Victim to border skirmishes, Cross-LoC trade from Poonch stalled for 3 months

Deepak Khajuria. Updated: 10/12/2017 1:40:40 AM Front Page

Traders across demand resumption like Uri, peg losses at Rs 45-50 crore

JAMMU: With situation at Line of Control (LoC) between India and Pakistan remaining tense, traders and labourers involved in Cross LoC trade are affected severely, the trade now stalled for almost three months from Poonch-Rawlakote route, having suffered a loss between Rs 45-50 Crore till date, even as the trade continues from the other LoC opening in Uri-Muzaffrabad, uninterrupted.
If recalled here, along with border dwellers, the Cross LoC trade and the bus service also fell victim to the skirmishes along the Line of Control since July 10 when Pak Army while breaching the truce spewed lead on the Trade Facilitation Centre (TFC) Chaka-Da-Bagh in Poonch.
As the uncertainty remains hovering over the cross LoC trade and Peace Bus Service, which in fact bothered the traders associated with it, a delegation of Poonch-Rawalakote Traders Association, Chakkan-Da-Bagh some days ago called on Divisional Commissioner Jammu, Dr Mandeep Bhandari at Dak Bunglow in Poonch and apprised him of their strong desire for the resumption of cross LoC trade.
Meanwhile, the sources said that the PoK Traders Association also is eager for early resumption of the trade and they (PoK traders) too are concerned about the violations of ceasefire by Pak army along LoC.
It is worth mentioning here that it is for the first time since the beginning of this unique kind of 'bartering trade' between Jammu based traders and Pakistan occupied Kashmir (PoK) traders confined to selected items, the same has been stalled for a period as long as three months since July 10 and that too without any official order by Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA); but to its sharp contrast the trade from North Kashmir's Uri with the PoK traders is still in usual practice.
Talking to The News Now, Krishan Singh, vice-president of the Poonch-Ravlakote Trade Association, Chakkan-Da-Bagh said, "I questioned the state government and authorities concerned with this trade, asking why they have closed down Chakkan-Da-Bagh cross LoC point at Poonch for trade, while the trade from Uri LoC Opening is still open.
Singh who also had led the delegation of traders to call on Divisional Commissioner, Deputy Commissioner Poonch and also to Commander 93 Brigade Poonch, maintained "If we talk about Indo-Pak tensions it is as similar at LoC in Poonch and North Kashmir."
"Even, when we met Divisional Commissioner Jammu, we raised the issue if there is any MHA order to snap the trade, which (we know) is not there," said Krishan Singh while adding, "We all are nationalists and always stand with nation and urge Pakistan to maintain peace at LoC, but we want to know why this trade is closed for such a long time. If the reason is CFV, then why not close the doors for LoC trade at Uri, too."
There are total 303 registered traders for the cross LoC trade at Poonch-Rawalakote on Indian side, while 250 traders are registered from PoK side.
The trader's association vice-president said that they are in constant touch with PoK Traders Association, Sardar Qazim and added that he (Qazim) too is keen to early resumption of the trade and also in favour of peace at LoC.
Not only traders, but around 5000-7000 families of labourers are also directly affected with the closure of this trade as they earn their livelihood from this trade only. They are left to face financial crunch but for their no fault. According to Cross LoC traders, the trade has suffered a huge loss of Rs 45-50 Crore in these three months of suspension.
Sources said besides cross LoC firing, the NIA raids on traders is also one of the main reasons as NIA seized record of a trader doubting his involvement in the terror funding.
Meanwhile, Custodian of the Poonch-Rawlakote Trade, Tanveer Ahmed said that a meeting of Poonch and PoK authorities was fixed for October 4, but the ceasefire violation from Pak Army forced the authorities to postpone the meeting. He however added that the traders are keen for resumption of trade and now authorities on the both side will meet on this.
Meanwhile, DC Poonch, Tariq Hussain Zargar also said that the efforts are on to restart the cross LoC trade.
A delegation of traders of Poonch Rawlakote also had met DC Poonch Tariq Zargar and Commander 93 Brigade Poonch A.S.Pindarkar recently in this regard.
According to traders, it was for the first time since inception of trade, it was closed despite such skirmishes have happened earlier and due to this local traders, particularly large section of unemployed youth engaged in trade, are suffering. The trade operates four days a week.
It was said that total 21 items including fruits, dry fruits, and vegetables are exported and imported from both sides of the LOC.
Meanwhile, the trade was earlier suspended for the longest time in year 2013, when Pakistan beheaded two Indian army soldiers on January 8, 2013 at LoC in Poonch during Congress-led UPA Government's rule at the centre. Even in recent months, on March 13, 2017, when Pakistan's army violated ceasefire and attacked Trade Facilitate Center Building, the LoC trade suspended for 48 hours and later resumed on March 15, 2017.

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