India and Pakistan Extend Thar Rail Link For Three More Years
The Thar Link Express/Thar Express, that connects Jodhpur in Rajasthan with the provincial Karachi capital of Karachi, will now continue to connect both nations till January 31, 2021.
For six months, the Thar Link Express crosses over to Zero Point Railway Station, where passengers alight and board the Thar Express, run by Pakistan Railways. (CNN-News 18 TV grab)
New Delhi: India and Pakistan on Tuesday decided to extend the Thar Link Express/Thar Express that connects Jodhpur in Rajasthan with the provincial Karachi capital of Karachi. The train will now continue to connect both nations till January 31, 2021.
The rail links in the Indian subcontinent have an undeniable colonial legacy. The British Raj established the Indian Railways not for the convenience of Indians but to ease the transport of raw materials from the hinterlands to ports. It was a matter of time, therefore, that a railroad link was established between the two major port cities of Bombay and Karachi. In 1900, the Sind Mail (as the train was known back then) chugged along from Bombay to Karachi via Ahmedabad, Palanpur, Marwar, Pali, Jodhpur, Lun, Barmer, Munabao, Khokhrapar, Mirpur Khas and Hyderabad (Sindh) Railway Stations. The Sind Mail continued to ferry passengers from one country to another for 65 years.
In 1965, India and Pakistan fought their first major war and during the war, Pakistan Air Force bombed the Munabao-Khokkhrapar rail link. After this, the rail link was disrupted and remained shut for 41 years. But for those who had family ties across the border, not travelling to the other side was not an option. Imdad Khan, a resident of Padmana village, which is hardly a kilometer from the border, says, "My aunt lives in Pakistan. My father has always been close to her. So he had to go see his sister. Back when the Thar Link Express was not functioning, people from this region had to travel to Amritsar, cross over to Lahore and then make the long journey into Sindh."
Munabao and Khokhrapar are just 10-kilometre away from each other. But before the train began, a round trip would mean people would have to travel a staggering 4,000 kms. All this for a distance that could easily be covered on foot.
In February 2006, the train once again made its journey from Jodhpur to Munabao. An old British-era rail link was revived and the Sind Mail was rechristened the Thar Link Express in India and Thar Express in Pakistan. It leaves from Jodhpur at 1 am every Saturday and chugs into Munabao at 7 am. At Munabao, the passengers are asked to de-board. After hours of immigration formalities, the train moves from Munabao and covers the remaining 500 meters of Indian Territory before entering Pakistan.
When the Sind Mail ran before 1965, Pakistani custom officials used to conduct formalities at Khokhrapar station. In 2006, ahead of the grand reopening of the rail link, Pakistan constructed the brand new Zero Point Railway Station, which is just 50 meters from the pillars demarcating the International Boundary. For six months, the Thar Link Express crosses over to Zero Point Railway Station, where passengers alight and board the Thar Express, run by Pakistan Railways. For the other half of the year, it is the Pakistani train that crosses from Zero Point to Munabao. Passengers are only allowed to board at Jodhpur. Pakistani citizens who travel to India, are not allowed west of National Highway 68.
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