World Bulletin / News Desk
After more than three weeks of a stalemate between India and Pakistan, trade along the Line of Control (LoC) in Kashmir resumed on Wednesday.
“The 48 Pakistani drivers who were stranded here were sent back at around 6.30 in the evening today and our 27 drivers who were held up on the Pakistani side also returned safely,” Showkat Ahmad Rather, custodian of LoC trade in Indian held Kashmir told AA.
Rather told AA that they received a communiqué from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Monday saying the LoC trade stalemate had been resolved.
Trade was halted on January 17 when the Jammu and Kashmir Police of Indian held Kashmir (IHK) claimed to have recovered 114 kilograms of narcotics from a truck coming from the Pakistani side. The recovery was made at the Salamabad check point in the Baramulla district, 120 kilometers northwest of Srinagar. The Pakistani driver was taken into custody and the contraband impounded.
Pakistan called the arrest a conspiracy aimed at sabotaging trade. Another 27 Kashmiri truck drivers from Indian held Kashmir had crossed over to the Pakistani side to unload their goods. India responded by holding up 48 Pakistani trucks along with the drivers.
“The drivers from both the sides were extremely happy to be able to return their homes and families,” Rather told AA.
Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah also expressed happiness at the decision to resume trade and to allow the drivers to return to their homes.
"Glad good sense has prevailed & the drivers from both sides have crossed the Kaman checkpoint to return home after weeks of standoff," Abdullah wrote on micro-blogging website, Twitter.
Cross-LoC trade between the divided parts of Kashmir began as one of the biggest Confidence Building Measures (CBM) by New Delhi and Islamabad in 2008. The trade, however, remains limited to the bartering of goods from both sides.
Abdullah also clarified on his twitter account that the driver of the truck allegedly carrying the narcotics was still in police custody.
The police in IHK have filed a case under Narcotics Drugs and Psychotropic Substance (NDPS) Act against the accused driver, who is lodged in Srinagar's Central Jail.
The drivers on the Pakistani side, however, have demanded his release. The drivers claim that the accused driver, Mohammad Shafiq Awan, is innocent and had no idea about the goods in his truck.
“We are drivers. Our job is to drive trucks, not to check the goods in our trucks. We only know the number of cartons that we carry, but we don’t know what they contain,” Tahir Hussain Shah, a driver from Pakistani held Kashmir told AA.
Kashmir, a mountainous Muslim-majority region, is held by India and Pakistan in parts, but claimed by both. The two countries have fought two wars over Kashmir since being partitioned in 1947.Last Mod: 13 Şubat 2014, 11:28