Kashmir to miss fragrance, tenderness of Pakistani miswak this Ramadan

Kashmir to miss fragrance, tenderness of Pakistani miswak this Ramadan

Srinagar: Miswak, the teeth-cleaning twig, is always in huge demand in Kashmir during Ramadan. But, this year, the popular ones from Pakistan are missing from the market as the trade across Line of Control (LoC) lies suspended.
According to traders, Pakistani miswak varieties brought through cross-LoC trade would cater to huge demand of people during Ramadan. “People will miss the softness and fragrance of imported quality miswaks this Ramadan, especially the main two varieties Zaytoon and Peelu,” said Abdul Wasay, owner of Aligarh Attar House, a shop at Maisuma market.
He said he would sell more than 15,000 sticks of miswak during the fasting month, which meant a profit of more than Rs 30,000. However, he is now running into losses as the supply didn’t reach him following the suspension of LoC trade.
“I have bought some pieces of Indian variety from New Delhi but those are not so popular,” Wasay said.
He said the Pakistani miswak, the ones brought from Karachi via LoC trade route, cost Rs 8 per stick as compared to Indian miswak (Peelu variety) which are available at Rs 15 per stick.
“Customers ask for Pakistani miswak due to its tenderness, fragrance and quality,” Wasay said.
Miswak is a natural toothbrush-cum-paste obtained from Salvadora persica, a tree popularly known as peelu in Pakistan and arak in Arab nations.
The twigs are collected and brought to Karachi and other big cities of Pakistan, where they are soaked in rose-water, cut into small pieces, packed and sent to markets all over the world.
From Kashmir, the miswaks are supplied to different Indian states including Gujarat, Uttar Pradesh, Mumbai and New Delhi.
The twigs have many health benefits as they contain natural antiseptics that kill harmful microorganisms in the mouth. They also have tannic acids that protect gums from disease and aromatic oils that increase salivation
Rayees Ahmad Koul, a trader, said that twigs from Pakistan would cater to a huge market in Muslim majority J&K and many parts of India.
“But now we are not able to meet the demand after the cross-LoC trade was suspended,” he said.
Two months ago, Ahmad sent a huge consignment of spices to a trader in Pakistan-administered Kashmir across the Line of Control. This month he was expecting the pre-booked supply of miswak in return.
“There are many trucks stranded across LoC carrying nearly 7,000 cartons of Pakistani miswak. Each carton carries 720 pieces of sticks which means more than 50 lakh sticks,” Ahmad said.
Most of the businessmen dealing in Pakistani twigs are facing huge debt as they have already sent different local items across LoC as part of the barter trade.
“If trade continues to remain suspended we will turn bankrupt,” said another trader, Sajid Banday.
The cross LoC trade through the Uri route was suspended in March after the authorities cited repair work on the Kaman Aman Setu bridge, which connects the Indian side of Kashmir with the Pakistan side. The trade continued via the second route, in Poonch, in Jammu region. However, on April 18 the Ministry of Home Affairs issued a notification suspending cross-LoC trade indefinitely in response to “reports that the Cross LoC trade routes are being misused by Pakistan based elements for funnelling illegal weapons, narcotics and fake currency etc”.
“We have appealed to the authorities to end the suspension order on cross LoC trade because hundreds of traders are dependent on the business. We are hopeful that our request will be heard,” said Hilal Turkie, Chairman of Cross LoC Traders Union.
He said that lives of thousands of families are at stake after the cross-LoC trade has been suspended.
“All the traders are in favour of foolproof security. But this should not be made excuse to suspend the trade,” he said.