MUZAFFARABAD, June 8: The application of federal Minister for Information Sheikh Rashid Ahmed for a special permit to travel to Srinagar was submitted in the office of deputy commissioner here on Wednesday, officials said. Mr Ahmed has sought permission to travel by June 30 bus as “a common citizen and common Kashmiri,” the officials said.

The minister had surprised people on Saturday when he announced he would travel by the trans-Kashmir bus in his individual capacity to offer fateha at the graves of his grandparents and meet his relatives in the held Kashmir.

“This bus was started for me, for the Kashmiris and it is my right to visit my brothers and sisters. I have not seen a whole generation of my cousins,” he had said.

His announcement came after Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front Chairman Yaseen Malik paid an unscheduled visit to his Lal Haveli residence in Rawalpindi and invitated him to visit occupied Kashmir.

The proposed visit of Mr Ahmed was also welcomed by occupied Kashmir Chief Minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed. “People go from here. People from Pakistan can (also) come here. Sheikh Rashid is most welcomed here. He is a Kashmiri. He has many relatives here,” Mr Sayeed had said in Srinagar.

Muzaffarabad Deputy Commissioner Liaqat Hussain confirmed that an application on behalf of the minister was submitted in his office before noon.

According to sources, the minister has given the address of Habba Kadal Srinagar in his application but it could not be ascertained whom he would meet and stay with across the line of control. When asked, the DC declined to disclose names of his relatives “as a matter of policy.”

Meanwhile, the Muzaffarabad DC held a meeting with his counterpart from held Kashmir on Wednesday along the LoC during which they exchanged lists of new and verified passengers.

“We have given 75 more names to Indian authorities whereas they have handed over 25 new names to us,” he told Dawn, adding India had also cleared 37 of the already submitted names by AJK authorities.

It may be mentioned here that the sixth trans-Kashmir bus will roll out from Muzaffarabad on June 16 and the visiting Kashmiri leaders are scheduled to return by the same bus.

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