Three major wars and a 60-year-old dispute between Pakistan and India over Kashmir has created much distrust between the two nations. Pakistanis hold India responsible for assisting the independent movement in East Pakistan which led to the creation of Bangladesh. Yet, both Pakistan and India possess a common history, culture and traditions; and above all people in both countries acknowledge that neighbourly relations can provide enormous benefits.
On the other hand, another neighbour, Afghanistan - a Muslim country, shares a 2,500km northern border with Pakistan. Although supposedly a friend it has always created trouble for Pakistan.
Afghanistan is the only country which opposed the membership of Pakistan to the United Nations. Afghanistan always preferred the benefits of being friendly with India rather than supporting Pakistan’s interests. For about 20 years Afghanistan would not accept the Durand (border) Line which divides the two countries and claimed part of North-West Frontier Province (NWFP) as its territory.
From the very beginning Afghanistan has supported anti-Pakistan elements in the northern region of Pakistan. The legendary Pukhtoon leader, Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan - (alias Badshah or Bacha Khan and also known as Sarhadi Ghandi) was strongly opposed the creation of Pakistan and received Indian highest civilian award the “Bharat Ratna” - was backed by Afghanistan.
While a majority of people in the Northern region of a then united India voted in favour of creating Pakistan, Bacha Khan asked his followers to boycott the polls. Then, after partition in 1948, Bacha Khan addressed the constituent assembly of Pakistan and demonstrated his loyalty to the new nation. He announced his support for Pakistan while at the same time he maintained his close links with India and received support from Afghanistan.
Bacha Khan and his followers had total support for their party “Khudai Khidmadgar” from the then Peoples Democratic Party of Afghanistan (PDPA). This is the same party which seized power in Afghanistan in a popular insurrection directed against the dictatorship of President Mohammed Daud Khan and which then welcomed the Soviet Invasion of Afghanistan in 1978.
Smuggling via Afghanistan into Pakistan has always been a problem for which Pakistan has been paying heavy toll in its economy.
During my early life in Pakistan, I never heard of a Kalashnikov (Russian made gun), or of heroin, until I heard about the invasion of Afghanistan by the Soviet Union. Millions of Afghan refugees fled from Afghanistan into Pakistan as a result of the Soviet occupation.
It was Pakistan’s assistance given to the freedom fighters, known as the “Mujahedeen” (or Taliban) that defeated the Soviet Union in Afghanistan. For more than ten years, Pakistan not only supported the Mujahedeen with arms, ammunition and military competencies but opened its doors to four million (Afghan) refugees.
The Afghan refugees were not confined to the refugee camps but allowed to move anywhere in Pakistan. The people of Pakistan opened their hearts to the refugees and through donations, casual jobs, and so on, provided assistance. According to reports more than two million Afghans refugees moved to the major cities of Pakistan: half of these moved to the outskirts of Karachi - the largest commercial seaport of Pakistan.
But what has Afghanistan done for Pakistan and its people?
Taking the advantage of their cultural and linguistic similarities many Afghans obtained Pakistani residency through illegal means and claimed to be Pushtoon (people from NWFP). Many of them travelled overseas using Pakistani travel documents. These Afghan refugees gifted a new culture to Pakistan - a culture of guns and drugs. Those who travelled to other countries brought ignominy on Pakistan because of these illegal activities - particularly in human trafficking and drugs.
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