M A I N   N E W S

Indo-Pak bus pact brings cheer in valley
Ehsan Fazili
Tribune News Service

A passenger bus passes a hoarding showing the distance to Muzaffarabad in Parimpora on the outskirts of Srinagar on Wednesday.
A passenger bus passes a hoarding showing the distance to Muzaffarabad in Parimpora on the outskirts of Srinagar on Wednesday. A couplet written on the hoarding says: “Let interaction never end; Let talks lead to further talks; Let this evening meet last till dawn; Let the stars of the night smile on us.” The last time when a bus reached Srinagar from Rawalpindi was on September 18, 1947. — Tribune photo by Amin War

Srinagar, February 16
While the common man here is faced with shortage of essential commodities due to recent blockades of Srinagar-Jammu National Highway, the Indo-Pak agreement on starting bus service to Muzaffarabad has brought cheer on many faces in Kashmir.

Both the younger and older generations look at the agreement differently, as it has taken place after 57 years of skirmishes between the two neighbouring countries having fought two wars over Kashmir.

For Mr Manzoor Ahmad, a resident of Baramulla district in north Kashmir, through which the road from here leads to Muzaffarabad, it is the happiest news of the past 50 years. “We have been craving to see my elder brother settled on the other side all these years”, he adds. “We would have been much happier if my elder brother was still alive”, he laments. Mr Manzoor Ahmad awaits the availability of a seat by the Delhi-Lahore bus for his scheduled visit to his brother’s family in Muzaffarabad. He now expects his return by Muzaffarabad-Srinagar bus. Today’s Indo-Pak agreement would end the prevalent atmosphere of fear and alienation among the people of Kashmir, Mr Manzoor Ahmad hopes.

“It is a good decision for the peace-loving people of the subcontinent”, said Dr B A Dabla, Head of the Department of Sociology, at the University of Kashmir, Srinagar. “If the same sentiment prevails”, other problems between the two countries would also be resolved, he held adding “this is not the only thing, but the process should continue”. He stressed the need for an increase in the “people-to-people contact”, leading to long-term measures for the resolution of the Kashmir issue.

But Mrs Tajamul, 30-year-old school teacher, seems doubtful over the development and questions as to why it should be good news for the younger generation. “Our generation has seen a lot of bloodshed in the valley”, she said adding that it was “unpredictable” for it was no testimony to the sincerity of the leadership of the two countries. “We cannot believe… I feel something different”, she commented. She, however, conceded by the belief that one could meet the older kith and kin across. “It is a great beginning. I hope this will end years of bloodshed in Kashmir, and bring back peace to the blood-soaked valley”, commented Mr Mushtaq Ahmad, another youngster.

On the other hand, a businessman looks at it from his own point of view. “If import-export documents are required on the pattern as it exists outside the state, it would be of no use to businessman here”, commented Mr Suhail Ahmad, a tradesman. He favoured easy mechanism for exchange of trade items, which would only help the business community on either side.

This had been the view earlier shared by the former chairman of separatist Hurriyat Conference, Mr Abdul Ghani Bhat, who supported opening of business and trade and not restricting it only to travelling of the people from one side to the other.

S.P. Sharma adds from Jammu: In a festive atmosphere at his official residence here this afternoon, Chief Minister Mufti Sayeed described the decision of India and Pakistan to reopen the Srinagar — Muzaffarabad road as a “dream come true”.

In a hurriedly convened interaction with mediapersons, the Mufti said both countries had shown statesmanship by taking the historic decision that was the “biggest” confidence-building measure after Partition.

He said the Prime Minister, Dr Manmohan Singh, and the Pakistan President, General Pervez Musharraf, had taken the biggest Kashmir-focused decision by reopening the road that would help unite a number of divided families. It is a “great stride” in the peace process, he said.

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