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Intra-Kashmir bus service completes six years

The intra-Kashmir bus service, which completes six years this year, has served to reunite 15,976 Kashmiris divided by the Line of Control (LoC).

Officials from Indian Kashmir and Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) exchanged greetings and sweets at the LoC bridge in Chakothi to mark the sixth anniversary of the bus service between Muzaffarabad and Srinagar that began on April 7, 2005, as a confidence-building measure between sparring India and Pakistan. Initially started as a fortnightly service, in August 2008, buses began travelling on a weekly basis. Following the service’s success, another bus service was launched on June 6, 2006, between Rawalakot in Pakistan and Poonch in India.

“So far, 9,581 Kashmiris have crossed over the LoC from Pakistan into India while 6,395 people have come into AJK from India,” Bashir Mir, trade and travel officer of Muzaffarabad-Srinagar bus service, told The Express Tribune. To facilitate divided families, he said the authority will soon begin issuing triple-entry forms.
On Thursday, the bus carried nine passengers to Indian Kashmir while 15 crossed into AJK. When asked why fewer passengers had come in from India, Mir said the Indian authorities were more stringent when it came to clearing travel documents. On average, he said, 30 to 35 per cent of Pakistani applicants who send their forms to India are given a travel permit.
Hattian Bala Deputy Commissioner Abdul Hameed Mughal, while addressing the anniversary ceremony at Chakothi, said that the bus service between the two parts of Kashmir was a welcome step which had improved relations between India and Pakistan. “I hope that the travel process will be made easier and problems that passengers are facing are resolved to ensure smooth travel across the two sides,” Mughal said.
Through the Muzaffarad-Srinagar route, 4,000 Kashmiris from Pakistan have crossed over into India in the past six years while 2,400 Indians have come to Pakistan. Through the Rawalakot-Poonch route, 3,000 Kashmiris travelled from Pakistan to India and 3,378 Kashmiris came into Pakistan from India.
Over 12,000 applications for a travel permit have been received at the central office of the Cross LoC Trade and Travel Center. Of these, 9,000 have been sent to Indian Kashmir for clearance and 5,000 have been cleared. From India, the office has received 5,738 applications and 2,971 have been cleared.


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