Amir Abdur Rahman had bitterly resented the Durand Line and none
of his successors relinquished the notion of Pashtun unity even
as they cooperated with the British government on other matters.
Eventually, the line dividing the Pashtun people became extremely
contentious to the governments of both Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Although the issue became most vexing during partition, British
policy in the area before 1947 also aggravated the Pashtunistan
problem. In 1901 the British had created a new administrative
area, the North-West Frontier Province, which they detached from
the Punjab. This new province was divided into Settled Districts
and Tribal Agencies, with the latter ruled by a British political
agent who reported directly to Delhi.
In 1934 Britain extended self-government to the North-West Frontier
Province. By this time, the Indian National Congress (Congress
Party), which many Muslims saw as a predominately Hindu organization,
had expanded its political activities to include the province.
The links between the political leaders of the North-West Frontier
Province and the Hindu leaders of Congress were such that a majority
in the North-West Frontier Province assembly originally voted
to go with India in the partition, a decision which probably would
have been rejected by the voting majority in the province. In
July 1947, the British held a referendum in the Settled Districts
of the province offering the population the choice of either joining
an independent India or a now-inevitable Pakistan. An estimated
56 percent of the eligible voters participated and over 90 percent
elected to join Pakistan. A loya jirgah was held in the Tribal
Agencies. Offered a choice between joining India or Pakistan,
the tribes declared their preference for the latter.
Although both Afghanistan and Pakistan made conciliatory gestures,
the matter remained unresolved. In one of the government's attempts
to suppress tribal uprisings in 1949, a Pakistani air force plane
bombed a village just across the frontier. In response, the Afghan
government called a loya jirgah, which promptly declared that
it recognized "neither the imaginary Durand nor any similar line"
and that all agreements--from the 1893 Durand agreement onward--pertaining
to the issue were void. Irregular forces led by a local Pashtun
leader crossed the border in 1950 and 1951 to back Afghan claims.
Pakistan's government refused to accept the Afghan assertion that
it had no control over these men, and both nations' ambassadors
were withdrawn, but were exchanged again a few months later.
The issue of an international boundary through Pashtun areas
was of great importance to policymakers in Kabul. Pakistan halted
vital transshipments of petroleum to Afghanistan for about three
months in 1950, presumably in retaliation for Afghan tribal attacks
across the border. At this time, Afghan government interest shifted
to offers of aid from the Soviet Union and in July 1950 it signed
a major agreement with the Soviet Union.
name Afghanistan conventional long form Islamic State of
Afghanistan conventional short form Afghanistan local long
form Dowlat-e Eslami-ye Afghanestan local short form Afghanestan former Republic of Afghanistan
- total: 647,500 sq km land: 647,500 sq km water: 0 sq km
- mostly rugged mountains; plains in north and southwest
- arid to semiarid; cold winters and hot summers
- landlocked; the Hindu Kush mountains that run northeast to southwest divide
the northern provinces from the rest of the country; the highest peaks are in
the northern Vakhan (Wakhan Corridor)
- 1,200 km note: chiefly Amu Darya, which handles vessels up to 500 DWT (2001)
Natural hazards - damaging earthquakes
occur in Hindu Kush mountains; flooding; droughts
Courtesy: The Library of Congress - Country Studies
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