February 2006 News

Ceasefire opens up old routes in PoK

8 February 2006
The Hindu
Luv Puri

Athmaquam (Neelum): The ceasefire has led to the opening of old routes in the border region of Pakistan-occupied Kashmir. Earlier it used to take more than 11 hours to reach Athmaquam, the district headquarters of Neelum district from Muzaffarabad, the capital city of PoK. Due to shelling and proximity of the direct Muzaffarabad-Athmaquam route to the Line of Control this tract remained closed to civilian traffic for the last five decades. Now the same distance can be covered in nearly five hours. Shamsher Mohammad, a cab driver on the route, says: 'Previously we were only allowed to move during the dark and only during emergency we could ply. The ceasefire has changed our lives.' The longer routes entailed more expenses for Neelum residents. One had to shell out Rs. 125 to reach Athmaquam from Muzaffarabad by bus. Now the journey costs just Rs.70. Quake relief Following the recent devastating earthquake, authorities and relief organisations were able to reach the far-flung areas of Neelum district quickly due to the opening of the shorter route. Quick access It provided the fastest access to the Chananian belt situated along the Teetwal area of Kupwara district of Jammu and Kashmir. Massod-ur-Rehman, the PoK government official in charge of relief operations says: 'The ceasefire helped save lives in the earthquake-devastated areas in Neelum Valley. We were able to send supplies quickly.'


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