The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Flight by night to take Pak bus

Jammu, April 3: Thirteen persons from Rajouri and Poonch who have been granted permission to travel on the first Srinagar-Muzaffarabad bus on April 7 have been moved to Jammu.

The passengers, seven of whom are women, 'are moving towards their take-off point, Srinagar, tomorrow', 60-year-old Taj Mohammad of Murdapur, Rajouri, said. The 13 persons were brought to Jammu for their overnight journey to Srinagar, where they are scheduled to board the bus.

'It is for our security,' Mohammad said of police personnel surrounding his room in a hotel close to the general bus stand in the heart of the winter capital of the state.

Mohammad said senior police officers had told them in the mountainous area of Rajouri that 'security is needed as troublemakers are trying to create mischief'.

However, the passenger denied being threatened. 'We heard about the threat on radio and then from the police officers. No one approached us.'

Mohammad said he is not scared. 'Had I been scared, I would not have been travelling,' he said.

The deputy inspector-general of police, Poonch range, S.P. Sahai, said security has been offered to the passengers as 'we don't want to take any chances'.

The family of the former deputy commissioner of Poonch, Khalid Hussain, has also been provided high-level security after they reportedly received a threat from the militant group, Al Nasreen.

Security concerns deepened after Al Nasreen, Al-Arifeen, Farzandan-e-Milat and the Save Kashmir Movement yesterday reiterated their threat of eliminating all those planning to travel by the first bus connecting the two parts of Kashmir.

The militant groups said the bus service on the reopened Srinagar-Muzaffarabad road amounts to negating the sacrifices of the youth of Kashmir and their struggle. 'You don't be a party to this treason,' the militants had warned the passengers.

Security has been tightened all over the state. 'It is our duty to ensure the full protection of passengers,' said the director-general of police, Gopal Sharma, who held a meeting of his officers and army commanders to chalk out a strategy to thwart attempts by militants to disrupt the bus service.

Mufti Mohammad Sayeed said anyone trying to cause problems is an 'enemy of peace'. Militants should read the writing on the wall that people want contact, not confrontation, the chief minister said at his residence.

Highly-placed sources said Pakistan is equally responsible for ensuring the safety of those travelling on the bus. 'Pakistan has as much interest as we have. If something happens, a great part of the blame will fall on Pakistan,' said a source. The safety of the passengers has to be ensured even after they come back, the sources said.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who had earlier said it was the obligation of both countries to ensure the safety of the passengers, is arriving in Srinagar on April 7 to flag off the bus service amid the Jashan-e-Kashmir celebration to herald the onset of spring in the Valley.

Five special Jammu and Kashmir State Road Transport Corporation buses, with a Kashmiri verse ' 'I broke the sword and forged sickles out of it' ' embossed on them, have reached Srinagar, official sources said.

The buses were taken from Jammu to Srinagar late last night and immediately sanitised and moved to the high court complex for 'security reasons', according to the officials.

Two of the 19-seater buses would be pressed into service on April 7. The passengers would be dropped off at Kaman bridge and would cross the Line of Control on foot. They would then board buses on the other side of the bridge.

The state government has set up facilities such as telephones along the 12-km stretch. Two recovery vans and an ambulance would accompany the buses on the maiden journey.

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