People from both sides of the border want to meet each other and above all of it, they want peace, says Awais as he watches his one-year-old daughter play in his arms.
Awais, who is in his late twenties, is a resident of Karachi. Awais’s wife, who also happens to be his first cousin, is an Indian citizen. The two married a year ago.
“Half of my family lives in India. This is the first time I visited the country with my daughter. The people across the border were very hospitable to us, and we didn’t face any visa issue.”
Mohammad Irfan, an employee at the Pakistan Tourism Development Cooperation (PTDC), says Islamabad and New Delhi “do not issue visa just for the purpose of visit”.
“There is no visit visa. Any person seeking visa would be eligible if he/she has relative(s) or an acquaintance. Visas are also issued for medical or religious purpose, such as pilgrimage.”
Asad says people living across both sides of the border have immense respect for holy places. Shrines, especially those in Ajmer, are of immense importance, he adds.
The recent escalation of tension between the two South Asian neighbours, especially in wake of Uri attack, however, has affected the number of passengers.
Ghayoor Haider, an account’s officer at PTDC, says the organisation has witnessed a slump, the first such in PTDC’s 17-year history, in the number of passengers travelling to or from Pakistan.
“People are afraid. They fear applying for visa. This is the first time the figure has reached an all-time low.
“Our buses can accommodate up to 42 passengers. There was a time when 30-35 passengers used to travel but now, the figure has reduced to a dozen,” says Haider.
The Lahore-Delhi bus service, says Haider, was launched under the umbrella of PTDC and Delhi Transport Corporation in 1999. It is cheaper than air travel and is one of fastest means of transportation, he adds.