Even as a Brigadier-level flag meeting between India and Pakistan is to take place here on Monday, a section of the residents as well as the civil administration in Poonch district of Jammu is optimistic of a breakthrough and resumption of cross-LoC trade and travel.
“Exchange of gunfire and death of soldiers and civilians on either side of the border is not uncommon in Poonch. It has happened in the past and shall occur in the future. But trade and travel will not stop,” trader Shabir Ahmed of Mandi asserted.
He referred to a number of previous flag meetings and pointed out that the crises were resolved by senior Army officers from both sides.
He agreed that Brigade-level flag meetings were not common.
Senior Superintendent of Police Shamsheer Hussain Choudhary too sounded optimistic of resumption of both the cross-LoC operations after Monday’s meeting at Chakan Da Bagh.
“Obviously, this week’s buses will not operate. However, we are hopeful that the trade activity would resume either tomorrow itself or on Tuesday,” Mr. Hussain told The Hindu on Sunday night.
“Much will depend on the orders to the two sides from their respective high commands”, he cautioned.
Custodian of the LoC Trade Sheikh Abdul Hamid said as many 58 people from Pakistan-occupied-Kashmir [PoK] were supposed to return to Rawlakote via Chakan Da Bagh on Monday.
Of them, 23 have completed stay of the permitted 28 days and 35 others, who had obtained permission of staying for extra of 14 days from Regional Passport Officer in Jammu, would be completing 42 days of stay on Sunday.
According to Mr. Hamid, 12 of the PoK-bound Indian passengers, who were scheduled to travel on Monday, had got stranded due to suspension of the cross-LoC trade and travel since Wednesday last.
The LoC near Chakan Da Bagh remains open for cross-LoC travel on Mondays as the Indian passengers travel from Poonch to Rawalakote and the passengers from PoK travel from Rawalakote to Poonch.
Cross-LoC trade is handled on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays by the Indian Trade Facilitation Centre at Chakan Da Bagh and the PoK TFC at Tetrinote. While 25 Indian trucks start their journey from Poonch, cross the LoC and offload the goods at Tetrinote TFC, trucks carrying goods come to Chakan Da Bagh from Rawlakote and Kotli.
Trade has been stopped by the Pakistani authorities as Director General of Trade and Travel Ismail Khan has told Mr. Hamid that one of the trucks coming from Kotli to Tetrinote TFC was hit by Indian shelling across Battal in the Mendhar-Kotli area of the LoC on Tuesday last.
However, the Army authorities insisted that no such complaint had come in from the other side.