Trans-LoC bus services resume

Excelsior Correspondent

Passengers board cross-LoC bus at URI on Monday. —Excelsior/Aabid Nabi
Passengers board cross-LoC bus at URI on Monday.
—Excelsior/Aabid Nabi

Srinagar/Jammu, Feb 3: The Karvane-e-Aman bus service between Srinagar and Muzaffarabad that remained suspended for two weeks after the arrest of Pakistan occupied Kashmir (PoK) truck driver resumed today. However, trade standoff continues.
The bus today carried 28 passengers from Srinagar to Muzaffarabad out of which 10 were Pakistan occupied Kashmir (PoK) residents while 18 were Kashmiris.
However, PoK residents seem to be more apprehensive and only two travelled from Muzaffarabad to Srinagar while 44 Kashmiris who were in Muzaffarabad returned home.
Reports said that for the first time, the bus didn’t enter the Tourist Reception Centre, Salamabad where 48 drivers are stranded but went to a makeshift police check point where some formalities were conducted before the bus moved to Aman Setu for crossover of passengers. Similarly the passengers who travelled from Muzaffarabad to Srinagar were not taken to TRC Salamabad due to apprehensions that the 48 PoK truck drivers may hold protests.
The bus service resumed today but the trade standoff continued as the two countries failed to resolve it. Pakistan insists that the driver of the truck who was arrested with 114 kilogramme of brown sugar be released.
Forty eight truck drivers and their vehicles remained stranded at Salamabad, Uri since January 17 as PoK demanded that they will be allowed to cross over after the arrested driver is released. Similarly PoK also did not allow 27 Kashmiri drivers to cross over as they demanded release of the arrested driver.
The PoK is demanding release of driver who was arrested after 114 packets of brown sugar were recovered from almond bags after the truck reached Salamabad. They want to prosecute the driver in PoK but police says that he was arrested in Uri and he has to prosecuted in Kashmir only.
The bus service, operating since April 7, 2005 after India and Pakistan agreed to allow travel of divided families living on both sides of the LoC. The trade was included in 2008.
The relatives of trucks drivers on both sides of the LoC also protested demanding return of drivers to their homes.
Meanwhile, the cross LoC bus service which was suspended after arrest of POK driver along with 114 kg of brown sugar at Uri Trade Centre on January 17, 2014,  was resumed today and all the over staying visitors on the either side were allowed to cross sides at Chakkan-da-Bagh in Poonch and Uri in Kashmir.
Official sources told the Excelsior that in last two weeks, there was no bus service as the Pakistani authorities had suspended bus service and even the trade after the arrest of  a driver from PoK after large quantity of contraband material was recovered from his truck being smuggled via Uri LoC point to Kashmir on January 17. A large number of over staying visitors on this side and even on that side were worried about their fate. Their families too were continuously in touch with the district authorities.
With the intervention at the higher level in Delhi and Islamabad, today the weekly bus service (Every Monday)  between Poonch and Rawlakote and Srinagar- Muzaffarabad via Uri was resumed today. The passengers struck on the either sides were cleared. Many of them were running short of money.
At Chakkan-da-Bagh LoC point in Poonch,  total 128 passengers crossed sides. A total 72 over staying visitors from Pak occupied Kashmir returned to their homes on that side of the LoC. Only three J&K residents also crossed over to that side on visit permit to PoK, to meet their relatives there.
From PoK side, 20 new visitors arrived on this side while 33 J&K residents overstaying there also returned. The gate at the LoC point was opened at 3.05 pm and it was closed at 3.20 pm. The designated officials from both the sides facilitated the visitors at the Immigration Centre.
Spokesman said that trade still remains suspended at both the cross LoC points as the issue has not been resolved at the highest level by both the countries. The dialogue process continuous and it is hoped that the matter would be resolved amicably within a week. Twenty seven Indian truck drivers have been detained on that side along with their vehicles by Pakistani authorities after the incident of  recovery of contraband in the truck of PoK  driver on January 17. Some PoK truck drivers are also detained at Uri.