LoC bus service remains suspended for second week

With stalemate over the release of Kashmiri drivers detained by Pakistani authorities continuing, the weekly “Karvan-e-Aman” (peace caravan) bus service, remained suspended for the second week on Monday.

Sources said the service operating between Srinagar and Muzaffarabad, capital of Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK), could not operate on Monday.

The service was suspended on January 20 after a truck driver from PoK was arrested by the Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) Police for carrying 114 packets of brown sugar in his vehicle at Salamabad.

In reaction, Pakistani authorities detained 29 Kashmiri drivers and also refused to take back their drivers who remain stranded in Uri.

Pakistani authorities have been demanding the driver’s release in exchange for the release of the Kashmiri drivers. They also demanded return of the seized truck and brown sugar to prosecute the driver in PoK.

The weekly bus service runs every Monday. The service, started in April 2005 to facilitate meeting of divided families, was billed as the “mother of all confidence-building measures” aimed at restoring peace in the state. The first bus was flagged off by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on April 7, 2005, despite opposition from militant organisations.

In 2008, trade service was started on different crossing points in the state. Sources said the J&K government has sought the intervention of the Ministry of External Affairs to end the standoff.

“The home department has sent a letter to the External Affairs Ministry to take up the matter with their Pakistani counterparts,” they added.

Meanwhile, a meeting between the authorities from the two sides to end the stalemate remained inconclusive on Monday. Director Industries Kashmir Mohammad Javaid Khan said a meeting took place at Kaman Post in Uri near LoC which lasted for over two hours.

“During the meeting, the PoK delegation stressed on release of the truck driver which we refused saying that he has been arrested on charges of carrying over 100 kg of brown sugar which was tested and confirmed by the forensic science laboratory. We told the PoK delegation that the driver cannot be released unless an action is taken against him warranted under law,” Khan said.

Asked about the fate of stranded Kashmiri drivers in PoK, Khan said the two sides have agreed to meet again on January 30.

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