AP Photo by Ijaz Muhammad
Fighting arising from a military crackdown in one of Pakistan’s semiautonomous tribal areas has driven 20,000 refugees into Afghanistan across the tense border.
The exodus, from Bajaur, a district in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas of Pakistan, into Kunar, a province in eastern Afghanistan, echoed earlier waves of war-driven migration across the border, but in the opposite direction.
The flow of refugees into Afghanistan has its origins, at least in part, in the U.S.-led invasion of Afghanistan in 2001. Many refugees who fled Afghanistan for Pakistan in the 1980s have now returned home. But many of the militants from the Taliban and Al Qaeda, who are fighting the NATO force that seeks to pacify Afghanistan, operate from sanctuaries in the Pakistani tribal areas.
Many border tribesmen have never reconciled themselves to the Durand Line, the 19th-century border by which the British divided the mainly Pashtun tribes of the area between India – later, Pakistan – and Afghanistan. These strong affiliations have survived largely undisturbed, at least until recent times, under the policy of successive Pakistani governments that have allowed the tribal areas to operate largely outside the ambit of Pakistani law.