistan emerged, Afghanistan became neighbors with Pakistan through the Durand Line. The newly emerged situation allowed the Kabul government to loudly voice an objection that was repeated in whispers only for decades: the legitimacy of the Durand Line was open to debate, and a new border with Pakistan had to be determined. This demand was naturally rejected by the U.K. and Pakistan. Upon this, Afghanistan laid its other trump card on the table: since the Durand Line had divided the region the Pashto inhabited for centuries into two, then this region had to be joined for an autonomous administration called "Pashtoonistan." Both the U.K. and Pakistan objected to this suggestion.

Pakistan, which emerged as a "Muslim state" on Aug. 14, 1947, had started to experience border problems not only with Afghanistan but also India. The source of the problem there was another British man, Sir Cyril Radcliffe, who drew the border arbitrarily. (In my Jan. 30 article, I had talked about the story of the India-Pakistan border and the tragedy caused by the border line Radcliffe drew without ever setting foot in the region.)

Pakistan's relations with Afghanistan and India, which began with tensions, are continuing at the same tempo today. While Afghanistan continues not to recognize the Durand Line, India is frequently fighting with its Muslim neighbor due to its control over Kashmir. The Kashmir tension, the latest example of which we witnessed last week, has the potential to turn any moment into a major war.

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If we were to write an article series on, "the artificial borders foreigners drew in the Islamic region," - unfortunately - we would have no trouble finding something to write. There are vast examples. Constant repetition of what happened in the past also includes the danger of becoming inured to the situation after a while. Therefore, let us conclude this topic with a practical question:

If we were to grab a pen and paper, can we draw the existing borders of the countries in the Islamic world from memory?

If we are unable to even draw the borders on paper, then we should forget all our slogans. We should sit and study our region city by city, country by country. Like studying for a lesson. Because this task is our first lesson for today.

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