Demand for free movement and trade gains momentum

Greater Kashmir

Protests in PaK

Muzaffarabad, Nov 30: Activists from different Kashmiri organisations were prevented on Friday from entering a border town of Pakistan administered Kashmir where they planned to stage a demonstration to voice support for free movement and trade between the divided Kashmiri capitals.
 The demonstrators belonging to All Parties National Alliance, a conglomerate of about a dozen pro-independence Kashmiri groups, shouted vociferous slogans in favour of independent Kashmir as police stopped them near a military post outside Chakothi, witnesses told Greater Kashmir by telephone.
 A spokesman for APNA had announced earlier this week that they would hold a “peaceful symbolic demonstration” in Chakothi to “reflect the peoples’ desire for early launch of trade between Muzaffarabad and Srinagar.”
 Chakothi is located close to the Line of Control at a distance of 60 kilometres from here. Its bazaar is overlooked by the Indian gun positions atop lofty mountains across the dividing line which would shell it on daily basis prior to the ceasefire.
 Witnesses said as the APNA activists, who included Arif Shahid, Rauf Kashmiri, Shaukat Maqbool Butt, Zahoor Ahmed Butt, Mahmood Baig, Prof M.A.R.K Khalique, Farooq A Niazi and Waqar Kazmi, reached near the military post outside Chakothi bazaar they were stopped by around four dozen policemen, reportedly under the orders of army, from moving ahead.
 Some 200 metres beyond the military post, a temporary barrier was also erected by the army where they were stopping every vehicle and allowing only local residents to go ahead after checking their national identity cards, a witness said.
 Angered by the stoppage, the APNA activists shouted slogans against the authorities and delivered fiery speeches wherein they asked India and Pakistan to quit Kashmir and let the Kashmiris live as an independent nation, the witness added.
 They called upon both the governments to implement their decision regarding Srinagar-Muzaffarabad truck service without further loss of time if they were serious and sincere in facilitating the Kashmiris.
 Earlier while leaving Muzaffarabad for Chakothi, the APNA activists marched around half kilometre distance through the Jhelum Valley road before boarding their vehicles.
 They were displaying three big banners one of which read: “For Attention of the Governments of India and Pakistan: Implement your decisions regarding opening all routes (linking divided parts of Kashmir) for tourism and starting trade and truck service between Srinagar and Muzaffarabad.”
 India and Pakistan had agreed in May 2006 to start a truck service for trade on Srinagar-Muzaffarabad road in a move which was enthusiastically welcomed by traders on both sides of the divide, terming it the biggest confidence building measure.
 However, despite several rounds of talks between the two sides and exchange of lists of items to be traded, the plan has not been realized as yet.
 Late last month, India’s State Commerce Minister Jairam Ramesh had claimed that both countries had listed 14 items for trans-LoC trade, but a Pakistani diplomat was quoted by a section of media as contradicting the assertion saying that Pakistan had not received any list of items or other modalities from India.