India refuses to release of Pak driver who smuggled nacotics

India refuses to release of Pak driver who smuggled nacotics

Amidst a continued stand-off on cross-LoC trade, India today rejected Pakistan's demand for the release of a Pakistani driver arrested for smuggling narcotics worth Rs 100 crore across the LoC and said that the criminal will have to face the "full force of Indian law".

India has already summoned Pakistan Acting High Commissioner on Tuesday in connection with the suspension of Srinagar-Muzaffarabad and Rawalakot-Poonch bus services by Pakistan, which has demanded release of its driver.

Pakistani authorities argue that under standard operating procedures, which guide cross-LoC barter trade, the driver should not have been arrested by Jammu and Kashmir police and instead he should have been handed over to Pakistani authorities.

However, rejecting Pakistan's contention, the Spokesperson said there was "no modality which exempts any person alleged to be involved in criminal activity from facing the full force of Indian law".

Observing that there were Confidence-Building Measures relating to trans-LoC trade and travel which bring about immense humanitarian benefits to people of Jammu and Kashmir, the Spokesperson said, "It is surprising that these CBMs have been chosen by Pakistan to be held hostage for the sake of persons indulging in drug trafficking".

The Spokesperson also said the Foreign Ministries of the two countries were making all efforts to resolve the situation as early as possible, and added that it was a "difficult situation" for the Indian drivers who have not been allowed to return by the authorities in PoK which are demanding release of their driver.

As per the Standard Operating Procedure for cross-LoC trade between India and Pakistan, "In case goods are found, which are in contravention of any law for the time being in force, the concerned agencies should be informed for taking necessary action, e.g the goods like arms, ammunitions, fake currency notes should be handed over to Jammu and Kashmir Police fore necessary action."

Asked about reports that the Pakistani driver has diplomatic immunity, the Spokesperson said there was no immunity that exempts a person in that category if he is alleged to be involved in criminal activity.

Tension mounted at the Kaman post area in North Kashmir when police last week detained a truck carrying 114 packets of brown sugar, valued at Rs 100 crore in international market, and arrested the driver along with two more people from Bandipore who were to receive the consignment.

In a tit-for-tat action, authorities in PoK detained 27 Indian truck drivers and demanded release of their driver.

The deadlock intensified when authorities in Kashmir were informed by the PoK about suspension of bus services on the Srinagar-Muzaffarabad and Rawalakot-Poonch sector.

While one driver has been arrested, 48 other drivers from PoK are also stranded at Salamabad Trade Facilitation Centre since the stand-off began last week.

The passenger bus service was started in April 2005 while the trade began in October 2008.

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