ISLAMABAD: Islamabad on Thursday decided to suspend Samjhauta Express train service between Pakistan and India as part of its reaction to Delhi’s decision to strip occupied Kashmir of its autonomous status.
The decision was announced by Minister for Railways Sheikh Rashid Ahmed at a press conference at the National Press Club. “Before the announcement of the decision, the passengers of Samjhauta Express with their luggage were sent to Wagha border and India was asked to send its engine to take the passengers away,” he said.
The minister said that the passengers who had booked tickets for next train scheduled to depart from Lahore would get refund from the divisional superintendent office of Pakistan Railways.
“The train which operates twice a week every Thursday and Monday would not run any more,” Mr Ahmed said.
“India continues to commit human rights violations in Kashmir and we will not remain a mere spectator. Samjhauta Express will not operate as long as I am minister for railways,” he said.
Replying to a question, the minister said that recent tension on the Line of Control was planned and predicted that three to six months were crucial.
“A war may break out between the two nuclear states. We do not want war and want peace in the region as war will be dangerous,” the minister said.
About the plan to utilise the bogies of Samjhauta Express, the minister said that the bogies would be attached to Karachi-bound Eid special trains to meet the shortage of seats. He said that two additional bogies would be attached to other passenger trains.
He said that the railways ministry had devised a plan for cleanliness and punctuality of trains and improvement of coaches.
Crew refuse to take train to India
The Pakistani crew (driver and brake and conductor guards) deputed in Samjhauta Express were not willing to take the train with 109 passengers to India on Tuesday due to security concerns as they have received life threats allegedly from Indian spy agency Research and Analysis Wing and Indian police for refusing to accept their demands.
“We have been performing duties to take Samjhauta Express from Lahore to Attari (India) on every Monday and Thursday. On July 25, we were issued the requisite Indian visa of six months. Since the day, officials of RAW, the CID and Attari police station have been forcing us to provide information regarding movement of Pakistan Army and special military trains and time table of passenger trains,” reads a letter jointly written by the guards, Mohammad Mushtaq and Mohammad Javaid, and driver Irfan Iqbal on Aug 6.
Khalid Hasnain from Lahore also contributed to this report
Published in Dawn, August 9th, 2019