90 pc Srinagar-Muzaffarabad bus passengers will be Kashmiris
27 February 2005
Islamabad: At least 90 per cent of the passengers travelling on the Srinagar- Muzaffarabad bus, likely to be launched on April 7, would be Kashmiris , knowledgeable sources told Dawn underlining that the bus service would primarily cater for the Kashmiris on both sides of the Line of Control. 'We are very clear that a minimum of 90 per cent passengers on the Srinagar-Muzaffarabad bus would be Kashmiris,' said an insider, hinting that the quota to be allocated for Kashmiris could even be 95 per cent or more. A high-level inter- ministerial meeting has been convened here on Monday (today) to work out the nitty-gritty of the bus service and review the preparations made so far, it is learnt. A similar meeting is supposed to take place in New Delhi around the same time after which the two sides would exchange notes and firm up all the necessary details. The meeting would look at various aspects of the bus service, including proposals on pricing of tickets, fee for travel permits, frequency of the bus service, immigration posts, duration of the stay etc., informed sources told Dawn. Initially, a 30 to 35-seater bus would be used on the Srinagar-Muzaffarabad route and in view of the security concerns the frequency of the bus service was likely to be once a week, sources maintained. A detailed announcement about the procedure of obtaining the application forms for the travel permits would be made in the next two days or so in the print and electronic media, sources said. The issuance of application forms by the local authorities in Muzaffarabad and Srinagar would also start this week, sources told Dawn. The application forms will be printed in three different colours so that Pakistanis and Indian nationals as well as Kashmiri people can be distinguished by the colour of the form they hold. In Muzaffarabad, the forms would be available at the deputy commissioner s office, it is learnt. Apparently, authorities in Islamabad and New Delhi have agreed that security clearance of prospective travellers would given within two weeks to facilitate speedy processing of travel permits. There is a proposal that the bus from Muzaffarabad to the LoC, likely to be named Kashmir bus, will be painted green with white doves all over it as a sign of peace. While there is no official word on what supporting documents would be used by Pakistani and Indian nationals, it is believed that an understanding has been reached between the two governments that Pakistanis and Indians would have to show their passports for identification at entry points. Meanwhile, the governments of Pakistan and India have been in touch through the diplomatic channels to work out the technical details, it is learnt. They are still addressing the key question of who would travel on the inaugural bus and whether the media ought to be allowed given the limited seating capacity in the bus to be used. While indications are that some APHC leaders may travel on the inaugural bus, there are no clear answers yet. When Foreign Minister Khurshid Kasuri was asked about this possibility following the Feb 16 agreement between India and Pakistan to start the bus service, he had said 'I hope so.'