Indian Kashmir authorities have refused to release a truck driver from Azad Kashmir who was detained for allegedly smuggling drugs in the garb of cross-Line of Control (LoC) trade, The Express Tribune has learnt.
Officials from the Azad Jammu and Kashmir Travel and Trade Authority (Tata) on Saturday met with their counterparts from Indian Kashmir on Chakothi Bridge, officials said.
Officials in Indian Kashmir said they were willing to return 48 trucks and their drivers from Azad Kashmir while the one that allegedly smuggled drugs would not be released. In response, AJK travel and trade officials refused to release 27 trucks from Indian Kashmir. The trucks have been detained on either sides of the border for the past two days.
“We have a proper scanning mechanism at the Chakoti Trade Facilitation Centre and it is not possible to smuggle drugs across the LoC,” Tata Director General Brig (retd) Muhammad Ismail told The Express Tribune. “If the Indian trade authorities have any proof of drugs smuggling they should share it with us, we will investigate and punish the culprits.”
“I think this is a conspiracy hatched by the Indian side to close the cross-LoC trade,” Brig Ismail added.
Sources said the Tata officials assured their Indian counterparts that if the detained driver was handed over to the authorities in Azad Kashmir, they would formally arrest him and investigate the matter. However, the Indian officials didn’t relent. The Intra-Kashmir Trade Union president, Khurshid Mir, told The Express Tribune that the cross-LoC trade was one of the main confidence-building measures (CBMs) signed between the two countries to promote a sluggish peace process between the two South Asian neighbours.
“Now the Indian Kashmir administration has conspired to defame the LoC route and create hatred against Pakistan – but our union would never allow this to happen,” he added.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 19th, 2014.
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