Mirpur City (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)
An ambitious project to start a bus service, travelling nearly 6,500km from Mirpur, the largest city in Azad Kashmir - a self-governing territory under the control of Pakistan and part of the larger state of Kashmir administered by Pakistan - to Birmingham has been announced.
Mirpur, located in the north-east of Pakistan, at the foothills of the Himalayas, has a large expatriate community in Birmingham and the city is therefore often referred to as Little England or Little Birmingham.
The bus service, if established and when it is started, will easily be Britain's longest bus route, taking 12 days to cross five countries (Afghanistan, Iran, Turkey, Serbia and Belgium). Passengers will be charged £130 for a ticket, the Telegraph reports.
Mirpur's transport minister, Tahir Khokherc, added that arrangements for sightseeing could also be made and he called the journey a "thrilling" ride. He also said there would be two stopovers - one at Quetta, near the Afghan border and in the Iranian capital of Tehran.
"We are a little behind schedule with our plans because of negotiations with transport companies and bureaucratic hold-ups. But we are proposing to run four luxury buses once a fortnight," Khokherc told the Birmingham Mail, adding, "The Azad Jammu and Kashmir government will also set up a swift counter system to hasten the visa process for those who don't have a British passport."
Welcoming the plan, Khalid Mahmood, a Birmingham Labour MP said the move would strengthen tourism between the two cities.
"I think it's a great idea that will bring the two cities closer together and be a real life experience, particularly for younger people both here and in Kashmir," he said, "I'm sure the service would prove very popular, especially with average air fares to Pakistan being about £600."
On a more cautious note, although road travel between Kashmir and the UK was normal even until three or four decades ago, the present spectre of terrorism does raise some security concerns. This is particularly the case in Quetta, where Taliban leaders are believed to be in hiding.
"I don't feel it will be a problem," Khokherc said regarding security issues, "The government is responsible for security. "Barring one or two instances in Quetta, the overall situation is good to go."
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