LAHORE, Dec 31: Of around 100 passengers stranded in Lahore owing to suspension of rail service to Karachi, the worst affected are 40 people who had been staying either in the main veranda of the Lahore railway station or at the waiting rooms of its platform No 4 as they have no acquaintance in the Punjab capital or have run short of money.
Muhammad Anees, 75, and Muhammad Rafi, 68, are among the people who had reached Lahore through Samjhota Express on Dec 25, boarded trains for Karachi but were brought back to the Punjab capital owing to violence in Sindh following death of Benazir Bhutto.
While Syed Sohailuddin Qadri of Karachi was finding it difficult to look after his 68-year-old ailing mother, Saleem Khan of Hyderabad was worried about the well-being of his two special children who were running temperature. Syed Kazim Ali Zaidi and his six women relatives were eager to reach home like Riaz Fatima, Mahmood, Basheer and Iqbal.
Saeed Anwar had come from Karachi to go to India. “I had to attend a wedding there on Sunday and now it is useless to go there. The marriage would be over when I would reach there. Now I want to go back to Karachi as soon as possible.”
A 10-year-old passenger burst into tears when this reporter approached him: “It is very cold here in Lahore. I could not sleep for a moment the whole Saturday night because we don’t have any warm clothes and I fell ill.”
Some other 20 or so passengers, who wished not to be named, said they had no money to buy some edibles. “We have even consumed our tickets’ refund and absolutely have no money to pay the Rs5 fee for using toilets. We answer the call of nature in trains.”
It was Edhi people who had been bringing food for these passengers since Sunday. An Edhi spokesman told this reporter that 40 people were being served with edibles thrice a day. “We offered them a stay at Edhi Home but they refused,” said the spokesman while adding that blankets had also been provided to some of them.
However, the agony of Kamil Khan, a resident of Bareilley district in the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh, besides Shaukat and Iqbal of Karachi ended on Monday when they boarded Atari-bound Samjhota Express. They had reached Lahore on Dec 25 from Karachi to catch Samjhota Express but the Indian authorities decided to suspend the operation of the international train owing to unrest in Pakistan after the assassination of Ms Benazir Bhutto.
Railway officials at its headquarters in Lahore told this reporter that preference would be given to these passengers in the first train to Karachi after resumption of service to the Sindh capital.