Delhi Ready To Issue Pak Bus Forms
2 March 2005
The Indian Express
New Delhi: In order to complete the entire process in time for the first Srinagar-Muzaffarabad bus to operate on April 7, New Delhi may start issuing application forms tomorrow or by Friday. The designated authorities on both sides will issue similar forms, whose format is apparently not too different from that for visa applications. However, passport details will not be sought, and in keeping with what had been agreed on February 16 between the foreign ministers of both countries, the entry permits will be issued at the respective immigration posts on either side of the Line of Control (LoC). On the Indian side, the designated authority for issue of application forms is the Regional Passport Office (RPO), Srinagar. In line with what has been agreed, an Indian applying for a permit will do so in triplicate and submit it with the RPO, Srinagar. The entry permit, sources said, will be valid for one month and those coming over will be free to travel the entire state of Jammu and Kashmir during this period. On the Pakistan side, the permit will also be valid for travel to Gilgit and Baltistan. Despite apprehensions over logistics, the time at hand for completing verification procedures and the numerous agencies involved, all efforts are being made to wrap up the process latest by March 31 so that those who have been cleared for travel can be informed sufficiently in advance. The authorities expect application forms for travel by the first bus to reach the RPO, Srinagar, by mid-March. These will then be sent across to the designated authorities on the Pakistani side, who are supposed to be the deputy commissioners of Muzaffarabad and Mirpur. If all goes as per plan, a similar set of forms of those wanting to travel to the Indian side of J&K will be handed over by Pakistani authorities around the same time. The next couple of weeks will be used by both sides to verify the information provided in the forms, following which a list of applicants cleared for travel will be compiled. The lists are slated to be exchanged towards the end of the month, allowing designated authorities to inform those who have been cleared. Given the condition of the Red Bridge over the Jhelum river, sources said, buses from either side will not cross the LoC. Instead, passengers will travel up to there, cross by foot and will be issued entry permit at the immigration post of the host country. They will then board the buses on either side for onward travel.