PoK Avails LoC Travel Much More Than J&K Does

PoK Avails LoC Travel Much More Than J&K Does

26 February 2012
The Economic Times
Masood Hussain

Jammu: Citizens from Pakistani Kashmir are using the LoC for travelling across much more than the Indian Kashmiris do, the government informed the state legislature. In last seven years, 11410 PoK individuals visited J&K using the four windows on the LoC as compared to only 7201 J&K residents. 'We have not received, processed or approved any application for grant of LoC permit to persons other than the members of the divided families,' the government stated last week. 'All the 18601 persons who availed the facility by the end of December 2011 are members of the divided families.' The path breaking initiative, the only CBM of consequence on Kashmir front between India and Pakistan, was launched by the Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh in April 7, 2005 when the first major road - the Jhelum Valley Road (JVR) connecting Srinagar with Muzaffarabad, the PoK capital, was thrown open. The earthquake that flattened vast belts straddling the LoC closed the JVR for many months. But it forced the two countries to think of opening more windows, for the families divided by the wars between 1947 and 1971. With JVR, Islamabad and New Delhi agreed to open four more points in Kashmir and Jammu areas. On November 19, 2005, a crossing point became functional in Teetwal after the Pakistani army laid a 195 ft rope bridge over the fast flowing Kishanganga. A week later, Congress president Mrs Sonia Gandhi accompanied defence minister to Balnoi in Poonch on November 28, 2005 to throw open another point. In the summer next year, another major crossing point was thrown open at Chakan da Bagh in Poonch on June 20, 2006. The Haji Pir pass is yet to open. After seven years, it is the Chakan da Bagh window that is the most successful as 52.73 percent of the total visitors (9810 of 186010) from either side preferred this route over all others. 'This speaks of the magnitude of the divide,' says Zakir Mohammad, a resident of Poonch town. 'The erstwhile Poonch was sliced into two parts and now it was converted into four districts - two each in PoK and J&K.' Interestingly, J&K and PoK have a district named Poonch. The Balnoi (Tatapani) crossing that was opened soon after the earthquake in 2005 could not do much. Barely six months after, it was closed on June 26, 2006 after a major portion of the border road was washed away by incessant rains. By then 134 residents from J&K and 129 from PoK had used it. This, locals said, is one of the major reasons for massive rush on the Chakan da Bagh crossing point. Residents said that while the government has constructed a major bridge and re-laid the road that was lost to floods, authorities are not so keen to open it. Indiatimes|The Times of India|The Economic Times| More Facebook|Log In|Join| The Economic Times Politics-Nation NewsStock Quote Home News Markets IPO Personal Finance Tech Jobs Opinion Features Environment Blogs ET NOW News By Industry News By Company Economy Politics-Nation International Business Emerging Businesses NRI You are here: Home » News » Politics-Nation 26 Feb, 2012, 04.58PM IST, Masood Hussain,ET Bureau PoK avails LoC travel much more than J&K does Story Comments (1) Read more on »PoK|LoC| 0 inShare JVR continues to be major crossing point in Kashmir. More than 36 percent of the traffic from two sides (7194 of 18601) use this trek to get in or go out. The Teetwal culvert has a limited use. It is usually being used by the residents of Keran and Karnah (Kashmir) and the Neelam Valley on the other side. So far 1343 people - 856 from J&K and 487 from PoK, have used this window to crossover. In fact it is seasonal route as most of the civilian crossings take place during peak summer only. JVR and Chakan da Bagh are the two of three operational routes which are used for barter trade between J&K and PoK. Operational amid chaos and crisis, the trade has crossed more than Rs 2000 crores of turnover since late 2008. Currently the bus services is operational on JVR and Chakan da Bagh for two days a week as the barter trading goes on for four days. Though there have not been any change in the processes associated with granting of permission to the visitors from either side, the pendency has not been very huge. By the end of 2011, the government said the police had 564 applications from the J&K residents and 1869 requests from PoK at various stages of verification. Permissions are granted after respective police verifies the request and then sends it to its counterparts on the other side that also verifies the antecedents of the hosts to check if the two are actual relatives are not. It is usually time consuming and laborious. There were two incidents in which the mothers had to keep their suckling babies at home to cross over for lack of permission because the babies were not even conceived when the mothers moved applications for a permit!