Poonch-Rawalakot cross-LoC bus service resumes

6 Nov 2017

The cross-LoC bus service from Rawalakot to Poonch in Jammu and Kashmir resumed after 17 weeks today with 20 passengers from Pakistan occupied Kashmir crossing over, an official said. The bus service, poetically titled Paigam-e-Aman (message of peace), was suspended on July 10 due to heavy firing and shelling from the Pakistani side. No bus had crossed the Line of Control (LoC) from Chakan Da Bagh in Poonch district since then. "The suspended bus service resumed this morning and 20 people arrived from PoK," Mohammad Tanveer, Custodian of the LoC trade (Poonch), told PTI. He added that "no passenger from this side travelled to the other side and the bus had to ply empty".
Senior civil officials from Poonch and PoK held a meeting at the crossing point near the LoC on November 3 and reached a consensus to resume the suspended bus service and trade between the two sides. The cross-LoC bus service was started along the Srinagar-Muzaffarabad route in April 2005 and the Poonch- Rawalakot road in June 2006 to facilitate trade and travel between the divided families of Jammu and Kashmir and PoK. The trade, which works on the barter system, between the two parts of Kashmir started in October 2008. "With the resumption of bus service, the trade which takes place four days a week is also likely to start tomorrow, Tanveer said.
The chances of resumption of the service had brightened on August 24 when senior Army commanders of India and Pakistan held a flag meeting at Chakan Da Bagh and agreed to keep the channels of communication open between local commanders along the LoC. However, the scheduled meeting between the civilian officials on August 28 prior to the resumption of bus service could not take place as the other side did not turn up due to fresh cross-border shelling. As many as 119 passengers from both sides were left stranded in Poonch and PoK after the suspension of the bus service, leading to protests by passengers from across the border on several occasions in support of their demand for early return to their homes.
From January Till August 1, there were 285 ceasefire violations by the Pakistan Army. In 2016, the number was significantly less at 228 for the entire year, according to the Army figures. Eleven people, including nine soldiers, were killed and 18 injured in ceasefire violations by the Pakistan Army in July, according to the figures. There were as many as 83 ceasefire violations, one BAT (border action team) attack and two infiltration bids from the Pakistani side in June in which four people, including three jawans, were killed and 12 injured. (PTI)