Srinagar, Dec 17: India and Pakistan have quietly rolled back the cross-LoC Karawan-e-Aman bus post abrogation of Article 370 in Jammu and Kashmir.
Considered as mother of all confidence building measures (CBMs) between India and Pakistan, the cross-LoC peace bus service was aimed at reuniting divided families of Jammu and Kashmir and Pakistan Administered Kashmir (PAK) in a bid to facilitate people to people contact and boost peace process.
Initially the bus service was started only on the Srinagar-Muzaffarabad route in April 2005. After successful run, Centre opened Poonch- Rawalakot road and started cross LoC bus service in June 2006.
However, fourteen years later, the cross LoC bus has quietly faded into oblivion. “Post Pulwama attack, the bus has not plied on the Srinagar-Muzaffarabad road”, said Riyaz Malik, Sub-divisional Magistrate, Uri.
Come August 5, the peace bus was suspended from both the routes in Jammu and Kashmir. “Basically after August 5, Pakistan has not opened gate (on Chakan Da Bagh crossing in Poonch). They have opened gate only once for the exchange of stranded passengers. There were 25 passengers from PoK stranded on this side. Two of our residents were stranded on the other side”, said Rahul Yadav, district development commissioner, Poonch.
Later, Pakistan authorities were approached so that exchange of passengers could take place. “We once ferried passengers up to immigration point but PoK authorities did not respond and the exchange did not took place. Perhaps after three weeks Pakistani authorities opened the gate and finally the exchange of stranded passengers took place. Since then the bus service has remained suspended,” said Yadav.
However, authorities in Poonch continue to follow the drill regularly every Monday irrespective of Pakistan authorities’ decision not to open gates.
“Every Monday we go up to the zero line and follow the drill. We follow the standard operating procedure but there is no response from PoK. Usually if you analyze the data of four to five years, there are very few people from our side who visited PoK. But there are lot many people from PoK who traveled by the bus to our side”, said Yadav.
Data reveals that as many as 799 visitors from PAK visited the Valley in 2018. Around 215 from Kashmir crossed over to the other side of the LoC last year.
“This bus was acting as bridge between divided families on both sides. Since 1947 so many families were divided. Somebody’s brother was living here and somebody’s sister was living there. They could come and meet their relatives when bus was operational. Now if anyone wants to meet his relative, he has not to take Wagah route. And it needs a passport and visa. Our people are very simple and they do not have much knowledge about it”, said Mohammad Rafiq Balote, Chairman, Block Development Council, Uri.