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Durand Line

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The Pashtuns of Afghanistan and Pashtunkhwa (Pakistan) were separated politically, forcefully and unjustly from each other with the (artificial) signing of the Durand Agreement by the Afghanistan Amir Abdur Rahman Khan (1880-1901) and Britain on November 12, 1893. The Durand Line, named after Mortimer Durand, Indian Foreign Secretary, sets the northeastern and southern borders for Afghanistan.

Amir Abdur Rahman Khan, son of Mohammad Afzal Khan, Amir Sher Ali Khan's grandson resented British encroachments in the Pashtun tribal area. He viewed both Russians and British people with apprehension and repeatedly in his autobiography (1900) states that he never considered any Pashtun areas as permanently ceded to the British. In 1892, he attempted to establish direct contact with London. Because of pressures from London the Amir agreed to receive a mission under Sir Mortimer Durand in 1893. The Durand mission went to Kabul in September 1893 in order to delineate once and for all British and Afghan responsibilities in the Pashtun area. During the negotiations both sides agreed on a boundary from Chitral and Baroghil Pass up to Peshawer, and thence up to Koh-i-Malik Siyah.

The Durand Line was a deliberate strategy designed to divide the Pashtun territory along the border region of Afghanistan and Pakistan. This disputed land was legally to be returned to Afghanistan in 1993 after the 100 year old Durand Treaty expired, similar to how Hong Kong was returned to China. Kabul has refused to renew the Durand Line treaty since 1993 when it expired, Throughout this time, Pakistan has tried to get Afghan Warlords and Taliban to sign a renewal contract of the Treaty, and thankfully they didn’t fall for the treachery of Pakistan. One of the reasons Pakistan faced problems with the Kabul rulers right from its inception was Kabul’s claim over the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province of Pakistan. Kabul never accepted that line or the fact that Khyber Pakhtunkhwa is part of Pakistan. This was one of the main policy planks used by President Daoud Khan’s government when it tried to foment trouble by Pashtuns nationalists in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa on the issue of greater Pashtunistan. Until this day, the disputed land which rightfully and legally belongs to Afghanistan, is still recognized as the North-West Frontier Province, NWFP or Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. Pakistan is currently holding Pashtun lands illegally as the treaty expired.

Based upon this agreement Wakhan, Nuristan, came under the Amir's rule and he renounced his claims for the railway station of New Chaman, Chagai, the rest of Waziri, Biland Khel, Kurma, Afridi, Bajaur, Swat, Buner, Dir, Chilas and Chitral. In this manner the Pashtuns of Afghanistan and Pashtunistan, although the Amir never seemed to accept the proposed divisions, were separated by force into two political entities.

"The Durand line," writes Fraser-Tytler in his book Afghanistan, "Though perhaps in the circumstances the best line possible, has few advantages and many defeats. It is illogical from the point of view of ethnography, of strategy and of geography. It cuts across one of the main basins of Indus watershed; it splits a nation into two, and even it divides tribes (in Amin and Schiz 1976:19)."

Durand line Expired in 1993 but Afghanistan was in war so Pakistan kept the Durand line till this Day.

Amir Habibullah Khan the son of Amir Abdur Rahman also endorsed the Durand Line agreement on March 21st, 1905 after getting paid Rupees 1.8 million subsidy by British government. When Amanullah Khan the son of Habibullah Khan came into power as Amir of Afghanistan in 1919, he declared Afghanistan as an independent country and further demanded of the Viceroy of India for a new treaty for Afghanistan, which resulted in the Third Anglo-Afghan war in 1919 and British government under intense negotiation for a settlement, surrendered some un-demarcated areas like Spin Boldak and Dakka to Afghanistan, then an agreement was signed about the border in Kabul on 22 November 1921.

The line has been the primary cause of conflict and frontier troubles between Afghanistan and Pakistan until present.[1]

On October 21, 2012 US special envoy Marc Grossman claimed that the Durand Line has been recognized as the formal border line between Afghanistan and Pakistan by the US government. Afghan foreign ministry in response said, “The status of the Durand Line is a matter of historic importance for the Afghan people.” The source further added, “The Afghan government therefore rejects and considers irrelevant any statement by anyone about the legal status of this line.”[2]

Hafiz Abdul Qayyum, a senator from eastern Nuristan province, remarked: “The US is neither a judge nor a prosecutor to settle the problem between Afghanistan and Pakistan.” He suggested the neighbours should sit across the negotiating table to find a solution. Deputy Chairman Mohammad Alam Ezedyar, who chaired the session, said: “If the US has any viable strategy for resolving the dispute, we welcome it. But we vehemently denounce Grossman’s statement as meddling in our political affairs.”[3]


  1. Socio-economic and legal political process in a Pashtun village, souteastern Afghanistan by Alef Shah Zadran