Poonch-Rawalakot Bus Service To Commence On June 20
18 June 2006
Associated Press of Pakistan
New Delhi: Putting further steam to people to people bonhomie as part of slugghish Indo-Pak peace process, bus service between Poonch and Rawalakot will start from June 20 (Tuesday) amidst tight security. UPA Chairperson Sonia Gandhi, Defence Minister Pranab Mukherjee, Indian Occupied Kashmir (IOK) Chief Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad and a host of other state leaders are slated to attend the flagging off ceremony for the Poonch-Rawalakot bus service at Chakan-da-Bagh in Indian Occupied Kashmir. India and Pakistan had agreed at the two- day technical-level talks, held last month (May 2-3) that Poonch- Rawalakot bus service would commence from June 19. It was postponed for a day on the request of Indian side to finalize the arrangements in this regard. The procedures, documentation and modalities will be the same as for the Srinagar-Muzaffarabad bus service, and initially the bus service will operate on a fortnightly basis, a Joint Statement issued after the talks had said. Gandhi will address a public rally in the district before the function, after which she will watch cultural programmes organised by the held state government and local artistes, officials were quoted as saying according to the media reports reaching here. She is expected to see off the first batch of 30 passengers leaving from Poonch (Indian Occupied Kashmir) for Rawalakot in Azad Jammu and Kashmir and receive the same number of people from across the border, they added. Fifteen residents of AJK who had crossed via 'foot points' like Mendhar and Poonch will leave on the bus on June 20, while 30 residents of Poonch in IOK will come back from AJK. This will be the second bus service between Indian Occupied Kashmir and Azad Jammu and Kashmir with the first being the one linking Srinagar and Muzaffarabad that was inaugurated by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on April seven last year in the state capital of IOK. Meanwhile five State Road Transport Corporation (SRTC) buses have reached the border town of Poonch in IOK, which has been put under a tight security net, said the media reports. 'Out of the six buses, five SRTC buses have reached Poonch amid tight security from Jammu in IOK, where they were decorated in the workshop of the JKSRTC during a month-long exercise,' official sources stated. One more bus is yet to reach the spot as it is getting a final touch and is likely to be there by tomorrow, the sources said adding a total of six buses have been kept exclusively for the trans-border service and would be permanently located at Poonch in IOK. The buses would be of video coaches and fully air-conditioned, they said adding that these are 19 seater buses on the pattern of the Uri-Muzaffarabad bus services. The six buses were selected, re-shaped and given a total face-lift at the SRTC workshop at Srinagar and Jammu in IOK, they said adding the fare for the Poonch-Rawalakote route would be Rs 70. A ticketing counter has been set up by SRTC at Poonch town, thee sources stated adding that it has been put under tight security.