Bus service resumes across LoC

The Karvane-e-Aman (peace caravan) bus which operates between Srinagar and Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK) capital Muzaffarabad resumed service on Monday, two weeks after it was suspended.

However, the stalemate over detention of dozens of truck drivers stranded across the Line of Control (LoC) continues to be a thorny issue.

Regional Passport Officer Kashmir Firdous Iqbal said 28 passengers took the bus to Muzaffarabad on Monday. “Out of these 18 were new and 10 were from PoK who had been stranded due to suspension of the bus service,” he said adding, 36 passengers came from PoK out of which only two were new.

“The 34 passengers were stranded in PoK due to suspension of the bus service and they returned home on Monday,” Iqbal said.

However, the trade standoff continues, with truckers from both sides stranded since January 17. PoK authorities had suspended the bus service on Srinagar-Muzaffarabad road to press for the release of a Pakistani truck driver arrested by Indian authorities in connection with smuggling of brown sugar worth over Rs 100 crore on January 17.

The PoK authorities also detained 27 Kashmir drivers along with their trucks at Chakoti across the LoC following the incident. They also refused to take back 48 drivers who are stranded at Salamabad Uri. After three meetings between the authorities from both sides, it was agreed to resume the bus service on Monday.

However, no decision was taken on resumption of trade. Both sides said they would meet on Tuesday or Wednesday again to reach to any conclusion. The weekly cross-LoC bus service runs every Monday. The bus service, started in April 2005 to facilitate meeting of divided families, was billed the “mother of all confidence-building measures”.

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