Mirwaiz to take up Kashmir bus issue with Singh
30 April 2006
New Delhi: When Indian and Pakistani officials discuss new bus routes on Tuesday amid plans to set up enclosures along the Line of Control (LoC) where divided Kashmiri families can meet, they should also reflect on why the Srinagar-Muzzafarabad bus left with only one passenger last week, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq said on Sunday. “We had warmly welcomed the bus service when it started. But the sad reality is that just one passenger was on board the bus that left last week,” he told Dawn by telephone from Srinagar. He will discuss the matter with Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh who plans to receive a Hurriyat delegation here on Wednesday. According to Mr Farooq, very little has changed on the ground for the Indian government to show since the last meeting between the prime minister and the All-Parties Hurriyat Conference. That was in September last year, just before the summit talks in New York between Mr Singh and President Gen Pervez Musharraf. “The problem is that everyone who wants to travel across the LoC has to suffer a nightmarish ordeal at the hands of the bureaucracy. They want to unearth unrelated details about everyone’s private life. It’s simpler to get a visa from the Pakistan High Commission and fly to Lahore,” Mr Farooq said. In other respects too, the situation is less than rosy. “There were tall promises about improving human rights conditions in Kashmir. truth is the army is still picking up our people and killings of innocent civilians continue too, quite unabated,” he charged. Indian authorities claim that custodial deaths and prolonged incarceration without judicial process have dropped drastically. Mr Farooq said the Hurriyat will seek to “institutionalise” the talks with the Indian prime minister so that resolution of the Kashmir issue was speed up. “There has been virtually no progress since we last met in September,” he said. A Pakistani delegation, headed by Syed Ibne Abbas, director-general of the South Asia Division at the Foreign Ministry, will arrive here on Monday to attend the two-day talks starting on Tuesday. In an effort to promote trade between the two sides of Kashmir, the officials will work out modalities to start a truck service on the Muzzafarabad-Srinagar route, which they believe can turn out to be a lucrative proposition to people living on both sides of the LoC.