Civil society activists hold ‘peace rally’ in Muzaffarabad

Demand resumption of intra-Kashmir travel, trade from Tetrinote-Chakan da Bagh

TARIQ NAQASH
Muzafarabad, Publish Date: Oct 26 2017 12:41AM | Updated Date: Oct 26 2017 12:41AM
Civil society activists hold ‘peace rally’ in Muzaffarabad

Dozens of civil society activists staged a ‘peace rally’ in Hajira town here on Wednesday calling for resumption of intra-Kashmir travel and trade activities from Tetrinote-Chakan da Bagh crossing point. 

Trade and travel from Tetrinote were suspended on 7th July this year following intense cross border shelling in Poonch division.

Many passengers who had crossed the LoC from there were left stranded on both sides. They were eventually repatriated from Chakothi-Uri crossing point in Muzaffarabad division on 7th August 7.

On 14th October, Inter Services Public Relations (ISPR) had informed the media that during the cross LoC shelling Indian troops had also “targeted” the visitors’ stand in the Tetrinote terminal.

A picture released by ISPR showed the windowpane of the terminal smashed after being hit by the splinters from a shell. The rally in Hajira, from where Tetrinote is hardly 12 kilometres, began from a spot known as ‘Petrol Pump’. After taking round of the small town, the rally turned into a public meeting outside the office of the sub-divisional magistrate.

Participants, who included intra-Kashmir traders, lawyers and other activists, were carrying white flags, banners and placards inscribed with different slogans regarding their demand.

“Travel for peace; Trade for peace; resume travel and trade for peace,” read a banner. “Bring peace, save lives,” was written in a corner of the same banner, a little above the pictures of trucks laden with mercantile goods as well as the famous bus that ferries intra Kashmir travellers between Muzaffarabad and Chakothi.

“Tetrinote is our CPEC,” read a placard, in a reference to the collection of infrastructure projects worth $62 billion that are currently under construction throughout Pakistan. 

They also chanted slogans as they paraded through the town.

 “Toote rishte jor do, aman ke raste khol do (Mend broken relations, open peace routes),” they shouted. Speaking on the occasion, local intra-Kashmir traders’ union president Sardar Kazeem Khan and his colleagues and Hajira bar association president Javed Chaudhry stressed that trade and travel across the LoC must be resumed at the earliest because “they guaranteed peace.”

The speakers recalled that launching of cross LoC travel and trade in 2005 and 2008, respectively, was a good initiative of retired Gen Pervez Musharraf to help divided Kashmiris meet and interact with each other on the one hand and strengthen their economy on the other. These two confidence building measures brought much sought after peace along the restive Line of Control followed by accelerated economic activity, they said. But they regretted that after a decade, the situation in their area was back to square one due to unrelenting ceasefire violations.

The speakers claimed that almost Rs 2 billion of traders on both sides had got stuck due to the suspension of barter trade since 7th July. Apart from that, they said, the suspension had also rendered hundreds of people associated with this activity workless. They called upon Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi and army chief Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa to play their role for cessation of ceasefire violations along the LoC and immediate recommencement of trade and travel from Tetrinote.