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LAHORE: Pakistan Railways (PR) on Saturday announced resumption of operations of Samjhota Express from Lahore to Attari, India, via the Wagah border crossing. The service was suspended on Thursday following rising tensions between Pakistan and India.

“We have decided to resume operations of Samjhota Express between the Wagah border and Attari from Monday (tomorrow). The Thar Express has already reached India (Monabao) from Khokhrapar with 600 passengers,” Minister for Railways Sheikh Rashid told reporters at a press conference here on Saturday.

The last Samjhota Express reached India on Monday before its operations were halted. On Wednesday, the PR announced that the train’s operations would continue on Thursday (March 1). However, on Thursday morning, the PR Lahore division authorities cancelled the train following which the intending passengers remained stuck.

“Under the arrangement, the train that departs from Lahore to Wagah and then Attari brings passengers from India back to Lahore also,” a senior PR official told Dawn.

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He said the train that would depart on Monday would reach India at about 11.30am. “The same train would also bring the passengers, who will be waiting at Attari, back to Lahore at about 4pm the same day,” the official added.

The government, following an emergency situation due to ongoing tensions between India and Pakistan, has increased the stock of oil for railways in a bid to keep the trains operational. According to the minister, the PR had a week-long stock of fuel, but the government increased it.

“The government has given us a huge stock of oil worth Rs1.2 billion. Similarly, all major stations, including Multan, Lahore and Karachi, have been provided additional trains to cater to the increased number of passengers that are reported to be 25 per cent more than the normal ratio,” he explained.

Mr Rashid said the VVIP Jinnah Express would be launched on March 20 followed by Sir Syed Express in April. To replace the old machinery installed at Risalpur and Mughalpura, the PR was in talks with Russia for an agreement. Besides, the railways had earned Rs6 million in just a week through imposing fines on those travelling without tickets, the minister elaborated.

Earlier, talking about ongoing tensions between Pakistan and India, the minister admired Prime Minister Imran Khan for playing a masterstroke for peace in the region.

“Our PM is playing excellently, as he has placed Pakistan among the top countries seeking world peace. Although everyone is making noise about returning of the Indian pilot, PM Khan took a good decision to send him back,” he added.

Mr Rashid further said that the prime minister and the army were on the same page and they would make all-out efforts to maintain peace in the region. He also criticised Indian journalists for fuelling war hysteria. “But I appreciate the Pakistani media for playing sensibly and responsibly,” he added.

Published in Dawn, March 3rd, 2019