The attributes of a State are defined by: a territory having geographical borders, its population, adjudication, law enforcement and sovereignty. The geographical borders have to be defended at all costs. The defense of a country does not merely imply taking appropriate measures against a military aggression by another country but also accounts for stopping any infiltration of any kind including the non-state actors or terrorists through the borders. If the geographical borders of a country are easy to negotiate by infiltrators, the very existence of its sovereignty becomes highly questionable. Unfortunately Pakistan has been at a great disadvantage in this regard. The reasons have to be attributed firstly towards the hastiness of our leaders at the time of partition and subsequently by the indifference of our later leaders towards this problem. The main reason for the mess our country is going through has to be accredited to the fact that despite a lapse of sixty four years a large area of our border is not well defined thus alarmingly porous.

History tells us that at the time of partition Radcliffe’s Boundary Commission was in such haste that the Punjab was divided into East and West Punjab by drawing a straight line on the map. The boundary commission failed to separate Punjab along geographical features or contour lines which resulted in the fact that on the ground, at places the dividing line passed through the homes of people splitting them in two. As for Kashmir, due to the Indian occupation, the border is still disputed. In case of the Northern Areas, in the absence of maps of that area at that time, a vague demarcation was done which resulted in the Indians taking advantage of this ambiguity and illegally occupying Siachen Glacier in 1984. The border with Iran in the South West is again highly porous and is reportedly being used by members of ISIS as well as anti-ISIS elements for two way traffic between Pakistan- Iran and on to Syria.

As regards the Western border with Afghanistan, the Durand Line, a temporary border was inherited ipso facto by the Boundary Commission at the time of partition which our leaders unfortunately did not endeavor to legitimize in the later years. The history of the Durand Line dates back to 1893 when after the second Anglo-Afghan war, Sir Henry Mortimer Durand, a British Civil Servant of colonial India concluded a single page agreement with the Afghans in order to temporarily demarcate their territories. Unfortunately, to date all the leaders of our Country including the military leadership showed total indifference to this issue on the plea that we have cultural ties with Afghanistan. During Gen Zia’s period the Durand Line was effectively used for infiltration into Afghanistan to fight a proxy war there in total disregard to the consideration that it could also be used the other way round. Given the geo-strategic location of our Country, in the post cold war era the Pak-Afghan border has become the most notoriously leaky border in the entire world where besides Al Qaeda, Taliban and now ISIS, all the great powers of the world along with the regional powers that have their interests in this area are infiltrating their agents to fight their proxy wars in Pakistan. Thus Pakistan has become a battle ground for surrogate wars of these countries/organisations mainly due to its highly porous borders. This is a very serious threat to the very sovereignty of Pakistan.

The daring initiative of Gen Raheel Sharif against terrorists of all kinds is hailed all over the world. The Pakistan Army has no doubt maintained its honor to come up to the expectations of the people of Pakistan. Operation Zarb-e-Azab which is on going in the KPK and other parts of the Country has undoubtedly achieved great success due to the sacrifice of our men in uniform in the line of duty.

Thousands of terrorists have been reportedly killed and rounded up by the Army and other law enforcement agencies. Seizures of numerous large caches of weapons and ammunition are being reported in the press/media frequently. The bigger challenge however remains in the shape of consolidation of this success. In the aftermath of the military operation, due to the manning of the check posts by the army as well as paramilitary outfits, the infiltration has been substantially reduced. This is, however, not a permanent solution.

Terrorist activities are still being reported in the media, which is indicative of the fact that the terrorists are still pouring in. Thus, the mopping up operations being conducted in the entire Country will only pay dividends when the reinforcements of the terrorists in the shape of men and material are totally stopped by effective control of all borders and the coastline.

The solution to this problem is fencing entire Pakistan, which is a highly expensive project in terms of money as well as in political terms. It requires colossal effort, determination and political will. At the political level it is undoubtedly an uphill task due to the unfavorable Afghan and International pressures which are not discussed in the instant article due to paucity of space and could be dealt separately. Fencing Pakistan is not a new idea. Previously, President Ghulam Ishaque Khan, during his tenure, suggested fencing off the Eastern border, at that time however the Taliban threat had been nonexistent. Subsequently in 2006, Gen Pervez Musharaf in retaliation to the internationally alleged support of Afghan Taliban from tribal areas of Pakistan announced the fencing of the Afghan border and mining those areas which could not be fenced. This however could not be implemented probably due to the lack of political will and international pressure.

The length of the Afghan border is about 2430 km, whereas the Indian border extends up to 2912 km. The LOC in Kashmir is around 740 km and our border with Iran measures around 909 km. Additionally, the coastline measures about 1046 km. making a total of 8037 km.

The Pak-China border does not need to be fenced. This is not an impossible target, after all the Great Wall of China was constructed to protect against attacks from nomadic tribes of the Eurasian Steppe. India is an example in the neighborhood that has fenced its entire border with Pakistan. As for the funds, we have sufficient money if we are sincere and willing to use it for the right priorities. The money kept for the green and orange lines, metro projects and highways could be diverted towards this national cause. In addition, funds can also be raised from within the Country as well as at the international level. The fence has to be effectively guarded initially by the military and later by the Rangers, FC, BC and Coast Guards who should be properly equipped. For this, additional manpower would need to be enlisted.

At places where a fence cannot be erected, it is imperative that we lay effectively guarded minefields. In addition, the present government should also negotiate with the Afghan government towards legitimizing the Pak-Afghan Border.

We have to be mindful of the fact that this is the last chance for us. We need to make hard decisions with total disregard to the internal/international pressures which should be amicably handled. Every state has a natural right to safeguard its sovereignty. Thus, the fencing work should be started on an emergency basis and completed within a year’s time. If we have to survive we have to stop infiltration into our Country no matter what the cost. We also need to drastically improve our immigration policies by laying strict restrictions on visas and beefing up screening systems at the airports. Not even a single person should be able to trespass Pakistan.

Fencing work could be carried out by the Army and Gen Raheel Sharif, having sufficient probity, honor and strong will, is the person who can make it possible. It’s time to work out our priorities correctly and start working without any waste of time to save our Motherland.