New chapter in Indo-Pak trade begins amid protest of 'coolies'

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Wagah, Oct 1 (UNI) A new chapter was today added in the history of Indo-Pakistan trade, when two trucks loaded with tomatoes crossed the Radcliff Line into Pakistan through this joint border road check post amidst protests by 'coolies' (porters) who claimed that their livelihood would be affected following the opening of the route for trade.

The first truck was flagged off by Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal amidst much fanfare. Later talking to mediapersons the Chief Minister said that the opening of the land route for trade would not only be beneficial for the country but also for Punjab.

''A long standing demand of the state had been fulfilled. The route would give a boost to the economy of the state and the agricultural sector would be the major beneficiary'', he declared.

The Indian trucks 'armed' with a customs permit went upto the Customs Terminal on the Pakistan side of the check post. After off-loading the tomatoes the trucks again returned to India.

However, no truck from across the border crossed over into India.

Three trucks of dry fruit were expected to cross the border but reports with the Indian Customs said that the Pakistani trucks did not report on the other side of the check post.

After the second truck had crossed the zero line and Mr Badal had left for Amritsar, the 'coolies' numbering about 300 raised slogans against the government and demanded that the trucks should not be permitted to ply cross the border. Elaborate security arrangements had been made at the check post and intially the 'coolies' were not permitted to enter into the Customs zone.

The 'coolies' later turned violent and they forced their entry into the Customs zone of the check post and damaged four empty trucks which were parked there. The police resorted to a lathi charge in which about ten 'coolies' sustained injuries.

According to reports a number of 'coolies' were also rounded up by the police and taken to Khangarh police post.

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