Cross-LoC bus service resumes after two week’s suspension

Excelsior Correspondent
JAMMU, Apr 15: As many as 19 passengers, including eight women, exchanged sides as the weekly cross-LoC bus service resumed on Monday after remaining suspended for the past two weeks owing to heavy shelling along the Line of Control (LoC) in Poonch district of Jammu and Kashmir, officials said.
Thirteen Pakistan occupied Kashmir (PoK) residents, including six women, returned to their homes after spending time with their relatives on this side after reaching Chakan-da-Bagh crossing point by the weekly bus, they said.
Similarly, the officials said, five Indian residents, including two women, walked into this side along with a PoK resident who has come to meet his relatives in Poonch district.
The bus service, popularly known as ‘Paigam-e-Aman’ (message of peace), plies on Monday every week.
Billed as the biggest confidence building measure, the bus service was started on the Srinagar-Muzaffarabad route in Kashmir in April 2005 and the Poonch-Rawalakot route in the Jammu region on June 20, 2006, to facilitate travel between the divided families living on either side of the LoC.
The cross-LoC trade between the two sides, which works on barter system, started in October 2008.
However, the trade, which takes place four days a week from Tuesday to Friday, also could not take place during the past fortnight in view of the tension along the borders.
Three persons, including a BSF officer and a five-year-old girl, were killed and 24 others injured in Pakistani shelling in the forward villages of Poonch on April 1, forcing the suspension of the bus service and the trade between the two sides.
However, the cross-LoC trade and travel mostly remained unaffected despite spurt in the skirmishes along the LoC following India’s preemptive air strike on a Jaish-e-Mohammad terror camp in Pakistan’s Balakot on February 26 in response to the February 14 Pulwama terror attack on a convoy which left 44 CRPF personnel dead.