Wild celebrations in Valley, PDP wants more links restored
16 February 2005
The Indian Express
Muzamil Jaleel & Pawan Bali
Srinagar: As India and Pakistan promised to open the Srinagar-Muzaffarabad road by April 7, Kashmiri youth exploded crackers at Lal Chowk in the heart of Srinagar. The only flyover in the city too was being illuminated. ‘‘It’s great news, I can’t believe my ears. I am ill but I will try to board the first bus,’’ said 75-year-old Haji Abdul Gani Mir, afflicted with Parkinsons. Mir used to work for Allied Chara-ud-din Transport Company which operated on the route before 1947. ‘‘I have lots of friends there.’’ A few miles away at Khayam chowk, 68-year-old Ghulam Ahmad Wani, who once served the Army, was ecstatic ‘‘I have an uncle in Muzaffarabad. I haven’t seen him in five decades. It was my dream to travel to Muzaffarabad and meet him.’’ Already making travel plans, Wani wanted to know whether state identity cards would be valid for travel. People’s Democratic Party (PDP) president Mehbooba Mufti called today’s decision ‘‘divine justice.’’ A year ago, 13 PDP workers and a security officer were killed in a blast at Uri while demanding opening of the Uri-Muzaffarabad road. Mehbooba said she would want the family of those killed to be on the first bus to Muzzafarabad. Jammu and Kashmir Finance minister Muzaffar Hussain Beig, also injured in the blast with 53 others, said ‘‘the sacrifice of 14 who died’’ had not been in vain. Going so far as to call it ‘‘a reversal of the tragic Partition,’’ Beig said this one step had the potential to take the two countries ‘‘from confrontation to conciliation.’’ Mehbooba and Beig said they would now seek opening of the Suchetgarh- Sialkot route. The Kargil-Skardu road could follow, they said. Separatist leaders too welcomed the new CBM. Hurriyat chairman Mirwaiz Umar Farooq called it ‘‘a step in right direction’’ but made it clear that the process should not be confined to Srinagar- Muzzafarabad route. ‘‘We have always maintained that we need to go across so as to broaden the dialogue process. It is not a condition but a requirement because we need to include people holding guns as well. Let us hope we board the first bus,’’ he said. Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front chief Yasin Malik too called it a healthy step but said that the need was to make it a first step towards resolution of the Kashmir issue. ‘‘The only sad thing is that Kashmiris have been kept away from all these decisions. We want Kashmiris also included in talks between India and Pakistan,’’ Malik said. While most Kashmiris celebrated, hardliners like Syed Ali Shah Geelani didn’t seem too pleased by today’s announcement. ‘‘There should be no celebration on the opening of the Srinagar-Muzzafarabad road till Kashmir is resolved in its right historical perspective,’’ Geelani said.