Pakistan refuses to let Poonch-Rawalakote bus enter, 42 PoK residents left stranded

Amid Indo-Pak hostilities and mounting tension, Pakistan on Monday refused to open “Rah-e-Milan” gate on the Line of Control for the weekly bus service between Poonch in Jammu and Kashmir and Rawalakote in Pak- occupied-Kashmir (PoK).

Poonch deputy commissioner Rahul Yadav said, “Every Monday the weekly bus service operates between Poonch and Rawalakote in Pok via Chakan-da-Bagh but today it didn’t.”

Out of 42 PoK residents left stranded in Poonch, 27 were due for their return today and taken to the gates at the LoC around 11 am on Monday, but Pakistani authorities didn’t let them pass forcing their return to Chakan-da-Bagh. “We conveyed the message to Pakistani authorities but they didn’t respond and hence the bus service could not operate,” Yadav said.

Six Indians from Jammu and Kashmir, too, could not return home as the bus from Pakistani didn’t show up.

Mohammed Imran, a resident of Rawalakote in PoK appealed to Pakistani authorities to open the gates while speaking to the media. “We request the Pakistani authorities to open the gates so that we can return home and those from Jammu and Kashmir, who had gone to PoK, can also return to their homes,” Imran said, adding that his children’s studies were getting hampered.

“We had to return today but the gates were not opened. We had a travel permit for 28 days and we have now overstayed here for 15 days,’ Imran continued while hoping for normalisation of ties between the two countries.

The weekly service was last suspended after the Pulwama terror attack on February 14, in which 40 CRPF personnel were killed. But it was subsequently resumed.

The latest disruption in cross border travel follows Pakistan’s decision to suspend operation of Samjhauta Express between Wagah in Pakistan and Attari in India along with Thar Express that used to connect Munabao in Barmer Rajasthan with Khokhrapar in Pakistan. Islamabad followed it up by also suspending Lahore-Delhi bus service last week Monday.

The weekly bus service and trade across the LoC in Jammu and Kashmir was the brainchild of form Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Mufti Mohammed Sayeed.