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Cross-LoC bus plies as per schedule in J K's Poonch

twitter-logo PTI        Last Updated: April 22, 2019  | 23:25 IST

(Eds: Adds details about bus service on Srinagar-Muzaffarabad route) Jammu/Srinagar, Apr 22 (PTI) The weekly cross-LoC bus service plied Monday as per schedule along the Poonch-Rawalakot route in Jammu and Kashmir, days after India indefinitely suspended trade at two points along the Line of Control in the state after reports of "misuse" of the business by some elements from across the border. Only two persons returned to the Valley from Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK) via the Srinagar-Muzaffarabad route Monday, while the cross-LoC bus service remained suspended due to an under-repair bridge, officials said. A total of 28 passengers, all residents of Pakistan occupied Kashmir (PoK), availed the facility by crossing sides at Chakan-da-Bagh along the LoC in Poonch district, officials said. While 23 PoK residents reached Poonch from across the border, five PoK residents returned home after spending time with their relatives, they said, adding neither any Indian resident returned from PoK nor anyone went there to meet their relatives, apparently in view of the prevailing situation. The weekly bus service, popularly known as 'Paigam-e-Aman' (message of peace) plies every Monday. The bus does not cross the LoC and the passengers exchange sides by foot at the Chakan-da-Bagh crossing point and later board the bus to reach their respective destinations. Billed as the biggest confidence building measure, the bus service was started on the Srinagar-Muzaffarabad route in Kashmir in April 2005 and on the Poonch-Rawalakot route in the Jammu region on June 20, 2006, to facilitate travel between the divided families on either side of the LoC. The cross-LoC trade, which works on barter system, started in October 2008. However, the trade, which takes place four days a week from Tuesday, was indefinitely suspended by India last week. Hardening its stand against Pakistan, India had on Thursday last announced the suspension of the trade at two points - Salamabad of Baramulla in Kashmir and Chakkan-da-Bagh of Poonch in Jammu, following reports that it was being "misused" by elements from across the border to smuggle weapons, narcotics and fake currency. However, the government said the issue of reopening of the LoC trade would be revisited after a stricter regulatory and enforcement mechanism is worked out and put in place in consultation with various agencies.  The bus service and trade between the divided parts survived border skirmishes between the armies of India and Pakistan, which intensified recently following India's preemptive air strike on a Jaish-e-Mohammad terror camp in Pakistan's Balakot on February 26 in response to the February 14 Pulwama terror attack on a convoy which left 40 CRPF personnel dead. "We want both the governments to continue with the bus service to facilitate the divided families to meet each other," Jaskal Hussain, a resident of Mirpur in PoK, told reporters before boarding the bus after spending six weeks with his relatives in Poonch.  He said he was happy with the service and faced no problem during his stay with his relatives in Jammu and Kashmir. Mohammad Ibrahim, another PoK resident, said the facility has provided them an opportunity to visit each other and share happiness and grief. "Our message to both the countries is to continue such measures so that the people on both sides of the divided line live in peace," he said. "Two passengers, residents of Kashmir, returned to the Valley from PoK today (Monday) via the Srinagar-Muzaffarabad route," the officials said. They said no fresh passengers visited either side of the LoC. Six passengers, residents of PoK, were still in the Valley, they said. The officials said the bus service remained suspended due to an under-repair bridge on the Srinagar-Muzaffarabad route. PTI TAS AB SSB MIJ AQS

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