April 2005 News

Pakistani, Indian bus drivers honoured to be part of history

7 April 2005
The News International

Line of Control: The Indian and Pakistani drivers of the first buses to link divided Kashmir in nearly 60 years on Thursday said they were honoured to be taking part in the historic service. 'I am prepared for the job, both mentally and physically,' Khursheed Ahmed, 53, told AFP. 'I am happy I am becoming part of history.' Ahmed was one of the drivers of the two coaches, which left from held Srinagar. Militant groups in held Kashmir have threatened to attack the buses and target the drivers selected to launch the service. But Ahmed's colleague, Abdul Majid, 42, said he was not worried. 'My family members were a bit worried but I had to do my job,' he said. 'I think we are doing a great job by uniting the divided families.' Their counterparts on the Pakistani side also said they were honoured to drive the historic service. 'I am happy that I am putting my name in history,' Raja Pervez, who is in his late 40s, told AFP shortly before his coach was due to leave the revamped bus terminal in Muzaffarabad. 'I am very excited that I am getting the honour of driving the first bus in nearly six decades,' he added. Pervez drove his coach eastwards along the twisting 61 kms road from Muzaffarabad to Chakothi, the last AJK town before the Line of Control (LoC). The scene at the border post on both sides was festive with schoolchildren in traditional costumes rehearsing song and dance routines. Passengers said they would not be intimidated following a militant attack Wednesday on a passenger complex in Srinagar, the summer capital of Indian Kashmir. 'I am not afraid, I am not in the least scared. It is a dream coming true,' said Abida Masoodi, 52, who was born in Srinagar but migrated to the Pakistani side 20 years ago with her family. 'I am very happy. I am going to see my brothers and sisters across the LoC,' said Masoodi, who boarded the bus in Muzaffarabad. Fellow passenger Shahid Bahar, added: 'It is the most thrilling journey of my life. I am happy that Allah has chosen me for this historic journey.' One passenger dropped out of the trip at the last minute, apparently due to security reasons, but was immediately replaced by another traveller, whose sister was already due to go on the bus, officials said.


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