Muzaffarabad: 3 May 2012
Marking the 7th anniversary of Cross LoC Bus Service by reflecting back to the April 2005, Centre for Peace Development & Reforms (CPDR) launched its recent publication titled “Peacebuilding and Economic Potential of Cross-LoC Trade” jointly produced by the Indus Research Foundation (IRF) and supported by Conciliation Resources London in Muzaffarabad. Besides, a recently produced documentary titled “A Journey Through River Vitasta” filmed by Mrs. Pawan Bali, journalist from Jammu and Mr. Muhammad Arif Urfi from Muzaffarabad, Azad Jammu and Kashmir was also screened. This is the first documentary film to be shot on both sides of the Line of Control (LoC).
The first survey on traders perceptions regarding the current status of cross LoC trade and its linkages with the broader political question of Jammu and Kashmir was launched in a gathering of a civil society activists, politicians, university students, government officials, and business community including traders involved in the cross LoC trade.
Khawaja Farooq Ahmad, a ruling People Party leader and former minister, lauded the report and said that since the beginning the trade this is the only publication which depicts ground realties of Cross LoC trade. He stated that government would benefit from this report and take necessary action to improve the conditions on both trading points i.e. Rawalakot and Muzaffarabad, areas in Pakistani side of Kashmir. He promised that government would convene a meeting to seek traders’ opinion in light of the report so that a cohesive policy could be designed. He regretted that prevailing trader and travel process is discouraging but he said that in conflicts zones things can’t be changed if governments desired so.
The ex-President of Jammu-Kashmir Joint Chamber of Commerce and Industry Zulfiqar Abbasi gave brief background of the trade and said that the evolving warmth between Islamabad and New Delhi should be reflect in Kashmir and current cumbersome process of trade and travel must be eased. President Intra-Kashmir Trade Council Khurshid Mir apprised the participants about the difficulties which traders are nowadays facing. He said that until two markets in Rawalakot and Muzaffarabad established cross LoC trade can’t flourish. During the meeting Mr. Zulfiqar Abbasi spoke over phone to Dr. Mubeen Shah, incumbent President of Jammu-Kashmir Joint Chamber of Commerce and Industry based in Srinagar and apprised him about the ongoing deliberation in Muzaffarabad and sought his advice. Prominent businessman and Vice President Muslim League AJK Chaudhary Manzoor emphasized that government of India and Pakistan should immediately hold a special meeting over issues of trade and travel so that gains made during last few years can be consolidated. Kashan Masood, President LoC Council in Rawalakot appreciated the Conciliation Resources and its regional partners’ role to peruse the governments on both sides of the LoC to understand the issues related to trade and travel since 2009. He urged Conciliation Resources and its regional partners-CPDR and IRF-to stay engaged as long as trader is not smoothen.
Ershad Mahmud, Executive Director of Centre for Peace, Development and Reforms (CDPR), Azad Kashmir, was of the view that Cross LoC trade and travel has potential to create a ground for a politically conducive environment for India and Pakistan to initiate serious dialogue on the political dimension of the Kashmir issue. He said that public participation in the peace process particularly in the ongoing India Pakistan talks can generate peace lobby across the LoC. He suggested that both government facilitate the cross LoC dialogue between the civil society and political stakeholders.
Dr. Sardar Faiz Khan, Director Kashmir Studies University of Azad Jammu and Kashmir termed film a path breaking work which successfully highlighted the pain and suffering of the divided families due to division of Jammu and Kashmir. Noted journalist Imtiaz Awan was of the opinion that this only film which does not use violence as a tool while narrating the story of Kashmir. Arif Urfi who is co-producer of the film said that both film was made by two journalists out of their commitment. Otherwise no sane journalist leaving in the conflict zone is willing to confront traditional narrative over Kashmir either side of the divided line.