March 2005 News

Kashmiris Seek Daily Bus Service

21 March 2005
The Dawn

Srinagar: The political opposition in held Kashmir called on Monday for the trans-Kashmir bus service set to start next month to run every day instead of every fortnight. 'There is a need to have a daily bus service,' Omar Abdullah, leader of opposition National Conference, told a news conference here. 'It is no fun running a service fortnightly when we have thousands of divided families eager to visit each other,' said Abdullah, who is also a member of India's national parliament. The bus service, scheduled to start on April 7, is the first tangible fruit of 14 months of dialogue between India and Pakistan. Kashmiris have been using longer routes to cross between the two zones, travelling through New Delhi or Islamabad for air connections or by land through the Wagah border crossing. Thousands of Kashmiris mobbed government offices on Monday in Srinagar, the Kashmiri winter capital Jammu and the northern districts of Baramulla and Kupwara as officials started handing out permit forms for the bus. 'We have issued 500 forms today throughout the state,' federal passport officer in Srinagar John Shilshi told AFP. 'Only the two governments can tell why the bus service is fortnightly.' Kashmir chief minister Mufti Mohammed Sayeed hopes the service may eventually become a daily or weekly one. On March, 5 passport officials issued 150 forms to people aspiring to take the bus to Muzaffarabad from Srinagar. Thirty people will be short-listed from the applicants to take the first bus, while others would get a chance every fortnight but only after their visit is cleared by Indian security agencies. Kashmiri residents would not need passports to cross the divided state by bus. Permits would instead be issued.


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