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Indo-Pak bus dry run hits a block

By Mukhtar Ahmad in Srinagar/Onkar Singh in New Delhi
Last updated on: April 04, 2005 19:48 IST
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A dry run of the Srinagar- Muzaffarabad buses was conducted between Baramulla and Kaman Bridge in Jammu and Kashmir under tight security on Monday.

The two buses were scheduled to reach Srinagar from Kaman later in the day, Deputy Inspector General of Police, Baramulla, Raja Aijaz Ali, told PTI.

Ali said the dry run was scheduled from Srinagar to Kaman Bridge - the last Indian border post in Uri sector - but was shortened as security checks at some points could not be completed. Another dry run would be carried out on Tuesday, he said.

The first dry run was conducted on March 18.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh will flag off the inaugural Srinagar-Muzaffarabad bus on April 7 from Sher-e-Kashmir stadium in Srinagar.

Twenty-nine people will travel in two 19-seater buses of the Srinagar Road Transport Corporation on the day.

Reacting to the shortening of the dry run, People's Democratic Party president Mehbooba Mufti said it was not a result of security concerns in the wake of the threats issued by militant outfits against the bus service.

Speaking to, she said the run could not be completed because the security forces could not be intimidated in advance about it.

She clarified that politicians from Jammu and Kashmir would not be accompanying the first bus, as Pakistan had denied visas to them. Mehbooba and National Conference leader Omar Abdullah had expressed the desire to be a part of the inaugural bus. 

She said there is tremendous international publicity to the event, with media from most parts of the world landing in Jammu and Kashmir to cover the event.

"Insa Allah! The bus will be on its way from Srinagar to Muzaffarabad on April 7," she said

Meanwhile, the prospective travellers to Muzaffarabad from the twin capitals of Srinagar and Jammu have been shifted to secured accommodations following militant threats to target them.

Fifteen of them from the valley have been shifted to the tourist reception centre in the heart of the high security zone in Srinagar city.

Four militant groups have issued warned the passengers not to board the bus.

Highly placed sources said 14 passengers from the two border districts of Rajouri and Poonch in Jammu region have also been shifted to pooled accommodation in Jammu.

Authorities in Srinagar, however, refused to admit that such a step became necessary due to the threats.

Kashmir Inspector General of Police Javaid Mukhdoomi said in Srinagar, "These passengers have to receive travel instructions. They have to undergo medical check-ups and be briefed about immigration formalities.

"It is not that they could go from their homes on April 7 and board the bus as if they were going for a picnic. Yes, security of the passengers is our concern, but the impression that the passengers were shifted solely for security reasons is misplaced."

Prospective passengers, however, are confused. They fail to understand why their decision to join relatives across the border is becoming such an anxious affair. Almost all of them refused to be quoted by name.

"Why should I risk my life? Well, if all the other passengers board the bus, I will too, but if boarding the bus becomes a matter of life and death, count me out please," said one prospective passenger, while boarding a waiting police vehicle that ferried him to a secured accommodation.

With PTI inputs


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Mukhtar Ahmad in Srinagar/Onkar Singh in New Delhi