Amid the ongoing tension between India and Pakistan following the scrapping of special status for Jammu & Kashmir, Islamabad has now stopped the postal mail exchange between the two countries.
People in Punjab on the Indian side have stopped receiving regular mails such as magazines, publications, and even letters which they used to get regularly earlier from Pakistan via post.
Speaking to The Indian Express, Ajay Kumar Roy, the deputy director general, department of post, Government of India, confirmed that the written orders to stop mails via post were issued by the customs department of Pakistan on August 23.
“On August 23, the customs department of Pakistan issued written orders to stop exchange of mails between the two countries. The orders said that it is for both export as well as import of mails via post which means they will neither send the post to Indian side nor will they accept any from us. The orders came into effect on August 27,” Roy said.
How did the postal exchange with Pakistan work?
All the postal mails going to other countries from India are handled through Foreign Post Offices (FPOs) of the Department of Post (DoP) under the central Ministry of Communications. There are 28 notified FPOs of which 8 main ones are Office of Exchange (OE). Ajay Kumar Roy, deputy director general, mail operations, India Post, says that FPOs at Delhi and Mumbai were designated to handle mails (to and from) for Pakistan. The exchange with Pakistan was via air-route. “For the countries where we do not have daily or regular air connectivity, we have to go through other countries so for Pakistan we were operating via Saudi Arabia airlines. Subsequently, the mail was exchanged at Doha in Qatar,” Roy said, adding that Saudi Arabia route had nothing to do with opening or closing of air space. “It was a routine procedure,” he said.
Since August 27, there has been no exchange of post between the two neighbours.
Roy further said that this was an unilateral decision by Pakistan as before the written orders from their customs department, mails were being exchanged normally via air-route. “We exchange mail posts with Pakistan via air route of Saudi Arabia Airlines. It was going on normally before their customs department issued these orders. It hasn’t been done from our side. It is entirely their decision to stop the postal exchange,” he added.
Among the casualties, ‘Punjab Dey Rang’
Following the latest move by Pakistan, the cultural and literary exchange between east and west Punjab has become a casualty.
‘Punjab Dey Rang’, a magazine published in Gurmukhi script of Punjabi from Lahore every quarter, has stopped reaching readers in India, especially Punjab. The publication is considered rare on the Indian side as there is hardly any other work being published in Gurmukhi script in Pakistan, where Shahmukhi script is largely used.
Speaking to The Indian Express over phone, Ihsan H Nadiem, chief editor of Punjab Dey Rang (also called Rasaala in local language), said that they recently dispatched 70 copies of the magazine to their readers in India but all were returned by Pakistan postal department.
“We were informed by the postal department that exchange of mails with India has been stopped. We had been sending the magazine in Gurmukhi script to the Indian readers (mostly in Punjab) since 2010 and never before had such a thing happened. This is the first time. It is also the saddest because as it has come at a time when we are celebrating 550th birth anniversary year of Guru Nanak Dev ji,” he said.
Nadiem added that Dyal Singh Research and Cultural Forum (DSRCF) has been publishing this magazine since 2006 in English and Punjabi. “The Punjabis settled in India, Pakistan, Canada, US, UK and other countries regularly contribute to it. They share their pre-Partition stories, research papers etc via this magazine.
It is atrocious to snap such a link between people of both countries. Of some 500 copies that are published in Gurmukhi script, around 70 are sent to India. In Pakistan, both Gurmukhi and Shahmukhi Punjabi are dying. Last year we had to discontinue Shahmukhi publication due to less demand,” he said.