There is a need to examine the relationship between Pakistan and Afghanistan and charter a new course of relationship. We all have detailed background knowledge of our relations with Afghanistan since the birth of Pakistan, then what are Pakistan’s options?Recently Mahmood Achakzai’s statement that “we are Afghans and all Afghans have a right to come and settle in Pakhtunkhwa” has caused anguish and constraints in many circles, who are calling him a traitor or so. Let us first examine the history of the region for the last thousand years. It tells us that natural boundary of the Sub Continent was the Hindukush Ranges. The Hindo-Buddhist period is best signified by the Buddha’s mammoth statues at Bamian and other artifices found in Kabul and Jalalabad Valleys. Historically, the father and son duo of Jaipal and Anandpal, rulers of the Kabul Valley and Jalalabad Plains were defeated by the Mahmud of Ghazni of Turkish ancestry around year 1000 CE. Although, Mahmud raided and plundered areas as deep as Kanauj and Somnath, but retained territory only up to Lahore as part of his empire.In the wake of invading armies also came Sufis like Data Ganj Baksh, Baba Farid, Moeenuddin Chisti, Nizamuddin Aulia, Bayazid Bistami in Bengal and many others, who are responsible for spreading Islam in Sub Continent. The above mentioned state of affairs continued for next few hundred years till the Moghul Empire came into being. Both Kabul and Kandahar were important provinces of the Moghul Empire. Raja Man Singh was one of the most successful Governors of Kabul during the reign of Akbar and Jehangir. Later, both Nadir Shah Afshar and Ahmad Shah Abdali had Punjab and Sindh as part of their Empires. Abdali’s successor proved to be weak and lost Punjab to the Sikhs and rest of India to Mahratta’s, Nizam of Hyderabad and the rising star of the East India Company. His descendants found refuge with Ranjit Singh after having been thrown out of Kabul.Along with invaders came freebooters, artisans and other classes to settle down in Punjab and rest of India. The word ‘’Pathan’’ became synonymous with Afghan. The Burkis of Jalandhar, Rohillas of UP and other colonies of Pathans were established as far away as Bihar and Bengal. Sher Shah Suri was from Sasaram in Bihar. They provided both the cavalry and foot soldiers to the local war lords in wake of weakening Moghul Empire. Today, more Pathans are living outside their traditional area than within Afghanistan/KPK. One must read ‘’The Indus Saga’’ by Senator Aitzaz Ahsan to understand the complexities of those times and interlinking of Afghanistan and Pakistan’s history. The Sikhs in Punjab and Talpurs in Sindh carved their realms on both sides of Indus. The Sikhs got defeated near Jalalabad during one of their forays into Afghanistan never to venture again. They settled down in trans Indus valleys of Peshawar, Kohat, Bannu and Derajat besides the land of five rivers to carry out what was popularly known as Sikha Shahi.Succeeding power, the British had annexed Sindh, followed by Punjab in 1849. Soon, they were in confrontation with both the rulers of Afghanistan and tribesmen of Trans Indus belt. Three futile wars with Afghanistan resulted in unnecessary expenditure, causalities, frustration and ended careers of some British officers.When exiled, Shah Shuja, Amir Dost Muhammad, Amir Yaqub, Sirdar Ayub and their descendants Saddozais (Shahzadas) Barakzais (Sirdars) and Effendis came to live in Lahore, Ludhiana and Dehradun to enrich the polyglot culture of Punjab in particular.It was during this period that the British, unable to hold on to the Hindukush Ranges (Kabul – Kandahar Line) decided to withdraw to a more manageable and defensible line. Thus, the Durrand Line was thrust on the hapless Afghans dividing tribes, clans, hamlets and families and which to date, remains a bone of contention between the succeeding states of Pakistan and Afghanistan.It was also during the British period that word Pathan or Pakhtoon came to be widely used for an Afghan living in India. Perhaps, it was to distinguish the Indian Afghans from the ones in Afghanistan. Till then, everyone belonging to Trans Indus Region was known as Afghan. All historians and poets etc. including Allama Iqbal had used the word Afghan for anyone hailing from Trans Indus Region. Even the word ‘’A’’ in PAKISTAN stands for Afghan. The British ‘’love hate’’ relationship with the Pathans continued up to 1947, the British had basically an element of respect for its enemy for independent mindedness and the tough physical apposition the Pashtuns Tribes gave them for almost a century.On August 14, Pakistan came into existence as a successor state to the British apposed only by Afghanistan for its entry into UNO. Since then, Pakistan has adopted an incoherent foreign policy towards Afghanistan. From