Pakistan’s foreign minister claims ‘certain miscreants’ exploiting Durand Line conflict as he summarizes ministry’s accomplishments in 2021
Admitting to “complications” related to fencing along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border, Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi on Monday claimed the matter was being addressed with the Taliban government blamed “certain miscreants” for exploiting the situation.
“We will resolve the issue diplomatically,” he told a press conference in Islamabad during which he summarized the Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ accomplishments of the past year.
Last week, videos circulating on social media allegedly showed Taliban fighters demolishing a section of the fence along the Pak-Afghan border, with the individuals involved claiming it had been erected within Afghan territory. Initiated in 2017, Pakistan’s fencing initiative aimed at erecting barriers along the 2,600km border. It was completed in August at an estimated cost of more than $500 million, with government officials claiming it would prevent the incursion of refugees and extremists into the country following the Taliban’s takeover of Kabul.
However, Afghan officials—from both the Taliban government and the previous Ashraf Ghani-led government—have repeatedly protested the move, stressing that they do not recognize the Durand Line demarcated by the British as the border diving Pakistan and Afghanistan.
Last week, in a video shared on Twitter, Afghan Defense Ministry spokesman Enayatullah Khwarzmi said Pakistan “had no right” to fence the border. He said the fence divided local communities and alleged it was against international law. Similarly, Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid told a journalist in Kabul that the fence created “rifts” between a “nation spread across both sides.” He claimed the issue of the Durand Line was not yet resolved and there was no need for any fence until it had been.
Foreign Ministry accomplishments
Highlighting the diplomatic accomplishments of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in 2021, Qureshi claimed Pakistan had achieved historic milestones through robust economic, public, and science diplomacy. He said the country had “proactively and consistently” advanced its diplomatic objectives on a range of diplomatic fronts, noting that about 85 bilateral exchanges with over 50 countries and 35 senior leadership visits to Pakistan had taken place.
By comparison, he said, over 50 high-level multilateral engagements, participation at 35 international forums, and 32 senior leadership visits by Pakistan were recorded during previous years. He stressed that the U.N. had adopted five Pakistan-sponsored or cosponsored resolutions, while 114 Pakistan missions joined popular social media platforms to facilitate the public.
On Pakistan’s ties with China, Qureshi said 2021 had been an important milestone for the Pak-China friendship, as the two countries celebrated the 70th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between them. He said Pakistan’s exports to China during the first 10 months of 2021 grew by 77% over the previous year, coming in at $2.85 billion.
Referring to Islamabad’s ties with Delhi, meanwhile, he regretted that India’s “hostile behavior” had damaged the chances for durable peace and stability in the region, as well as the potential for economic development, and regional cooperation. He said the BJP-led Hindutva inspired Indian government had adopted a “particularly irresponsible and politically motivated anti-Pakistan posture and a patently anti-Muslim approach at home.”
“Pakistan desires friendly relations with all its neighbors including India,” he said. “But as the prime minister has said, the onus is on India to take necessary steps to create an environment conducive for dialogue. Resolution of Jammu and Kashmir dispute is a prerequisite for durable peace and stability in South Asia,” he added.
In October 2021 alone, he said, 1,400 Kashmiris were arbitrarily arrested, while over 502 Kashmiris had been martyred by Indian occupation forces in fake encounters and extra-judicial operations since Aug. 5, 2019. He said Delhi’s unilateral and illegal actions in Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir since Aug. 5, 2019, were aimed at undermining the status of the disputed territory, perpetuating its illegal occupation, and altering its demographic structure.