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Pakistan refuses entry to peace bus from India

28 January, 2014

CHAKOTHI: Indian trucks are seen stranded in Chakothi due to suspension of Intra Kashmir Trade.
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NEW DELHI: Authorities in Azad Jammu and Kashmir on Monday refused to allow a bus from India to enter, thereby continuing the deadlock over the cross-LoC trade and the peace bus service in Jammu and Kashmir, officials said.

Officials in Poonch district said when the Poonch-Rawalakot bus carrying 17 passengers reached the Chakan-Da-Bagh crossing point on Monday, Pakistani officials did not open the gate to allow the bus to enter their side. "We had to finally cancel the service. The bus was carrying 17 passengers, 14 of whom were returning home to Pakistan, while three were going to visit relatives there from our side," an official said.

Pakistani authorities have already stopped the Srinagar-Muzaffarabad peace bus service, linking the bus operation to the resolution of the deadlock over trade across the Line of Control (LoC).

On Jan 17, police and customs officials at the Salamabad trade facilitation centre in Baramulla seized 114 packets of brown sugar from a truck coming from the Pakistan-administered Kashmir. The truck driver and a local trader who was to receive the narcotics were arrested.

Pakistani officials first claimed the driver could not be arrested as he enjoyed diplomatic immunity. When the Indian foreign office challenged the claim, Pakistan linked the bus services with the resolution of the deadlock. Pakistan later refused to allow the return of 27 drivers and their trucks from India.

Indian and Pakistani authorities Monday met at Kaman Post to end the 11-day impasse over the arrest of a driver from across Line of Control trade following recovery of heroin from his vehicle, but a breakthrough remained elusive.

"A meeting took place at Kaman Post between officials from our side and Azad Jammu and Kashmir side. However, the situation continues as it was," Divisional Commissioner Kashmir Shailendra Kumar said.

He said the Indian officials stood their ground that the Pakistani driver would not be released before facing the due course of law."Now they have asked for the FIR copy and the FSL report which had authenticated that the contraband was brown sugar," Kumar said.

The Divisional Commissioner said another meeting has been scheduled for January 30 between the two sides.Over 110 packets of brown sugar were recovered from the Pakistani vehicle at Salamabad trade facilitation centre on January 17. The driver of the vehicle was arrested.

The PoK officials refused to take back 48 other drivers and vehicles from that side and also detained the 27 Indian drivers and their vehicles, demanding the release of the arrested driver.PoK authorities have since suspended both trade and travel on Srinagar-Muzaffarabad route.

India had summoned Pakistan Acting High Commissioner on Tuesday in connection with the suspension of Srinagar- Muzaffarabad and Rawalakot-Poonch bus services by Pakistan.Pakistani authorities argue that under standard operating procedures, which guide cross-LoC barter trade, the driver should not have been arrested by Jammu and Kashmir police and instead he should have been handed over to Pakistani authorities.

However, rejecting Pakistan's contention, External Affairs Ministry spokesperson said there was "no modality which exempts any person alleged to be involved in criminal activity from facing the full force of Indian law".

End.

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