Efforts are being made to hire a lawyer for detained truck driver

With authorities in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir refusing to restore cross-LoC trade with Jammu and Kashmir without securing the release of a detained truck driver, officials in Baramulla district of the Valley have been trying to arrange a private lawyer to seek bail for the accused from a judicial magistrate next week.

Informed sources said efforts were being made to engage an advocate who would appear before the judicial magistrate on behalf of the accused, contest the police plea for extension of remand and seek bail for Mohammad Shafiq Awan on February 10.

Deputy Commissioner of Baramulla Ghulam Ahmad Khwaja said it was a matter “between the accused and the judiciary.” He nevertheless confirmed to The Hindu that a 90-minute meeting took place between him and PoK Director-General of Trade and Travel Brig. (retd.) Ismail Khan at Aman Setu, the bridge connecting the State to PoK.

Commissioner of Muzaffarabad (PoK) Bashir Mughal, a Superintendent of Police and local officials of the Army, the police and the civil administration also attended the meeting.

Mr. Khwaja was accompanied by Trade Facilitation Centre custodian Showkat Ahmed and Uri Sub-Divisional Magistrate Abdul Aziz Sheikh. Army and Intelligence officers from both sides were present at the meeting which was arranged parallel to the diplomatic liaison on the deadlock.

“They have now reconciled themselves to the driver’s trial but all of them are still insisting on his release on bail. We made it clear to them that the executive could not intervene as the matter was before a judicial magistrate. Let’s see what happens on February 10 when the driver’s remand is required to be extended,” Mr. Khwaja said. “Compared with their initial rigidity, they are now fairly cooperative with us.”

“As of now, there’s no breakthrough, excluding the restoration of the cross-LoC bus on February 3. But we are hopeful of a positive development next week,” Mr. Khwaja said after he reached back to his residence from the LoC on Tuesday evening.