BEIJING, March 22: Pakistan and China will start a regular bus service between Gilgit and Kashgar from June 1, officials said on Wednesday. A decision about the first-ever bus service between China’s western Xinjiang region and Pakistan’s Northern Areas was taken at a meeting held in Urumqi on March 20-21, they said.

According to the formal protocol, both sides had agreed to operate one bus each on a daily basis via Sust and Tashkorgan border areas of the two countries.

Another bus service, they said, would operate between Kashghar and Gilgit via the same route thrice a week.

Sources said that the two countries would start a regular goods transportation service via the Khunjrab Pass from May 1.

They said that the two sides had agreed that each side would issue 3,000 permits to registered goods transporters, adding that each permit would be valid for one-round trip between designated points. The number of permits could be gradually increased to keep up with the transporters’ demand, they said.

They termed the protocol an important step for streamlining the existing road network between the two countries, adding that it would promote commercial links and strengthen people-to-people contacts between the two countries.

During the talks, the two sides had emphasised upon the importance of Karakoram Highway and acknowledged that Pakistan could act as a transit facility by giving China access to Central Asian markets and help Beijing in developing energy sources.

Both sides, they said, had reiterated commitment for early rehabilitation and upgradation of the highway.

Pakistan’s delegation,led by Joint Secretary of the Ministry of Communication Firdaus Alam, included Shahid Iqbal, the ministry’s director of road communication and Abdul Salik Khan of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.—APP

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