70 Pakistanis head home as Indians await clearance to visit families

Poonch (Jammu and Kashmir): Seventy Pakistanis headed home on Monday, even as Indians await Islamabad’s clearance to visit their families across the border.

The Poonch-Rawalakot bus service was launched in 2005 to facilitate visits by Indian and Pakistani citizens who have relatives in both sides of Kashmir.

A Poonch Municipal Council official, Irshad Hussain, said Indians were not able to meet their kin, as Islamabad was not giving them clearance.

“This time as well, 70 Pakistani nationals are going back to Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (PoK) and there is no Indian going with them. It is our request to the Pakistan government to give clearance as no Indian is going there because their government is not providing us with the No Objection Certificate,” said Hussain.

Pakistan nationals bade teary-eyed farewell to their kin before leaving.

They also urged their government to issue permits to Indians wishing to visit their family members in Pakistan-administered Kashmir.

“It is our appeal to our government that they smoothen out the clearance procedure. They should also be given the permission to go there like we are allowed to come here. They should be allowed to come and go and meet their relatives,” said a Pakistani national, Zaheer Abbas.

The cross-border bus service was started as a friendly gesture between the two countries.

However, the bus service has often been suspended due to cross- border fire and tensions between the two countries.

In January last year, the bus service was suspended indefinitely, following New Delhi’s tough stand on the killing of an Indian soldier, leaving passengers stranded on both sides.

However, it was resumed in about two weeks.

Earlier, another bus service was launched between Pakistan?s city of Lahore and India?s national capital New Delhi on March 16, 1999. Then Indian Prime Minister, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, went to Lahore in the inaugural run of the bus and was received by his counterpart Nawaz Sharif.

India and Pakistan have fought three wars since becoming independent countries in 1947, two of them over the Himalayan region of Kashmir, which both claim in full but rule in part. (ANI)