TORKHAM (PAKISTAN), March 20, 2017 (Xinhua) -- People cross Pakistan-Afghanistan border in northwest Pakistan's Torkham, on March 20, 2017. Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on Monday issued directives to immediately re-open the country's border . Image Source: IANS News

New Delhi, Dec 18 : Pakistan is fortifying its claim on the territories that it has occupied in Afghanistan and India, implying a major shift in the status quo of the region.

On its western front, it has been speedily fencing the Durand Line "long disputed by Afghanistan", and on its eastern front, it has changed the name of Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (PoK) from Azad Kashmir to Jammu and Kashmir Administrative Services (JKAS).

Last year, former President of Afghanistan Hamid Karzai had revealed that the US government is financing Pakistan's fencing project in clear violation of his country's sovereignty. "The US is funding Pakistan's policy of separating Afghans on both sides of the Durand Line," Karzai had tweeted.

Ethnic Pashtu people live on both sides of the 2,640 km long Durand Line, which the British drew to separate Pakistan from Afghanistan in 1947. However, Afghanistan rejected the international border imposed by the British colonial government and ever since Kabul has disputed it.

The Durand Line goes through areas which are almost stateless with hardly any control of Islamabad and Kabul. Militants, drug and weapon smugglers and refugees flow in and out through these regions easily. The US and Pakistan used the same regions to arm and train Afghan militants to defeat the Soviets in Afghanistan.

Taliban, after its ouster from Kabul in 2001, took shelter on the Pakistani side and remain actively engaged in a war with Kabul and the US troops deployed in Afghanistan.

The ethnic Pashtu families and villages divided by the line have time and again sought change in the status of the border. The fencing of the Durand Line, which began a couple of years ago, has now revived the movement on the dispute.

On the Indian front, Pakistan accelerated its occupation of the territories of Jammu and Kashmir a decade ago. Gilgit Baltistan, a part of Jammu and Kashmir, was already converted into a separate administrative unit by Pakistan in 1970. But in 2009, Islamabad eroded the powers of the elected Assembly of Gilgit Baltistan and virtually made the Governor its defacto ruler.

On August 5, 2019, India reorganised the Jammu and Kashmir state by bifurcating it and converting it into two Union Territories of Ladakh and Jammu and Kashmir. The reorganisation rendered Articles 370 and 35A of the Indian Constitution, which granted special status to the state, redundant. As a result, the semi-autonomous status that the Jammu & Kashmir state enjoyed for over seven decades was revoked.

Union Home Minister Amit Shah also said in the Parliament that the reorganisation extended to Pakistan occupied Kashmir includes Gilgit Baltistan and Aksai Chin. Ever since, the Narendra Modi-led government has been asserting that the only issue India will discuss with Pakistan is Pakistan occupied Kashmir. Many in the ruling party, the BJP, even threatened to liberate PoK and integrate it with India.

Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan went into a diplomatic frenzy, raising the Kashmir issue at every global forum. According to sources in Pakistan, Khan is now considering the option of integrating PoK with Pakistan by making it the fifth province of the country.

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