India-Pak trade suspended, political worker among 4 held for drug haul


Trade across the Line of Control (LoC) in the Kashmir Valley remained suspended for the second consecutive day on Sunday after the arrest of a driver from Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK) and three local residents following the seizure of 12kg of heroin from a truck.

One of the three local residents arrested had been working closely with a prominent political party of north Kashmir.

Fifty truck drivers from Jammu and Kashmir were stranded in PoK while 22 drivers from PoK were stuck on the Indian side following the suspension of trade. Police arrested Syed Inayat Hussain, the driver from PoK, on Friday with the contraband.

Trade between Srinagar and Muzaffarabad was suspended when authorities in PoK decided not to allow 50 Kashmiri drivers to cross the LoC near Salamabad in Baramulla district, more than 90 km from Srinagar.

“We had a round of talks with PoK authorities on Friday night. We showed them pictures as proof. The official of PoK sought time to take permission from higher-ups to allow the resumption of trade,” Baramulla deputy commissioner Talat Pervez told the Hindustan Times.

“Since Saturday and Sunday were holidays, we are hopeful of resuming dialogue on Monday. As procedure demands, PoK authorities have to first allow the passage of 50 trucks into the Valley and it will be followed by the return of PoK trucks from this side,” he said.

Three residents of Baramulla district, identified as Zahoor Ahmad Malla, Abdul Majid and Muhammad Yusuf Dar, were held following the seizure of drugs.

Malla campaigned for a mainstream political party in north Kashmir during last year’s parliamentary polls and is close to a candidate who contested the assembly election in November-December. Police, sources said, are investigating all angles in the case.

A senior police official said the driver from PoK was booked under the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (NDPS) Act.

Trade between the two parts of Kashmir started in 2008. In January 2014, trade was suspended after a similar case of a driver from PoK, Muhammad Shafiq Awan, being arrested with drugs. It took several rounds of high-level talks between India and Pakistan before trade resumed after 40 days on February 26 last year.

Traders want the issue to be settled soon.

“The import of drugs should be investigated by the National Investigation Agency or the CBI to eradicate the evil once and for all. Those who are bringing a bad name to the entire trading community should be weeded out,” said Hilal Ahmad Turki, president of the LoC traders association.

“Goods, especially fresh fruits worth Rs 20 crore, are loaded in trucks at the Trade Facilitation Centre. If these are not delivered as per schedule, the losses will be enough to put genuine traders away from LoC trade,” he said.