Baramulla: Families of 27 Kashmiri truckers detained in Pakistan-administered Kashmir (PaK) for past three weeks on Wednesday staged protests here, a day after PaK officials refused to release them unless their driver arrested here on charges of smuggling narcotics is freed.
The protesters, including the children of the detained drivers, assembled near the Uri bus stand and staged demonstrations. Chanting slogans, the protesters were demanding immediate release of the detained men. The protesters also blocked Srinagar-Muzaffarabad highway for several hours leaving scores of vehicles stranded on the highway.
“Nearly three weeks have passed but the government has failed to get our people back. The administration is misleading us with false promises that the issue will be sorted out soon, “ Shazia, whose brother Altaf Ahmad is among the detained drivers, told Kashmir Reader.
On January 17, authorities in PaK detained the 27 drivers and their trucks carrying goods from this side to demand release of their truck driver Mohammad Shafiq who was detained by Kashmir police for allegedly carrying narcotics worth Rs 100 crore. Following the incident, 48 more PaK drivers were stranded in Uri.
While Pakistan has been demanding release of the driver, the Indian government has made it clear that the law of the land will take its course in respect of the PaK driver and the vehicle detained in connection with the recovery of brown sugar. The Indo-Pak officials have held four rounds of talks to end the deadlock. The last meeting on Tuesday also failed to break the deadlock as PaK officials reiterated that trade won’t be resumed unless the PaK driver is released and allowed to return home.
President of the Truck Owners Association, Baramulla, Abdul Majeed Akhoon said the families of the detained Kashmiri drivers were hopeful that Indo-PaK officials would reach an agreement on Tuesday during fourth rounds of talks.
“However, the failure of talks has left the families disappointed. They see no end to the stalemate, “ Akhoon said, threatening that they will halt traffic on the highway in case the government fails to secure release of the detained drivers at the earliest.
As the protests were going on, Deputy Commissioner (DC) Baramulla, Ghulam Ahmad Khawaja along with Tehsildar Bashir Ahmad Mir and Station House Officer (SHO), Baramulla, Mir Masrat, reached the spot and assured the protesters that government was doing its best to solve the crisis. Following assurances from Khawaja, the protesters dispersed peacefully.
“The PaK authorities are demanding release of their driver arrested with drug haul last month. We can’t release him. We’re in touch with PaK officials. We hope this issue will be solved in a few days and the drivers will return home, “ Khawaja told reporters.