Contradictory Crossings of an Uneven Divide: The Durand Line's Differential Impact on Kabul-Peshawar and Qandahar-Quetta Relations

Saturday, January 7, 2012: 11:50 AM
Michigan Room A (Sheraton Chicago Hotel & Towers)
Shah Mahmoud Hanifi, James Madison University
The international border between Afghanistan and Pakistan results from an 1893 agreement between the Afghan Amir Abd al-Rahman and the British Indian official Mortimer Durand.  This paper focuses on how the “Durand Line” transformed the human and material traffic between two set of cities on either side border during an ‘elongated twentieth century’ encompassing the contemporary period.  Despite the colonial boundary, in the northern zone of the frontier area of our concern, economic and social exchanges have intensified between Kabul and Peshawar since 1893.  In the south, the Durand line had a very different effect on relations between Qandahar and Quetta that have been substantially more disaggregated by the international boundary.  This paper will describe how the Durand line generated different effects on the relationships between two sets of Afghan and Pakistani ‘sister cities.’  This paper will demonstrate how the international boundary has brought Kabul and Peshawar ‘closer’ in a number of respects, while simultaneously rendering the relationships between Qandahar and Quetta more ‘distant’ in many ways.  The third and final part of the paper will outline the demographic, economic and political asymmetries and inequalities that characterize tribal populations on either side of the Durand Line.  The concluding argument is that the border divides two distinct and heterogeneous rather than one single homogenous Pashtun ethnic group.