Jammu and Kashmir police have recovered a cache of arms and ammunitions, which were being smuggled from Pakistan-occupied-Kashmir and meant for militants, from a truck involved in transporting goods in the cross-LoC trade on the Srinagar-Muzaffarabad route.
The truck, whose registration number is JK03B 1586, was coming back from the other side after the trade when it was apprehended near Uri in north Kashmir’s Baramulla district. The driver, Kulgam resident Irshad Ahmad Mantoo, has been arrested and is being interrogated.
Tuesday’s recovery of the weapons is believed to be the first such seizure on the Kashmir cross-LoC trade route.
According to a police spokesperson, a Chinese pistol, two pistol magazines, 14 rounds of pistol ammunition, four AK magazines, 120 AK ammunitions and two Chinese grenades were recovered from a “camouflage cavity” of the truck.
Police added that the truck was specifically “designed for hiding arms and ammunition”. They further said the driver of the truck had received the arms consignment from an operative in Chakoti in Pakistan-occupied-Kashmir and was supposed to deliver them to militants in south Kashmir.
The driver’s family, however, claimed he was innocent.
“He is a common man not associated with any party. We request the police to investigate the matter properly,” brother of the driver, Javid Ahmed, said.
An FIR has been filed in the case with charges under the Arms Act and the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act in Uri police station and investigation into the matter is on.
Started in 2008, this barter trade, with no currency changing hands, was meant as a key Confidence Building Measure (CBM) between India and Pakistan. A trader “exports” an item worth a certain amount across the Line of Control and his counterpart there sends back goods worth an equal amount.
The goods that are exchanged have to be among those in the list of 21 items mutually accepted by both sides and the trade is carried out by relatives.
According to the ministry of industries and commerce, goods worth over Rs 2,800 crore — Rs 1,496.96 crore worth exports and Rs 1,307.62 crore worth imports — were traded through the LoC between April 2013 and March 2016.
Every week, 140 trucks are sent across the LoC from the Trade Facilitation Centre (TFC) at Salamabad near Uri town and the 347 traders registered at this TFC get their turn based on an alphabetic roster.
Former chief minister Omar Abdullah tweeted on the news of this arms smuggling and criticised the Union home ministry for the lack of security scanners at the trade centres. “Which makes the failure of MHA even more glaring. Full truck scanners flagged for acquisition with them since Chidambaram was HM,” Abdullah wrote Twitter.
“Every single meeting with them this issue was flagged and followed up. Thus far there has been little or no progress with those scanners,” he added.
Hilal Turkie, president of the Salamabad cross-LoC traders’ union, said traders have been demanding for full-truck scanners for a long time now and that such incidents show why they are important.
Turkie added that the traders’ union also demand from the government that State Road Transport Corporation trucks should be provided for the cross-LoC trade.
In 2014 and 2015, the cross-LoC trade was suspended for several weeks following the recovery of narcotics from some trucks arriving from Muzzafarabad.