My understanding of Pakistani and Afghanistani politics is that the border between these two countries is ill-defined, porous, and mostly a figment of British imagination moreso than any reality on the ground. The tribal areas such as the Swat Valley where Al-Qaeda held sway seem to be far more lawless than Pakistan in general, and a very "dangerous" area in particular.

So, how is then that this area became part of British India in the first place, and what are Pakistan's prospects of being able to incorporate these lawless areas into its mainstream altogether?

Also, I have heard that Afghanistan does not recognize Pakistan's claim to the Tribal areas demarcated by the Durand, and that if Afghanistan could ever become a fully functioning state, would lay claim to some Pakistan's territory. Is there any truth to this understanding?


1 Answer 1


The Durand line was merely a demarkation of interests between the principality of Afghanistan, which was nominally under British control, and India. It became an official border when Pakistan became independent.

The Pashtun tribe however do not recognise it as it cuts directly through their homelands. This was exacerbated during the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan as a large proportion of the population of southern Afghanistan crossed into northern Pakistan in order to escape the Russian forces. The refugee camps still exist to this day and are the chief source of taliban, meaning students, who with some rudimentary religious training at the hands of mullahs cross into Afghanistan to fight the ISAF forces.

It is indeed porous, both to insurgents and to drones which routinely carry out missions across the 'border' to exceptionally weak protests from the Pakistani hierarchy.

  • Nice answer! It does raise a question, though, since I know almost nothing about the history of Pakistan. Wouldn't Russia have invaded from the north, driving people south?
    – Bobson
    Dec 4, 2013 at 14:20
  • Yes, hence from Southern Afghanistan ( Helmand etc ) into Northern Pakistan ( Swat, Kohstan etc).
    – Chaffers
    Dec 4, 2013 at 14:26

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