M A I N   N E W S

Sonia to flag off second bus service to PoK tomorrow
S.P. Sharma
Tribune News Service

Jammu, June 18
The UPA Chairperson, Ms Sonia Gandhi and the Defence Minister, Mr Pranab Mukherjee, will flag off a passenger bus service between Poonch and Rawlakot in Pakistan occupied Kashmir (PoK) on Tuesday amidst tight security in the wake of reports of two terrorist groups having infiltrated in the area.

The engagements of Ms Gandhi and Mr Mukherjee have been kept as a closely guarded secret by the Army and the civil authorities because of the security risk.

Earlier, the Prime Minister, Dr Manmohan Singh, was slated to inaugurate the bus service, which resumes after a break of 57 years, but he is learnt to have changed his mind at the last minute to send strong signals to Pakistan for having stepped up terrorist violence in the state.

This would be the second bus route to be opened between India and PoK in the past one year for a greater people-to-people contact on both sides of the Line of Control (LoC). The Srinagar-Muzaffarabad route was opened by Dr Manmohan Singh last year.

The Army has established several check points on the road leading to Poonch and the villages nearby in view of the high profile visit.

Chief Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad and the Army chief, Gen J.J.Singh, will also be present on the occasion.

The Army has built a 10-km long road to link Poonch with Chakan-da-Bagh on the LoC from where the passenger bus would enter PoK. About 30 passengers are expected to be exchanged from both sides on the inaugural run.

A customs and immigration building has been constructed near the LoC where the documents of passengers going to PoK and those coming here from the other side would be checked.

There was a lot of enthusiasm among the residents of the twin border districts of Poonch and Rajouri about the reopening of the road.

No civilian has travelled on the road since 1947 and on Tuesday, it will the first time that the place would be thrown open for the flagging off ceremony.

Meanwhile, Prof Chaman Lal Gupta, a senior BJP leader and a former union minister, in a statement today expressed surprise on the haste that the UPA government was showing in reopening of various road routes between India and Pakistan.

He said that the UPA government should make its agenda clear as there is no let up in cross border terrorism and the infrastructure of terrorist training was active in PoK.

Professor Gupta said that peace talks and terrorism cannot go together. India should firmly ask Pakistan to stop cross border terrorism.


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