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Pakistan refuses to reopen Jammu-Sialkot road

Written by: Staff

Suchetgarh, Sep 10: Pakistan's refusal to reopen the Jammu-Sialkot road has dismayed thousands of divided families in Jammu and Kashmir but many are still hopeful that the historic 42 Km link would be restored at a future date.

Khurshid Wani in Sialkot, Pakistan, planning to come to Jammu and Kashmir to meet his relatives, said on telephone to UNI, ''It was a really disappointing decision for thousand of families like us but we are trying to convince our lawmakers about the emotional importance of the route.''

In Jammu, Raja Munawar Khan, whose sister lives in Jhelum city near Sialkot said, ''the opening of Srinagar-Muzaffarabad and Poonch-Rawalakot routes were political and emotional decisions but opening of Jammu-Sialkot road would, besides uniting divided families, promote commercial activity and enhance trade between two countries. Therefore we are still hopeful about opening of this route.'' For years, Noor Mohammad (81), resident of this town on the India-Pakistan border, had been nurturing a dream to meet his daughter living in Sialkot.

''I was hoping an old man like me would be able to meet my only daughter comfortably who lives only 11 Km away from this area after 58 years but politics washed away my dream. But we are hopeful that General Sahab (Parvez Musharraf) would change his mind,'' he said.

At present, if he wants to meet his daughter,he has to travel first to Wagah and then to Lahore and Sialkot.

The sentiment prevailing among the younger generation is none too different. Shaikh Shakeel, a lawyer in Jammu and Kashmir High Court has a sister Andleep Kousar who also lives in Sialkot.

''For people like us it is not merely a road but it is a bridge between blood relations, he said.

Gauging the overwhelming sentiment for reopening the road, India made a proposal to Pakistan. However, Pakistan has rejected it on the premise that the road is on te India-Pakistan International border which Pakistan terms as working boundary. At this moment, according to officials, Pakistan is only in favour of opening the routes along the Line of Control.

Even culturally and linguistically, Sialkot is closer to the plains of the state. It also used to be an important trade centre for the economy of the state. Balraj Puri(78), Padma Bhushan award winner and Kashmir expert, told UNI, ''opening of Suchetgarh-Sialkot road is important for divided families living in Jammu plains as most of their relatives live in Sialkot area. In addition to this fact Sialkot and Jammu have longstanding cultural and historical ties. Before 1947, Sialkot was the most important destination of the train which connected the state with other parts of the country.''

Even now United Nations personnel take this route to travel on both sides of the International Border. "If UN officials can travel on this route, why do not they allow civilians to cross over", asks Ashraf Mohammad whose brother lives in Karthal village of Sialkot hardly 23 Km from the Indian side.


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