News / Asia

British Legacy Lingers in Afghan-Pakistan Border Clashes

British Colonial Legacy Seen in Afghan-Pakistan Border Clashesi
May 09, 2013 1:33 AM
Tensions are high between Pakistan and Afghanistan after recent cross-border clashes in which one Afghan policeman died. The frontier is a remnant of British rule in India and is disputed by Afghanistan. Critics say it’s another example of Britain’s colonial legacy, a history that the British are now being forced to confront. More from Henry Ridgwell in London.
British Colonial Legacy Seen In Afghan-Pakistan Border Clashes
Henry Ridgwell
Tensions between Pakistan and Afghanistan are high after a series of cross-border clashes in recent weeks, including one in which an Afghan policeman died.  The frontier is a legacy of British rule in India and disputed by Afghanistan.  Critics say it is another example of Britain’s lingering colonial legacy - a history that the British are now being forced to confront.

Afghanistan has sent hundreds of troop reinforcements to the border in recent days.  It accuses its neighbor of building a military border gate in the mountainous Goshta region, which Afghanistan says lies well within its territory.

Pakistan denies any encroachment - saying the gate lies on the Durand Line, the frontier established by British diplomat Mortimer Durand in 1893.

Despite widespread international recognition, the frontier is disputed, says Myra MacDonald, author of a book on the region and security correspondent for Reuters.

“The Afghans have never recognized it.  And even under Taliban rule, the Taliban would not recognize it.  Pakistan has always wanted it recognized.  The Afghans consider it something that was imposed on them by the colonial British,” MacDonald said.

Bijan Omrani, a central Asia historian, says archive documents suggest the British never intended for the Durand Line to be an international frontier - but rather a buffer against Russian attacks on the empire.

“Ordinary British Indian law went up to the foothills of the mountains.  But, in those mountain areas where the Pashtun tribal peoples were, they had something called the Frontier Crimes Regulation. And that has been in existence ever since the frontier was demarcated.  This regulation doesn’t accord with any modern norms of human rights and it has held the frontier region back,” Omrani said.

MacDonald says this regulation has huge implications for the region today.
“As far as America is concerned, it’s where all the drone attacks are taking place as well. 

So it’s a place with a very ambiguous status, whose people are not really able to speak freely and clearly about what’s going on there, and with serious problems of Islamist militancy,” MacDonald said.

The Durand Line divided Pashtun tribal lands.  Afghanistan has long desired to reclaim that territory, according to historian Bijan Omrani.

“Pakistan fears that Afghanistan will try and reunite it and take a huge chunk out of Pakistan.  And the Afghans always know that the Pakistanis, certainly in the Taliban era, used those difficult-to-access tribal areas to train the Taliban to interfere in Afghanistan,” Omrani said.

The tension on the former frontiers of its empire come as Britain is forced to confront its wider colonial legacy.  Three elderly Kenyans won a court case allowing them to sue Britain for compensation.  They say they were brutally tortured under British rule in the 1950s.

Lawyers say the case could open the way for many other claims from across the world.

The British government says it is an enduring feature of its democracy that it is willing to learn from its history.

You May Like

NASA: Pluto Has Blue Sky

New photos also reveal the presence of water ice More

Report: US to Sail Warships Near Disputed S. China Sea Islands

Move will signal nonrecognition of Chinese territorial claims over area, Financial Times reports, citing senior US official More

Study Describes Ancient Deltas, Lakes on Mars

Research builds on recent NASA announcement that water flows on red planet today More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Syrian Village Community Faces Double Displacement in Lebanoni
John Owens
October 08, 2015 7:32 PM
Driven by war from their village in southwestern Syria, a group of families found shelter in Lebanon, resettling en masse in a half-built university to form one of the biggest settlements of its kind in Lebanon. Three years later, however, they now face being kicked out and dispersed in a country where finding shelter as a refugee can be especially tough. John Owens has more for VOA from the city of Saida, also known as Sidon.

