|VOICE OF AMERICA|
SLUG: 2-323813 Pakistan / Kashmir Bush (L-O)
TITLE=PAKISTAN / KASHMIR BUS (L-O)
HEADLINE: Pakistan Welcomes Historic Bus Across Kashmir
INTRO: Huge crowds of supporters Thursday greeted the first busload of passengers to travel from Indian to Pakistani controlled Kashmir. But as VOA's Benjamin Sand reports from Islamabad, the historic trip prompted mixed reaction across much of Pakistan.
TEXT: /// CROWD SOUNDS, EST. AND FADE UNDER ///
As onlookers cheered wildly the 19 Indian Kashmiris crossed the de facto border dividing Kashmir Thursday afternoon.
It is the first cross-border bus ride since Kashmir was split between India and Pakistan nearly 60 years ago.
Mobs of journalists followed the group over the border as families rushed forward to rushed forward to greet relations they hadn't seen since Kashmir had been
In Islamabad Pakistan's information minister, Sheikh Rasheed Ahmed, delivered a statement on behalf of President Pervez Musharraf:
/// AHMED ACT ///
"The bus service is meant to facilitate divided families as well as people to people contact and is a step towards alleviating the sufferings of divided families."
/// END ACT ///
But the new bus service is by no means universally popular in Pakistan.
Since 1989 at least a dozen militant groups have fought for Kashmir's independence from India.
And in the past few days Kashmiri extremists have vowed to disrupt the service and soldiers were on high alert all along the bus route.
But even further afield there is strong opposition.
After decades of resisting India's presence in Kashmir, many Pakistanis say they are uncomfortable with any kind of agreement with New Delhi.
Political analyst Talik Masood says many groups remain genuinely opposed to peace with India. He says religious conservatives in particular are portraying the bus rides as a political defeat for Pakistan.
/// MASOOD ACT ///
"They think that this is a sort of giving in to India. They just do not want that there should be any compromise whatsoever from the stated positions."
/// END ACT ///
But, he says, for millions of Pakistanis the bus ride was a source of both pride and relief; pride that the two countries were able to negotiate a satisfactory compromise, relief that the passengers survived the journey. (SIGNED)
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