The cross-LoC bus service on the Poonch-Rawalakot road between J&K and Pakistan-occupied Kashmir is likely to resume from Monday after remaining suspended for the past 17 weeks.
The bus service was suspended on July 10 due to heavy firing and shelling from the Pakistani side. No bus has crossed the Line of Control (LoC) from Chakan-da-bagh since then. “Since both sides decided to resume travel and trade at a meeting near the LoC on Friday, we are hopeful of resumption of the weekly cross-LoC bus service as per schedule on Monday,” custodian of LoC trade (Poonch) Mohammad Tanveer said.
Senior civil officials from Poonch and PoK held a meeting on Friday and reached a consensus to resume the suspended bus service and trade between the two sides. The bus service was started along the Srinagar-Muzaffarabad road in April 2005 and the Poonch-Rawalakot route on June 20, 2006, to facilitate easier trade and travel between the divided families of J&K and PoK.
After the suspension of the bus service in July, the chances of resumption brightened on August 24 when senior Army commanders of India and Pakistan held a flag meeting at Chaka-da-bagh and agreed to keep the channels of communication open between local commanders along the LoC.
However, the scheduled meeting between the civilian officials on August 28 prior to the resumption of bus service could not take place as the other side did not turn up in view of fresh cross-border shelling. “If everything goes well and the bus service resumes on Monday, the suspended trade is also expected to resume on Tuesday,” the official said, adding it all depends on the situation along the LoC.
As many as 119 passengers from both sides were left stranded in Poonch and PoK after the suspension of the bus service, leading to protests by relatives from across the border. Until August 1, there were 285 such violations by the Pakistan Army while in 2016, the number was significantly less at 228 for the entire year, according to official figures.
Eleven people, including nine soldiers, were killed and 18 injured in ceasefire violations by the Pakistan Army in July, according to the data. There were as many as 83 ceasefire violations, one BAT (border action team) attack and two infiltration bids from the Pakistani side in June in which four people, including three jawans, were killed and 12 injured.