Indian elite debate cross-Kashmir bus service
By Iftikhar Gilani
NEW DELHI: The proposed Muzaffarabad- Sringar bus service has caused a serious debate among the intellectual elite in India. Proposing a way out to the stated positions of Pakistan and India about the travel documents for the passengers, noted columnist and constitutional expert AG Noorani has suggested that the passengers travelling on the proposed Srinagar-Muzaffarbad bus would not need to carry passports as travel permits.
Talking to Daily Times from his residence in Mumbai, Mr. Noorani claimed that India’s insistence on the passport system was in violation of its own Constitution and the Constitution of Jammu and Kashmir, which does not recognise the PoK an alien territory.
Senior Hurriyat Conference leader Mirwaiz Umer Farooq who met Pakistan Foreign Secretary Riyaz Khokhar on Sunday night also pitched for the opening of the Srinagar-Muzafffarabad road. He conveyed to Khokhar that the people on both sides of the Line of Control should be allowed on travel on the basis of state subject certificates.
The progress on the resumption of this bus service so been stuck at the debate on the nature of travel papers. While Pakistan had asked for a UN identification documents akin to the practice along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border during the past several years, India has been loath to give any role to the UN in Jammu and Kashmir.
Mr Noorani suggested that the way out of the imbroglio was to keep the bus service exclusively for the people of the undivided state of Jammu and Kashmir that existed on August 15, 1947.
He says that both the constitutions of India and Pakistan have upheld the permanent resident status of the subjects of Jammu and Kashmir, the state subject certificate could be an ideal document of identification for travelling across the LoC. Almost every citizen in Jammu and Kashmri is expected to possess the state subject certificate issued by the local magistrate. The system is in vogue in AJK also.
Mr Noorani referred to Part II and Section 4 of the Jammu and Kashmir Constitution, which says “the territory of the State shall comprise all the territories which on the fifteenth day of August, 1947, were under the sovereignty or suzerainty of the Ruler of the State.”
He believes that since the Indian as well as the Constitution of Jammu and Kashmir were clear about the position — by allowing only Kashmiris to travel by the proposed bus service — would not violate Article 14 of the Constitution of India guaranteeing the Right of Equality.y.
The Pakistani Foreign Secretary was supportive of the idea and assured that the matter would come up for discussions during technical level talks scheduled later. Khokhar told Mirwaiz that Pakistan would study the pre-1953 position, when ‘parwan-a-rahdari’ was issued by the district magistrate as a document to travel outside the state.
Meanwhile, Pakistan has also agreed to hold technical level meetings to sort out the Sringar-Muzaffarabad bus service issue. The dates for the meeting are to be decided through diplomatic channels.