Air travel could become passé for many British Pakistanis who will soon be able to ride a bus all the way from Birmingham to Mirpur — nearly 6,500 km away — in what promises to be Britain’s longest bus route.
It might take “slightly longer” than a flight journey but will cost a fraction of the cheapest air fare, with the adventures of a road journey thrown in as bonus, though some might find the prospect of driving through the Taliban “badlands” a little frightening.
Authorities in Britain and Pakistan are working on plans to run a bus service between Birmingham — home to a large Pakistani population — and Mirpur in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK), according to The Daily Telegraph.
Tahir Khokher , transport chief of the Mirpur region, said the route would go through seven countries with stopovers in Quetta, near the Afghan border, and Tehran.
“We are proposing to run four luxury buses once a fortnight,” he said, dismissing security concerns about the Quetta stretch of the route, believed to be a hideout for top Taliban commanders.
“I don’t feel it will be a problem. The government is responsible for security. Barring one or two instances in Quetta, the overall situation is good to go,” he claimed.
Ticket for a 12-day trip is expected to cost just £130 as against the nearly £600 air fare.
The move has set off a buzz in Pakistani circles.
“It’s a great idea that will bring the two cities closer together and be a real life experience, particularly for younger people,” said Khalid Mahmood, a Labour M.P. whose family came from Mirpur.
Mohammed Nazam, a city councillor, recalled that in the old days people often travelled to Mirpur by road.
“In the 1970s and 1980s people would drive a van from the U.K. to Kashmir and it would take about 10 or 12 days of hard driving, day and night. Even in those days it was a real adventure. But the world isn’t as safe a place as it used to be,” he said.
Birmingham is thought to host the world’s largest population of expatriates from Mirpur. The close ties between the two cities have earned Mirpur the nickname of “Little Birmingham”.