Trade between Pakistan and India across the de facto border in Kashmir was suspended following the arrest of a truck driver accused of smuggling heroin, a Pakistani official said Sunday.
All movement along the Line of Control (LoC), which divides the disputed Himalayan region, was suspended after Indian authorities detained a Pakistani truck driver for allegedly carrying 114 kilograms of heroin, said the official.
"Travelling and trade has been suspended until the matter is taken up at a higher level," Mohammad Ismail, chief of the Trade and Travel Authority in Azad Kashmir, told reporters.
He added that 49 Pakistani trucks and their drivers were being held on India's side of the border following the incident, while Pakistan had retaliated by holding 27 trucks.
Jammu and Kashmir police claimed they had recovered narcotic drugs valued at over Rs 100 crore in the international market, being smuggled in a truck during cross LoC trade in Uri Sector, the authorities "suspended the trade."
"After the recovery of such a huge quantity of narcotic drugs, the authorities decided to suspend the LoC trade," DIG North of Occupied Kashmir, JP Singh said at a press conference at DIG office in Srinagar.
Singh claimed the event had forced the authorities to re-examine the credentials of the traders associated with this trade. "Anyone found involved in illegality will be debarred from conducting the trade and their permit cancelled," he said.
Meanwhile, a meeting of officials from the two sides also failed to break the ice.
Following the development, JP Singh confirmed the developments related to Cross LoC trade. "We are investigating that for whom the drug was," Singh said, adding "the businessmen associated with the trade will be investigated about the seizure."
"We have already detained some traders in this connection," he said, adding "the credentials of all the traders who are part of the Cross LoC trade will be investigated properly to avoid any untoward incident." He claimed following AJK government's refusal to allow the remaining trucks back into that side and withholding of trucks from this side a high level meeting of officials from both the sides had been called.
Later the officials from the two sides met but the meeting, as per sources, ended without reaching any conclusion.
The officials who particited in the meeting from Held Kashmir side include Deputy Commissioner Baramullah Ghulam Ahmed Khawaja, SSP Baramullah Zubair Ahmad Khan and SDM Uri Abdul Aziz.
From AJK side the officials were led by DG Trade Brigadier (r) Mohammad Ismael Khan.
General Secretary Salamabad-Uri trade union Hilal Turkie claimed that after the incident the authorities from AJK stopped all the activities across LoC and is demanding the return of their driver along with his truck.
"Even though the trade was off on Saturday as usual but the authorities from AJK said that there would be no trade from Tuesday.
There are 49 trucks of traders from AJK stranded in this side and our 27 trucks are stranded in AJK," Turkie said. "The AJK authorities neither let their own vehicles to cross over nor do they allow our vehicles to return," Turkie alleged.
Presidents of the cross LoC Traders Unions Mohammad Tariq Khan said the trade is suspended till the matters are clarified.
"The authorities from this side are in close touch with their AJK counterparts. Deputy Commissioner Baramulla along with other officials met the authorities from AJK at zero point LoC. Let us see what will come up," Khan said.
Khan said that the Pakistani trucks that had crossed to the Salamabad were waiting at Kaman Post till 3 am to get permission to cross the LoC. "After it was formally denied, the caravan returned back to Salamabad trade facilitation centre," he said.
However, Khan said that it is not the first of its incident that has occurred but some months ago police had also seized vehicle containing same contra banned items worth crores of rupees.
"At that time the authorities assured us that culprits would be booked and the information would be given to press but nothing has happened till date," Khan said. Khan said that the suspension of trade would affect all the traders as it is already on death bed.
Khawaja said that both the officials across LoC have informed their respective governments about the present situation of LoC trade.