The Dynamics of Change in the Pakistan-Afghanistan Region: Politics, (Dis)integration and Reformation in the Borderland
24-26 June 2020
The Pakistan-Afghanistan region, defined by diverse spatial realities, has been subject to varied invasions, complex contestations and intense power plays by regional and international stakeholders. This has resulted in making conflict a permanent feature of the region. For many years, conflict-driven interventions (re-)defined and (re-)demarcated boundaries and gave new political spatiality to the region while opening it to the ‘modern statehood’ notion. The colonial practice of graded border management, however, complicated the process of boundary delineation and frontier management. The extension of centralized control over ‘peripheral border spaces’ added complexities to this as a result. It also denied these areas development benefits and earned them the titles of ‘unruly/wild frontiers’ and ‘ungoverned spaces.’ The dynamics in the borderland have assumed a more nuanced face with the emergence of new militant ideological movements. As challenges to peace and security by these radical religio-political movements were met with military operations, the region was forced into violence, war, displacements of population and as a resultant weakening of traditional structures and institutions.
Another feature of spatial reality in the borderland is a strong gender separation in private and public spaces, which by making the public space too ‘privileged’ for the tribal women has reinforced male domination over politics, religion and economy. These public spaces, which are more readily open to and incorporate predominantly male voices are, however, used by the inhabitants of the region to convey their opinions, grievances and political dissent; social media spaces being inclusive of it.
On Pakistan’s border, state introduced reform processes by merging FATA with the province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa has not only opened up new challenges of constitutional, legal and political integration into the larger polity of Pakistan, but also given birth to the new paradigm of power sharing and institution building. However, the politicized re-emergence of border demarcation in the form of widely visible forts and fences poses significant challenges for a region not used to such “hard borders”, thus creating further impacts on the social fabric of the borderland. With the new peace agreement signed by the US with the Taliban of Afghanistan, it is important to assess what sort of dynamics are expected to take hold in the near future, especially as the fragility of the state building process in Kabul shows the tenuous nature of governance in Afghanistan.
Traditionally, the borderland has maintained a semblance of structured order and organized living through indigenous and localized governance institutions for Pakhtun and non-Pakhtun ethnicities alike. The unwritten code of conduct has conducted social life for the Pakhtun tribes in the border areas for centuries and Jirga (council) as an informal community body for dispute resolution has been instrumental in dispensing justice related functions. Such traditional social and political spaces have been continuously challenged, though. This dynamism of the socio-cultural setup in the region is an often-neglected subject for academic research. The informal institutions of governance interact with and play upon the formal state institutions. Therefore, such dynamic interplay of the formal and informal is paradoxically promoting and at the same time impeding state building processes in the region. The mainstreaming of the Newly Merged Tribal Districts (NMTDs) is a very challenging new dynamic of the region.
In order to gain a more holistic view of the dynamics of change in the Pakistan-Afghanistan region, the Department of Political Science, University of Peshawar and the Hanns Seidel Foundation Pakistan have been jointly organizing a series of international conferences since 2011. The Department and HSF invite proposals for the 9th International Conference to be held in Baragali, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa in June 2020.
The 2020 Annual Conference explores the following major questions:
- What are the ways and sources of knowledge that can help make marginalized local voices and traditions more understandable, meaningful, and inclusive?
- What makes the Pakistan-Afghanistan borderland a socio-politically complex borderland? In what ways does the recent scholarship on borderlands contribute to understanding of various dynamics of the Pakistan-Afghanistan borderland?
- How is the state building process unfolding in the region and what are the political and economic challenges to state building in both Pakistan and Afghanistan?
- How do the key global challenges of our time affect the Pakistan-Afghanistan borderland and vice versa?
- In what manner are gender relations being transformed in the wake of socio-cultural and political transformations in the region?
- How are local economies changing under neo-liberal influences and conflict (and post conflict) dynamics
- How are alternative religious discourses challenging the dominant discourses in the Pakistan-Afghanistan region?
- What modes of social discourse are emerging against extremist voices/actions?
- How successful will be the recently signed peace agreement between the United States and the Taliban in bringing much desired peace to the conflict-ridden borderland?
A further division of the areas of interest might be the following:
- War, Genre, and Critique
- Religion, Difference, and Violence
- Law, Human Rights and Gender Rights
- Democratic Governance, Public Space, and Resistance
- Youth and Radicalization
- Economic Transformation and Development
- Trade & Economic Integration
- Globalization, Conflict and Local Economies
- Migration, Diaspora, Refugees, and Internally Displaced Persons
- Borders and Transnational Mobility
- Periphery within a Periphery? Non-Pakhtun Ethnicities on the Border
- Politics of Identities
- Art, Sports, and Politics of Aesthetics
- Sub-National Governments and Governance
- Governance Reforms in FATA: Mainstreaming and Challenges of Merger with KP
- Changing Electoral/Political Trends
- Theoretical Engagement of the Borderland
- Border Management/ Border Control
- China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) – Economic Dividends/Politics of CPEC
- State Hegemony and Resistance
- Social Networking and Political Mobilization: Online & Offline
- Power Contestations, State Institutions and Spaces of Governance
- Reconciliation and Changing Geo-Politics of Afghanistan and its Impact on the Region
- Development Narratives: Donor Fatigue and the Question of Sustainability
- Federalism – An Answer for Afghanistan’s Governance Problems?
- Peace Building in Afghanistan – Peace Agreements, Successes and Failures
Dr. Noreen Naseer, Conference Cordinator,,
Assistant Professor, University of Peshawar, Peshawar, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Pakistan
The Department of Political Science, the University of Peshawar with the collaboration of Hanns Seidel Foundation, has been jointly arranging a series of international conferences since 2011.
Political Science Department, University of Peshawar, Pakistan, Hanns Seidel Foundation Islamabad Pakistan