LoC Trampled At Last; AJK Delegation Arrives

9 October 2008

Kaman Post (LoC): It was an historic moment. And, it came after a long wait of 60 years. A 19-member trade delegation from AJK on Thursday crossed the line of control to discuss modalities for cross border trade with their counterparts in Kashmir. Even on a business trip, they could hardly be oblivious of the valley’s recent events. The delegation from AJK Chamber of Commerce and Industry and their hosts observed 2-minute silence to pay tributes to Kashmiris killed during the past three months of pro-freedom agitation. The visiting delegation led by the AJKCCI president, Zulfiqar Abbasi, was received amid traditional drum beating at Kaman Post bridge by senior government officials including commissioner-secretary industries, Pawan Kotwal, the deputy inspector-general of police, Abdul Gani Mir, the deputy commissioner, Baseer Khan, the senior superintendent of police, Anand Jain, besides the local army commanders. Talking to the media persons at Kaman Post, Abbasi termed the visit as “historic.” The delegation, Abbasi said, had come with a message of peace, prosperity and economic development for the people of Kashmir. “We have come to cement the blood relations and economic ties that have broken 60 years ago. The cross LoC trade will be an important breakthrough in the relations between the two parts of Kashmir,” said Abbasi, adding the trade would benefit both parts of Kashmir and hoping it wouldn’t be symbolic but substantive. He said the visit to J-K had a definite purpose. “We would discuss the modalities with our counterparts in Kashmir to make this trade meaningful and successful,” Abbasi said, adding though that he was not satisfied with the list of items finalized by Pakistan and India. “Once the trade starts we would seek inclusion of more items from both the sides to make it a real trade. We are hopeful that the trade would grow steadily as the list would be subject to a 3-month review,” said Abbasi. Later, addressing the traders and business persons of various organizations including Kashmir Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Federation Chamber of Industry Commerce, Kashmir Traders and Manufacturers Association and members of Fruit Growers Association at newly constructed Tourist Reception Center at Salamabad, Abbasi said the trade would revive the old relations. The trade and business organizations had organized a grand reception for the visiting delegation at the TRC. He said it was due to the 60 years of continuous efforts of people from this side of Kashmir that people across LoC were once again coming together. “The ongoing peace process will get a boost due to the trade. I salute the people of Kashmir for their efforts to make the trade a reality,” Abbasi said, adding “We are overwhelmed by the love and affection showered on us by our Kashmiri brethren.” He hoped the frequency and the volume of cross LoC trade would increase with the passage of time. The trade representatives from the valley said the credit for the cross LoC to the Kashmiri people, including the slain Hurriyat leader, Sheikh Abdul Aziz, who sacrificed their lives over the past three month for the cause. Welcoming the AJK delegation, the KCCI president, Dr Mubeen Shah, said Kashmir’s traders were looking forward to the opening of the historic route for trade for decades past. “It cost us precious lives to awaken the consciousness of the two countries to address our aspirations,” he said. The president of FCIK, Shakeel Qalandar, said Kashmiris had got “suffocated” due to the closure of the road for past 60 years. “It is not only on the economic front that Kashmir would be benefit but our emotions and sentiments are attached with the people from other side of Kashmir. Our youth sacrificed their lives forcing India and Pakistan to announce the start of the trade,” he said, adding the trade would bring the divided parts together to pre-1947 position even while serving as a major confidence building measure paving the way for the resolution of Kashmir issue. “The commencement of trade would be the first step towards peace and prosperity of the state,” Qalandar said. President FGA, Choudhary Muhammad Rafi, said the cross LoC trade would give a major boost to Kashmir fruit industry. “The industry would definitely benefit but it is too early to predict. We hope that fruit mandies would be set up for selling and exporting our fruit in AJK to help our industry grow,” Rafi said. The president FGA, Budgam, Haji Bashir Ahmad Baba, said they would approach the government seeking permission for allowing a delegation of fruit growers to visit AJK and explore market there. The president KTMF, Sadiq Baqqal, said the list of 21 items finalized for the list wasn’t of enough for the Kashmiri manufacturers. “But it has opened a door and we hope the trade would be allowed to grow gradually,” Baqal said. “The trade would be symbolic till every Kashmir trader and shopkeeper can join this activity,” Baqal said.