one of benign neglect in its early years to Dir episode and closure of Afghan Transit Trade in early era of Ayub Khan.An active forward policy was spearheaded by Gen Naseerullah Khan Babar during the Bhutto regime in wake of Sardar Daud coup and reopening of Pashtunistan issue. Gen Zia provided full support to the ‘’Jihad’’ followed by an ambiguous relationship where the GOP didn’t know whom to support during the see-saw battles between Ahmed Shah Masood & Gulbadin Hikmatyar. Later, Pakistan was the first country to recognise the Taliban Government. This continued till the 9/11. During this period, Pakistan also hosted almost 3.5 million Afghan refugees – the largest ever number of refugees till then in a most admirable manner.Since then Afghans in general and Presidents Karzai and Ashraf Ghani in particular have been accusing Pakistan of meddling in their internal affairs and playing favourites, while also, giving sanctuary to some groups hostile to the Kabul Regime.There is a need to examine the relationship and charter a new course of relationship. Having dilated upon a detailed historical background of our relations what are Pakistan’s options?Every country has an area of interest around where it should exercise excellent relations, so does Pakistan both at state and people level. Towards our north lie China and Indian Held Kashmir. While having excellent relations with China, Pakistan hasn’t enjoyed harmonious going with the Indians. But what precludes us from having excellent bilateral relations with the Kashmiris, the Sikhs of East Punjab and erstwhile princely states of Rajasthan, all of them have special emotional, family or religious dependence and interaction with Pakistan.Pakistan also needs to redefine its relationship in west with Afghanistan particularly area up to the watershed of Hindukush Ranges described earlier as natural boundary of the Sub Continent. Similarly, our attitude towards Iran and its bordering province of Siestan in particular needs to be defined clearly. Across Arabian Sea, our critical interests warrant excellent interaction with the Gulf States both the people and their governments. Extremely cordial relations are required to be developed in our region with Sri Lanka, Maldives and Mauritius etc.Trade, commerce and business to be enhanced to benefit public in our area of interest. They should be looking towards Pakistan as a provider of services like cultural, health & education besides commodities. Under no circumstances mistrust or misgivings must be allowed to take recourse.The attitude of closing border time and again to punish Afghanistan is a negative act harming relations at all level. In the end it solves nothing rather pushes the Afghans into others bear embrace. The worst affected are the ordinary people, traders and travelers etc. Similarly, jingoism regarding the Afghan refugees to be pushed out should finish. Let them go back honourably to become a reservoir of friendship to Pakistan.Track 2 diplomacy needs to be initiated. Contacts at all levels are i.e. politicians, newsmen, traders, businessmen to ordinary people need to be established. Pakistan has a patriarchal approach towards Kabul which must end and our relationship should develop on Canadian-US model rather than India-Nepal model.Afghans are mature and know what is best for them. We remain overtly concerned about the Indian influence and Indians trying to carry out a strategic encirclement of Pakistan. We need not to worry unnecessarily about extraneous influences on Kabul. Regardless of their official stance, even a person falling sick in Kabul is brought to Peshawar or even to SKMCH Lahore. The Afghan dependence on Pakistan is in almost every aspect of their lives be it education, medical facilities, cultural activities. A common heritage, language, customs and traditions cannot be outdone by provision of material assistance alone by anyone.Our best option is to give them maximum trade and transit facilities, ease travel restrictions, open maximum axis for trade and commerce, extend MNF status. We should aim at providing a common market platform for our critical interests warrant excellent interaction with both the people and these states. Extremely cordial relations are required to be developed in our region with them.In short we should treat all states around us, in particular Kabul like a responsible and respectable state however that shouldn’t stop us from advocating in having our boundaries on the natural line of watershed of Hindukush whenever the Durand Line bogey is revived. Incidentally the Indians had adopted exactly this very stance that natural boundaries lie along the Saltoro Ranges after having occupied the Siachin Glacier, lets take a leaf from that precedent. Yisrael Eretz is also a similar concept.For a change, let us build bridges not walls.