LoC-Trade and Travel “CBM” under severe stress
Confidence building to confidence bulldozing… Dr. Sheikh Waleed Rasool
The habitants of “Jehlum” and Neelam Valleys’ inhabiting along the banks of river “Jehlam” and “Kishan Ganga” were prone to thunderous cross fire in a fog and glowing tracers during dark nights as death warrant since decades fallowed by mortars Vis-a-Vis rocket propelled grenades as heavy dozes to target innocent Kashmiris from both sides of divide, whose lone peccadillo was to live along the LoC so were facing the wrath since five decades.
It was spur-of-the-movement rather seventh heaven for deprived people in the hot soup when seize fire was in public eye amid of hullabaloo fallowed by opening of two among six barriers dividing Kashmir from Uri-Chakotti and Chak da Bag-Tetrionote. New-Delhi and Islamabad allowed crossing the traffic on 2th Oct. 2009 from Chakotti to Salamabad and vice- versa. The “CBM” was pig in poke so was partially operational because only few of the modalities were agreed upon, tax regime was not on board from both sides so ground work was zilch to make it applicable on the ground. It was pie in the sky, for the people who were racked with pain hence were raised in barn, still, received it in open arms in a pinch.
The mile stone of cross-LoC Trade and Travel in the shape of “CBM” laid by Gen.(R) Mushraff,s regime in Islamabad fallowed by Sardar Attique and Dr. Manmohan Singh fallowed by Muftii Syed and Mahboba Mufti from PDP is having an significant historic significance but later on they turned deaf hence jump bailed to consolidate it despite majority among them were still at helm of affairs, except “Mush “although PPP led collation was having same wave length”. It clearly indicates that everything was in line, only, because of players like PDP and Mushraff.
There is always diverse opinion regarding LoC interchange of goods and communication having formidable impact on conflict resolution but none can refute particularly about those people who live along LoC suffered heavy loss, during ongoing struggle of right to self-determination. They were off the hook by traffic of loaded trucks instead of heavy military hardware. Entire fabric of LoC changed overnight, habitants living close to bankers from Uri to Chak da Bag vis-à-vis from Chakotti to Tetrnote seemed to get rid from suffocation in new configuration..
Life of these far- flung areas changed in the short run therefore habitants who have been fled due to heavy shelling and nightmares while keeping body and soul together returned to home. Rates declined, goods were cheaper than capital cities of Srinagar and Muzaffarabad. Although it was gentle nudge initially but habitant seemed to show concern to reconstruct and rebuild their shops and houses. Business opportunities knocked their door step. The roads were reconstructed from both sides of divide therefore no skeleton of burnt military or civilian vehicle seems to be haunting the pedestrians. It was ecstatic that Forces of India and Pakistan seemed to come out of concrete dens to facilitate traders and travelers instead of creating havoc, as their body language was cooperative, indeed, in conflict zone it is unbelievable practice. The frontline areas once inaccessible seemed to full of life due to heavy traffic so people who survived in odd days, happened to enjoy the dream in broad day light.
Said; Rashid “habitant of Chakotti” our only desire was to have some money while selling our valuables and to flee towards the slops of “Pindi” since this place was devastated. The jumbo size holes of our home speaks volumes of ours narrowly escape, my Uncle and sister died on spot when a mortar shell hit our home, “my mother was milking buffalo”. There is no iota of doubt in it that we have new lease of life after cease fire and hustle bustle of cross-Loc trade changed our mindset
It is miraculous and mind-boggling that we can’t even dream that hundreds of people from drivers to traders and from conductors to whole sale merchants are stationed in Tetrinote like sensitive area when majority of the habitants of an area have already left their home due to heavy shelling. I was in intense pressure from my kiths and kins to leave this area who are settled in UK but I have deep affiliation with this soil, so I resisted. Sardar Amin Khan of Tetrinote said; “The style of this entire area has now changed because there is more hustle bustle during trading days than “Rawalakote” the district headquarter of Poonch”. The houses of road side has been converted in to restaurants’, motels and stores.
LoC is again eerie as stake holders have been pushed to corner hence left no option except to halt the trade so loaders moving to and fro paused the entire hustle bustle along the line of control the “wall of Berlin” restricting habitants of same soil “Kashmir” to have interaction since six decades. The honeymoon seems to over again, now they need to hold one’s breathe because peaceful hours are again in turbulence.
The statics’ furnished by reliable sources up to 21th of May 2011 speaks volumes about the potential of cross-Loc trade and travel. From Indian controlled side of Kashmir 6473 passengers visited Pakistani controlled side while as India has just cleared 1059 people to visit their controlled side.11803 loaded trucks has been passed from Muzaffarabd side of Kashmir vis-a-vis 12360 trucks crossed from Srinagar side of Kashmir. The business of 6.66 billion and 6.5 billion is estimated up to 28th Feb 2011.The volume of transaction had crossed 14 billion approximately up to 31th May. The above figure is just a business of two days in a week because only Tuesday and Wednesday is opened to cross to and fro.
The “blind” barter trade is tariff free as agreed upon by India and Pakistan controlling two parts of Kashmir despite Indian Government is charging tax at Madoepore crossing in Jammu vis-à-vis Traders from Pakistani controlled part are paying 7000 to each crossing still the tax authorities of Pakistan and India are seizing the trucks says, Khurshid Mir, coordinator, Joint Traders federation. We tried to live bygones’ be bygones to leave a word for those who create hurdles, we are in deep water we humbly request, let sleeping tigers lie. “Travel and Trade Authority “TATA” is helpless”, the tale of other side of divide is same. “Let the chips fall where they may”, he added.
