Afghanistan Analysts Network – English

Regional Relations

The Durand Line and the Fence: How are communities managing with cross-border lives?

Sabawoon Samim 2 min

The Durand Line, which serves as the de facto border between Afghanistan and Pakistan, has never been officially recognised by any Kabul government. It cuts through the heart of Pashtun tribes, who share family ties, religion and traditions. For most of its existence, it made little practical difference to the lives of the people living on either side. However, Pakistan’s decision in 2017 to fence the entire Line, a project which is now almost complete, has physically split communities. In this report, guest author Sabawoon Samim looks at what that has meant to the lives of those living on the Durand Line, exploring the damage done and some of the partial solutions found by locals, albeit at some cost and some risk.

Villagers gather for a wedding in Khost province’s Derezda Valley in the rugged Spira mountains along the Afghanistan-Pakistan Border. Photo: David Furst/AFP, 20 November 2008.

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Many of the interviews for this report described the fence built by Pakistan as “passing not through the land, but through [our] hearts.” It follows the 2,640-kilometre-long Durand Line, signed in 1893 between the Afghan king, Amir Abdul Rahman Khan, and the British foreign secretary for India, Sir Henry Mortimer Durand. Much has been written about how the agreement was reached, its legal status and how it affects the politics of the two countries. However, there is a dearth of information about the damage done to local communities, socially, economically and culturally, by Pakistan’s fencing of the Line. This report, based on 16 in-depth interviews with Afghan nationals from the border provinces, tries to remedy that.

After providing a brief historical background, it delves into who the local communities are and the bonds between them. It examines the recent restrictions put in place along the Durand Line, particularly Pakistan’s fence, and how it has split communities and prevented what used to be normal travel. It explores how locals are coping with losing the freedom of movement they used to enjoy and the means they employ to try to cut through, go under or otherwise, circumvent the fence – and the risks and costs that entails. 

You can preview the report online and download it by clicking the download button below.


Afpak border crossings Durand Line