Bus runs empty from Poonch, 20 arrive from PoK
JAMMU, Nov 6: Cross-LoC travel on Poonch-Rawlakote route resumed today after suspension for nearly four months while trade on the route will also resume tomorrow as Line of Control (LoC) remained calm for past about a fortnight in Poonch district.
Official sources told the Excelsior that the bus service between Poonch and Rawlakote, which connects people of two parts of divided State and has been named as `Paigam-e-Aman’ (message of peace), resumed this morning after 17 weeks. However, no citizen from this side boarded the bus to visit Pakistan occupied Kashmir (PoK) while 20 civilians reached Poonch from Rawlakote to meet their divided family members and friends, mostly in the twin border districts of Poonch and Rajouri.
The cross-LoC bus, which moves every Monday between Poonch and Rawlakote, was suspended on July 10 in view of heavy mortar shelling and firing by the Pakistan army on the LoC in Rajouri and Poonch districts including places near Chakan-Da-Bagh from where the bus crosses over to Rawlakote.
“As there were no passengers to visit PoK from this side, the bus moved empty. On return, however, 20 passengers from PoK reached this side,” sources said.
They added that trade between businessmen of Jammu and Kashmir and Pakistan occupied Kashmir was also likely to resume tomorrow. Cross-LoC trade takes place from Tuesday to Friday every week.
Senior civil officials from Poonch and PoK held a meeting at the crossing point near the LoC on November 3 and reached a consensus to resume the suspended bus service and trade between the two sides.
The trade, which works on the barter system, between the two parts of Kashmir started in October 2008.
The chances of resumption of the service had brightened on August 24 when senior Army commanders of India and Pakistan held a flag meeting at Chakan Da Bagh and agreed to keep the channels of communication open between local commanders along the LoC.
However, the scheduled meeting between the civilian officials on August 28 prior to the resumption of bus service could not take place as the other side did not turn up due to fresh cross-border shelling.
As many as 119 passengers from both sides were left stranded in Poonch and PoK after the suspension of the bus service, leading to protests by passengers from across the border on several occasions in support of their demand for early return to their homes.
From January till August 1, there were 285 ceasefire violations by the Pakistan army. In 2016, the number was significantly less at 228 for the entire year, according to the Army figures.
There were as many as 83 ceasefire violations, one BAT (Border Action Team) attack and two infiltration bids from the Pakistani side in June in which four people, including three jawans, were killed and 12 injured.
Meanwhile, there was no Karvan-e-Aman bus service between Srinagar and Muzaffarabad, capital of Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK) today, sources said.
“A message was received from across the PoK authorities that the peace bus, operating between Srinagar and Muzaffarabad, will not operate for security reasons today, when people are observing martyrs day,” sources said.
They added that all the passengers who were scheduled to travel in the bus on Monday had been informed about the cancellation of the weekly bus. They will be now adjusted in the bus next week.
The bus service, introduced as one of the major Confidence Building Measures (CBMs) between India and Pakistan on April 7, 2005, has helped thousands of families divided in 1947 to meet each other.