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Pakistan's Iron Curtain
by Amin George Forji
2007-01-03 08:18:06
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Pakistan and Afghanistan, both allies to the USA's 'War on Terror', are no longer at ease following Pakistan’s move to fence and mine most of its 2,500km border with Afghanistan.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai. while speaking to reporters at a news conference in Kabul, blasted the move, describing it as controversial and stating that it can only disrupt local communities and create hardship for ordinary Afghans. In fact, his fears could only be likened to the famous Iron Curtain that separated the former West Germany from the former East Germany. Consequently, he urged Pakistan to reconsider the move and reverse the decision.

Ironically, Pakistan reached that decision, following increasing criticism from Afghanistan that she was not doing enough to prevent cross border terrorist activities. Karzai expressed his concerns in the following words: "We, politically, are against it. We, in terms of humanitarian values are against it. It's only going to prevent, hinder movement by civilian families…so, if they mean a separation of people that is the way. If they mean a prevention of terrorism, this is not the way," Karzai lamented.

"The laying of mines or fencing the border will only separate people, families from each other. Rather than helping, it will cause people difficulty in movement, in trade We have suffered, and we are very much for the removal, prevention of mines. If we want to prevent terrorism from crossing the border into Afghanistan, if we want to prevent terrorism as a whole, forever, eradicate them, defeat them, then we must remove their sanctuaries," he blasted.

The UN is also not at ease with the Pakistani plan. As one UN official in Islamabad, Aleem Siddique, put it, it will put a country already contaminated with numerous mines into further risks. "Afghanistan is already one of the most heavily mined countries in the world, and it's very difficult to see how laying fresh mines would be of benefit to people living on either side of the border," said Siddique.

Pakistan as a mode of execution has already sent a contingent of 80,000 soldiers into the region to begin securing the border. Its officials have dismissed emerging concerns, saying the securing moves will be limited within her frontiers. "The Pakistan Army has been tasked to work out modalities of selectively fencing and mining the Afghan border," Riaz Mohammad Khan, Pakistan’s Foreign Secretary explained.

The major problem that arises is that the said border remains largely undefined more than one hundred years after they were first drawn by the British. Either side of the borders is inhabited by Pashtun tribesmen, who constantly enter both territories without any border hindrance.

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