Civil society activists hold banners during a ‘peace rally’ in Hajira in the southern Poonch district of Azad Jammu and Kashmir on Wednesday. — Dawn
Civil society activists hold banners during a ‘peace rally’ in Hajira in the southern Poonch district of Azad Jammu and Kashmir on Wednesday. — Dawn

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

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

Many passengers who had crossed the LoC from there were left stranded on both sides and were eventually repatriated from Chakothi-Uri crossing point in Muzaffarabad division on Aug 7. On Oct 14, 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 km, began from a spot known as Petrol Pump and after taking round of the small town 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 one 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.

Speaking on the occasion, local intra-Kashmir traders’ union president Sardar Kazeem Khan and his colleagues and Hajira bar association president Javed Chaudhry advocate stressed that trade and travel across the LoC must be resumed at the earliest because “they guaranteed peace”.

They 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.

The speakers claimed that almost Rs2 billion trade had got stuck due to the suspension of barter trade since July 7. Apart from that, they said, the suspension had also rendered hundreds of people associated with this activity workless.

Published in Dawn, October 26th, 2017

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