Video Syrian Village Community Faces Double Displacement in Lebanon

Driven by war from their village in southwestern Syria, a group of families found shelter in Lebanon, resettling en masse in a half-built university to form one of the biggest settlements of its kind in Lebanon. Three years later, however, they now face being kicked out and dispersed in a country where finding shelter as a refugee can be especially tough. John Owens has more for VOA from the city of Saida, also known as Sidon.

Video Bat Colony: Unusual Tourist Attraction in Texas

The action hero Batman might be everyone’s favorite but real bats hardly get that kind of adoration. Put more than a million of these creatures of the night together and it only evokes images of horror. Sarah Zaman visited the largest urban bat colony in North America to see just how well bat and human get along with each other.

Video Device Shows Promise of Stopping Motion Sickness

It’s a sickening feeling — the dizziness, nausea and vomiting that comes with motion sickness. But a device now being developed could stop motion sickness by suppressing certain signals in the brain. VOA’s Deborah Block reports.

Video Making a Mint

While apples, corn, and cranberries top the list of fall produce in the US, it’s also the time to harvest gum, candy, and toothpaste—or at least the oil that makes them minty fresh. Erika Celeste reports from South Bend, Indiana on the mint harvest.

Video Activists Decry Lagos Slum Demolition

Acting on a court order, authorities in Nigeria demolished a slum last month in the commercial capital, Lagos. But human rights activists say the order was illegal, and the community was razed to make way for a government housing project. Chris Stein has more from Lagos.

Video Self-Driving Cars Getting Closer

We are at the dawn of the robotic car age and should start getting used to seeing self-driving cars, at least on highways. Car and truck manufacturers are now running a tight race to see who will be the first to hit the street, while some taxicab companies are already planning to upgrade their fleets. VOA’s George Putic has more.

Video TPP Agreed, But Faces Stiff Opposition

President Barack Obama promoted the Trans-Pacific Partnership on Tuesday, one day after 12 Pacific Rim nations reached the free trade deal in Atlanta. The controversial pact that would involve about 40 percent of global trade still needs approval by lawmakers in respective countries. Zlatica Hoke reports Obama is facing strong opposition to the deal, including from members of his own party.

Video Clinton Seeks to Boost Image Before Upcoming Debate

The five announced Democratic party presidential contenders meet in their first debate next Tuesday in Las Vegas, Nevada. Former secretary of state Hillary Clinton continues to lead the Democratic field, but she is getting a stronger-than-expected challenge from Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders. VOA National correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.

Video Ukranian Artist Portrays Putin in an Unusual Way

As Russian President Vladimir Putin was addressing the United Nations in New York last month, he was also being featured in an art exhibition in Washington. It’s not a flattering exhibit. It’s done by a Ukrainian artist in a unique medium. And its creator says it’s not only a work of art - it’s a political statement. VOA’s Tetiana Kharchenko has more.

Video South Carolina Reels Under Worst-ever Flooding

South Carolina is reeling from the worst flooding in recorded history that forced residents from their homes and left thousands without drinking water and electricity. Parts of the state, including the capital, Columbia, received about 60 centimeters of rain in just a couple of days. Authorities warn that the end of rain does not mean the end of danger, as it will take days for the water to recede. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Russia’s Syria Involvement Raising Concerns in Europe

European nations are joining the United States in demanding that Russia stop targeting opposition groups other than the Islamic State militants as Russian warplanes continue to conduct raids in Syria. The demand came in a statement from Britain, France, Germany, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United States Friday. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Video Nano-tech Filter Cleans Dirty Water

Access to clean water is a problem for hundreds of millions of people around the world. Now, a scientist and chemical engineer in Tanzania (in East Africa) is working to change that by creating an innovative water filter that makes dirty water safe. VOA’s Deborah Block has the story.

Video Demand Rising for Organic Produce in Cambodia

In Cambodia, where rice has long been the main cash crop, farmers are being encouraged to turn to vegetables to satisfy the growing demand for locally produced organic farm products. Daniel de Carteret has more from Phnom Penh.

Video Botanists Grow Furniture, with Pruning Shears

For something a bit out of the ordinary to furnish your home, why not consider wooden chairs, crafted by nature, with a little help from some British botanists with an eye for design. VOA’s Jessica Berman reports.

VOA Blogs