PESHAWAR -- Pakistan has started fencing its border with Afghanistan as part of measures to improve security and curb the cross-border movement of terrorists from both sides.
The decision was made in pursuance with Army Chief Gen. Qamar Javed Bajwa's directive to improve border security, according to Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR), the media wing of the Pakistani military.
"A secure Pakistan-Afghanistan border is in common interest of both countries and a well co-ordinated border security mechanism is essential for enduring peace and stability," a June 20 ISPR statement said.
The project will take place in two phases: first "high infiltration prone border areas" will be fenced in Bajaur, Mohmand and Khyber agencies, and then fencing of the remaining border areas, including in Balochistan, will commence.
Apart from fencing the border, the Pakistan Army and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) Frontier Corps are jointly constructing new forts and border posts to "improve surveillance and defensibility", the statement said.
"Fencing is part of the border management policy adopted by Pakistan for better security in the region," said Pervaiz Iqbal Cheema, dean of the National Defence University (NDU), Islamabad.
"The measures taken by Pakistan are in the interest of both countries because complaints of cross-border movement of terrorists have been made from both sides," he told Pakistan Forward.
Although fencing the border will affect the Pashtun population residing in the border area, it will have a very positive impact from a security standpoint in Pakistan and Afghanistan as well, he said.
"Pakistan is forced to do this because it has no other option to curb the movement of terrorists along its long, porous border with Afghanistan," he said.
Security is a very serious issue, and both countries should take all possible measures to ensure the safety of citizens, he said, adding, "Without peace we cannot progress and prosper."
Fencing the border "will deter cross-border movement of militants and help greatly in maintaining law and order", said Lutfur Rehman, a senior producer at Pakistan Broadcasting Corporation who is researching the Durand Line for a doctoral degree at NDU.
"Fencing will help improve border management between Pakistan and Afghanistan and end the blame game about cross-border infiltration," he told Pakistan Forward.
"Afghanistan should welcome this development aimed at countering terrorism and providing safety to residents of the region," he said.
The government should also fence the border in Lower Dir and Chitral districts of KP, which consist mostly of hilly terrain and need such measures to curb the movement of militants, Rehman said.
Reducing smuggling, fighting terrorism
"Fencing on the Pakistani-Afghan border is a commendable step," said Muhammad Irshad, chairman of the Federal Board of Revenue, in Peshawar Wednesday (June 28), at an event attended by Pakistan Forward. "Besides curbing cross-border movement of terrorists, it will contain smuggling."
Smuggling is inflicting annual losses of billions of rupees on Pakistan, he said, predicting that a border will "stimulate the economy".
"This is a good development in regard to our ongoing fight against terrorism," said Muhammad Asif Noor, co-founder and director of the Institute of Peace and Diplomatic Studies, a non-governmental think tank in Islamabad.
Securing the border is a "complicated issue", and "fencing will help both governments contain the movement of terrorists", he told Pakistan Forward.
To aid the tribes living along the border and divided by the Durand Line, Asif suggested providing special permits to allow free cross-border movements.
"There are hundreds of families from Lower Dir in KP to Chaman in Balochistan who are divided and cross the borders on a daily basis," he said. "Such people should be given ... permits so they can meet their relatives without hindrance."
Border management with Afghanistan is "very important", said Jamil Ahmad Chitrali, director of the Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies at the University of Peshawar.
"This was a very necessary step for curbing the ability of terrorists to inflict violence on innocents," he told Pakistan Forward.
"It has become [essential] to block illegal crossings at the Pakistani-Afghan border so that infiltration can be stopped from both sides," he added.