'Connecting Two Regions': Muzaffarabad-Gilgit Bus Service Launched

'Connecting Two Regions': Muzaffarabad-Gilgit Bus Service Launched
A bus connecting the capitals of Azad Jamu & Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan via affordable commute, was launched on Pakistan Day (March 23).

The service was inaugurated by AJK Prime Minister Sardar Tanveer Ilyas and GB chief minister Barrister Khalid Khurshed outside the new Prime Minister's House, Muzaffarabad.

At the inauguration, people from all walks of life, including the representatives of civil society, journalists, lawyers, and government employee registered themselves for the first ride from Muzaffarabad to Gilgit.

A total of 59 passengers boarded the bus from Muzaffarabad free of cost and were welcomed by chief secretary and principal secretary GB upon reaching the destination.

The bus will operate once a week and will depart from the AJK capital to reach its destination in a span of nearly 12 hours, with two stops on the way. It will cost Rs3,000 per traveler for a one-way journey.

"This is a great initiative by the governments to restore the link between the people of the two units," said Chaudhary Faizan, a passenger from Muzaffarabad while talking to The Friday Times.

Abuzar Ahmed, a student, expressed gratitude to the two officials for the service. "We had to travel from Muzaffarabad to Islamabad to reach Gilgit."

Ahmed added that the commute involved changing four vehicles and took over 24 hours. "Now we can travel directly from Muzaffarabad to Gilgit," he added.

The locals are of the view that the two regions will prosper in terms of tourism in the region. Economy of both the regions will receive a boost and it will open doors for collaboration in the local industries.

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Earlier, while addressing the participants, Ilyas said that the purpose of the service is to strengthen the ties between the two units of the state of Jammu and Kashmir. This initiative became possible with the efforts and interest of the two governments, he added.

"The service will promote social, regional, and cultural relations between the people of the two regions," according to the AJK premier.

Speaking on the occasion, Khalid Khurshed highlighted the strong ancestral ties between the people of AJK and GB, saying the initiative will be helpful in bringing the people of the units closer.

"It was a failure of the previous government to not begin this facility long ago," he said, adding, "better late than never. We are fortunate to start this service as it would help in bringing people together."

GB CM apprised the gathering that many more joint projects are in the pipeline and a 12.6-km 'Shounter Tunnel' is one of them, which would connect the Neelum Valley and Astore and reduce the distance, and strengthen contacts among the people.

"The two governments can also collaborate in tourism, mineral, and many other sectors," he noted.

The two leaders had announced the service in a joint presser at Kashmir House, Islamabad on March 2.

They had also announced to set up a GB House and a Kashmir House in Muzaffarabad and Gilgit, respectively and said that a piece of land had been allocated for the purpose.

The author who is based in London is a former UN official. He is the author of two books Rentier Capitalism: Disorganised Development and Social Injustice in Pakistan and Ruling or Serving Society: The Case for Reforming Financial Services, both published by Palgrave Macmillan, London