“We are already paying” it is gospel truth, still we demand that viable mechanism should be evolved by “FBR” Federal Board of Revenue so proper papers should be furnished from LoC onwards, because when our trucks are seized, we have to grease their palms, it is double barrel assault when tax authorities are tagging us as smugglers, meanwhile goods get perished during custody so traders suffer heavy losses. “We can make come back if ways and means of live hood is snatched by Tax mafia who made it hot for us.” Said; Mr. Nazir Butt a trader”.
We are at the same wave length as that of traders from other side of LoC, our problems have same nature said; Pawan Anand, President, joint Traders community from Jammu. “We left no stone unturned so kept harping on, while knocking every door In Srinagar and Jammu happened to cry in wilderness so we decided to go for strike for two weeks”. Imposing tax and VAT in odd hours without any reason, when we have been already in hell and back. Yes, “strike is not solution it is last-ditch effort but we have no route available to get an attention of authorities” who are at the helm of affairs. We demand to mend the fences. Because we are in the middle of road “We demand permanent solution not adhoc or cosmetic one,” added Pawan Annand.
Barter trade crossed the 14 billion when only short list of 21 items were allowed to trade among these 21 items, despite every and any item profitable was banned by either authorities e.g Garlic, peanut, Ajwain, were initially banned by Indian Authorities’ fallowed by Dal-Mongi, Black piper by Pakistani Authorities. Traffic is continuing in spite of all hurdles despite Chak-da Bag route is closed since four months.
Buss service is nominal, ratio is 1:7, India is reluctant to clear the passengers’ so half of “CBM” has been already collapsed, Bus is not carrying more than 5 passengers’ because people don’t not get chance due to slow process ’ and it takes years to avail a luxury to cross few yards from Chak-da Bag to Tetrinote and from Chakotti to Uri so natives living on either side of “wall of Berlin” are frustrated by this loly pop when trade is about to met the same fate.
There is another horrible dimension of this tale that Kashmiris have once again missed the boat. They have lone role of clearing agent, middle man or brokers instead of “Traders” therefore tangible trade is between the business tycoons of Lahore/Faisalabad to Amritsar, even Delhi to Karachi and Quetta to Mumbai is connected via LoC. Majority of genuine Traders have been diluted because mega suppliers were keen to eliminate middle man from the scene in order to have direct liaison to grab more profit. Kashmiris are once again forced to be “Haatoo” although some opportunists are responsible to provide the shoulder for fire. Feeling the heat genuine traders are accessing the gravity of situation and are keen to establish their writ as stake holders, says, Musadiq Khan; a trader; “We will expose the agents soon” we are framing joint strategy from both sides of LoC, “so we will never allow anyone to misuse the route”.
Ajaz Ahmad a trader Said: “It is conspiracy if Business tycoons of Lahore, Amritsar and Delhi to bypass us”. We will never allow anyone to misuse it because traders of Gilget have Susst boarder linking to China, Traders of Peshawar have Darra- Khyber linking to Afghanistan and Lahore and Faisalabad have Wagah and Attari fallowed by sea port of Karachi. They are ambitious to control this point because they have huge investment and links in Amritsar, Delhi and Mumbai. The mega traders have business configuration with Tax mafia so they always get cleared despite they are trading non agreed items, but our carriers are seized.
The Kashmir centric “CBM” is having direct linkage with Indo-Pak relations although resumption of talks after Mumbai carnage was sigh of relief despite couple of rounds of secretary level talks on Sircreek and Siachen have yielded no result so one can’t expect anything concrete when comparatively complex issue is scheduled to be debated in third round.
Amid of high optimism traders can’t rescue this “CBM” alone until and unless they will not get oxygen from foreign offices of New Delhi and Islamabad because it is their sole purgative and authority to address the issues of traders and travelers to ensure and extend the peace hours along Loc and its inhabitants who profusely bleeded during knock-down-drag out fight of bordering neighbors.
One cannot paper over the cracks because remarkable confidence was yielded along the dividing strip despite the people living along the slopes of Jammu and Kashmir don’t give it more importance although it is not “pay dirt” but roaring guns fell silent under the buzz of trucks however at this crucial juncture bulldozing of confidence will more catastrophic because exchange of goods is better than exchange of explosives, as one is icon of life and former circulates death.
The lone Kashmir specific “CBM” trade and travel via Line of control “LoC” is under severe stress and a fog, it is neither strengthened nor consolidated hence, is merely show of one’s true colures to bulldoze confidence despite there is ray of hope that the differences will be narrowed during upcoming India- Pakistan talks.
614 registered traders are in a huff, whose head can roll hence are in rampage because they are in hot water and hole, who can hedge ones bets, if the states will not feel the gravity of situation. Traders who kept their figures crossed to implement this “CBM” demand, hearing because their huge stake is on doldrums, Let us hope against hope and put heart in the right place. Kashmir Centric lone “CBM” shall be rescued, which is nowadays on stretcher.
During upcoming third round of secretary level, “Kashmir working group” parlays, New
Delhi and Islamabad should avoid hem and haw in order to reach on impasse about tax and VAT issues from both sides of divide while ensuring its implementation, that only can inject the fresh blood in lone Kashmir centric “CBM” which is at verge of collapse despite there are gray areas in context of bilateral talks.
Cross-LoC trade and travel as “CBM” is a hot potato so none can’t hush up to kept it in limbo and shambles as some outside forces have foot in both camps and eyes on the ball vis-à-vis fingers on the pie who are perusing that “nuclear neighbors” shall keep up with joneses hence shall avoid knitting once brow’s.