Srinagar: Authorities in Pakistan-administered Kashmir (PaK) on Monday suspended the cross-Line of Control (LoC) bus service on Srinagar-Muzaffarabad road to press for the release of a Pakistani driver arrested by Indian authorities in connection with alleged smuggling of narcotics worth Rs 100 crore.
“We were informed by PaK authorities that the Karavan-e-Aman (Peace Caravan) bus service shall remain suspended today. No reasons were assigned,” Regional Passport Officer Firdous Iqbal said.
The move is apparently a pressure tactic by the PaK authorities who are seeking release of the driver and his vehicle from which 114 packets of Brown Sugar—valued at Rs 100 crore in international market—were recovered last week.
The PaK authorities have detained 27 trucks and drivers of these vehicles at Chakoti across the LoC since Friday following recovery of the drugs on this side.
While one driver has been arrested, 48 other drivers from PaK are also stranded at Salamabad Trade Facilitation Centre since the stand-off began last week.
It is unlikely that cross LoC trade on Srinagar- Muzaffarabad route will commence on Tuesday in view of the ongoing row. While the Karavan-e-Aman Bus Service runs on weekly basis, the cross LoC trade is conducted from Tuesday to Friday every week.
The passenger bus service was started in April 2005 while the trade began in October 2008.
Meanwhile, Pakistan has claimed diplomatic immunity for the truck driver who was arrested last week.
Kashmir’s Divisional Commissioner Shailender Kumar said, “Pakistani authorities neither allowed our 27 trucks to return from their Chakote trade centre, nor did they allow their 48 trucks to cross the Kaman Bridge to enter the territory controlled by them.”
Kumar said when the district magistrate of Baramulla met the trade and travel director general of cross LoC trade, Brigadier (retired) Mohammad Ismail Khan, to resolve the impasse, he was surprised to hear the Pakistan official claim that as per the trade pact, these people have diplomatic immunity.
“We asked them whether they believed the drivers who came with trade vehicles also had diplomatic immunity,” Kumar said. “We told them that we have arrested two people, one the driver of the truck and the other the local trader who was to receive the narcotics consignment,” he said.
He said Pakistan trade authorities have been told clearly that these people will have to face the process of law, as possession or trade in narcotic items is a serious criminal offence.
He said the state government had raised the matter with New Delhi, so that the issue could be resolved between New Delhi and Islamabad.—Agencies