M A I N   N E W S

After 61 yrs, a Line of Commerce
Ehsan Fazili
Tribune News service

Salamabad (Uri), October 21
Jammu and Kashmir Governor N.N Vohra today flagged off a convoy of 13 mini trucks carrying goods to Chakoti across the LoC on the Srinagar-Muzaffarabad road to mark the beginning of the cross-LoC trade.

The Governor flagged off the trucks from the Tourist Reception Centre towards the Kaman Post, 120 km from Srinagar, while an enthusiastic crowd of men, women and children cheered and jostled with each other to catch a glimpse of the decorated merchandise fleet as it made its way into occupied Kashmir (PoK) after 61 years.

Earlier in his address, the Governor described the cross- LoC trade as an important confidence-building measure (CBM) aimed at normalising the Indo-Pak relations. He said the people of Jammu and Kashmir would benefit from the measure as trade links would open up new vistas of economic progress in the region.He dwelt on the background of the resumption of the trade links and said the need for people-to-people contact had been felt during the interactions with various social and political organisations a few years ago when the Prime Minister's Roundtable Conference on Jammu and Kashmir had constituted five working groups on different subjects.He said the bus service had been operational on the two routes and the beginning of the trade was yet another milestone in strengthening the relations with Pakistan.

Referring to the recent visit of members of the PoK Chamber of Commerce to the valley, the Governor said such visits were imperative for examining the gamut of trading between the two sides.He expressed the hope that as the trade between the two sides progressed, the range and volume of goods to be imported or exported would increase.

Giving an overview of the event, commissioner-cum-secretary, industries and commerce department, Pawan Kotwal, welcomed the Governor and other dignitaries. He said the event would remind the senior citizens of the once busiest route that Srinagar-Muzaffarabad road used to be before Partition.Kotwal said the flow of trade would be reviewed at regular intervals.

Kaman Bridge: Two hours after the flagging off ceremony, the first two load carriers from PoK zoomed in through “Aman Sethu” and got the distinction of being the first to cross the bridge after 61 years.The drivers, Mazhar Naqvi and Sajjad Hussain from Muzaffarabad, drove their vehicles into India at 1.15 p.m. after officials from both sides held a meeting at a spot on the bridge that exactly marks the LoC.This was followed by a meeting of traders’ representatives from the two sides before the exchange of the goods carriers.A 19-member delegation of the PoK Chamber of Commerce and Industry led by Zulfikar Abbasi had paid a week-long visit to the state on October 9.

India was represented by an Army and a police officer while Pakistan was represented by an army officer, and a deputy commissioner. The meeting on the LoC was followed by a brief meeting between the traders’ representatives.

“I am happy…. We had been waiting for such a moment since 1947”, said Masood Ahmad Peer, driver of one of the vehicles carrying apple from Baramula. Peer who is in his early thirties is optimistic about further development in the cross- LoC movement of people and trade. This would lead to peace and progress on both sides of Kashmir, he opined, while driving his vehicle across the Kaman Post with 70 packets of apple from Fruit Mandi, Sopore.

“From every house, we extend a very warm welcome to our Kashmiri brothers”, said the writing on the board on the Pakistani side of the bridge.

Chakan-da-Bagh (Poonch): Bonhomie filled the air as trucks carrying gift items rolled across the LoC on Tuesday after over six decades to bridge the divide between the two parts of undivided Jammu and Kashmir.

The cross- LoC trade commenced on the Poonch-Rawalakot route with H.H Tyabji, adviser to the Governor, flagging off three trucks carrying gifts, including fruits and vegetables, from the Poonch Beopar Mandal, here. However, political leaders were conspicuous by their absence courtesy the model code of conduct.

Speaking on the occasion,Tyabji described the day as historic on which the cross-LoC trade commenced after 61 years. He exuded confidence that the trade would flourish in the coming years, adding that it would also help promote people- to- people contact.

Tyabji lauded the administration for creating facilities at the Cross-LoC Trade Centre (CLTC) at Chakan-Da-Bagh within the shortest possible time. “It demonstrates the keenness and enthusiasm of the people about the launching of the trade,” he averred. He stressed the need for making the cross-LoC trade more meaningful for the Jammu region. “A majority of the items in the current list are from Kashmir and we need to add more items so as to make the exercise more significant for Jammu,” he said.

Meanwhile, it was a trip down the memory lane for septuagenarian Rehmatullah Khan who was witness to free trade between the two parts of Jammu and Kashmir in early 1940s. “I still remember the day when one of our relatives used to trade maize and other items in Rawlakote,” he said.

Earlier, the adviser inspected the facilities at the centre.Divisional commissioner Sudhanshu Pandey, DIG, Rajouri-Poonch range, Dr Kamal Saini, deputy commissioner, Poonch, Mohammad Afzal, and prominent citizens, and functionaries of the Beopar Mandal, Poonch, were present on the occasion.

Later, the adviser and the divisional commissioner, as well as the trucks carrying the consignment from India, were received at the LoC by the deputy commissioner, Rawalakot, Zaffar Mehmood. They exchanged sweets and pleasantries.



Landmark leap
Afzal Khan writes from Islamabad

Pakistan and India on Tuesday took a landmark leap forward in the confidence-building process by opening trade routes between the two sides of Kashmir controlled by them for the first time in 61 years.

A caravan of 14 trucks left Muzaffarbad while 13 came from Srinagar. Occupied Kashmir(PoK) Prime Minister Sardar Attique Ahmed Khan was present on the “peace bridge”, linking both parts of Kashmir along the LoC.

“This is a historic occasion and the first step towards the fulfilment of the dream to turn the LoC into a line of commerce”, Attique said. A total of 21 items are being traded while the movement of trucks has been restricted to twice a week. Zulfiqar Ahmed, president of the PoK Chamber of Commerce, said he was very happy, but noted that each truck was supposed to carry only between one and one-and-a half tonnes of goods against its capacity ranging from 14 to 16 tonnes.

Trade has been resumed as a result of an agreement between President Asif Ali Zardari and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh at their meeting in New York on September 25. It was decided that the volume of trade would be gradually enhanced.



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