Not the destination, says PoK leader
20 June 2006
Islamabad: As many as 56 people crossed the Line of Control from Rawalakot to Poonch by the first bus service between the two points in divided Kashmir that started on Tuesday. An eyewitness said the relaxed atmosphere was a total contrast to the fear that stalked the region before the ceasefire when India and Pakistan would exchange fire along the LoC. 'Soldiers at the crossing point exchanged sweets and flowers. The people who travelled across were so happy that they were going to meet their family members at long last,' said Sardar Qazim Khan, a reporter for an Urdu daily in Hajira, a few km from Titrinote, the point in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir from where the bus took the passengers to the crossing point on the LoC. The Pakistan government did not permit the two Islamabad-based Indian journalists to travel to Rawalakot for the launch of the bus service. 'One man told me that he had waited 50 years to travel a distance of 10 minutes across the border,' Mr. Khan told The Hindu. Prime Minister of PoK Sikandar Hayat Khan welcomed the bus that arrived from Poonch and saw off the India-bound passengers, of whom 31 were going across the LoC for the first time, while 25 were returning to their homes in Poonch. He praised the bus service saying there were more divided families across this part of the LoC than there were between Srinagar and Muzzafarabad. But he also told the journalists present that the bus was only a step forward and should not be mistaken for the goal. 'India must not think it can win over the people of Kashmir with a bus service or a truck service. These cannot solve the problem of Kashmir. This bus service is not the manzil [destination]. The manzil is azadi [freedom],' another reporter, Imran Ayub of the Jammu and Kashmir Daily in Rawalakot, quoted Mr. Hayat Khan as saying. The PoK leader, whose party — the Muslim Conference — goes with the slogan 'Kashmir Banega Pakistan' (Kashmir will become Pakistan) also raised the demand for inclusion of Kashmiri leaders in talks between India and Pakistan. On the eve of the bus service launch, Pakistan Foreign Minister Khurshid Mahmud Kasuri told the Foreign Ministers of the Organisation of Islamic Countries meeting in Azerbaijan that he 'regretted' the inability of the India-Pakistan peace process to resolve any outstanding disputes between the two countries, including Kashmir, newspapers here reported. He welcomed the appointment of Ambassador Ezzat Kamil Mufti as Special Representative of the OIC on Jammu and Kashmir. Mr. Kasuri said Pakistan's case rested on international legitimacy and the U.N. Security Council resolutions.