Delayed by 4 Hours, Samjhauta Express Reaches Delhi Day After Pak Suspended Service at Wagah Border
Hundreds of passengers from both sides of the border were stuck for several hours on Thursday, waiting for security clearances to be completed, after the disruption in the service that connects Delhi and Lahore.
The Samjhauta Express arrives at Atari railway station in Amritsar, Punjab, on Thursday evening. (PTI)
New Delhi: The Samjhauta Express which was stopped by Pakistan at the Wagah border on Thursday, citing security concerns, reached Delhi early Friday morning, four and a half hours behind its scheduled time.
The train that arrived in Attari, escorted by Indian crew members, had 117 passengers, including 48 Pakistanis. From Attari, the train left at around 8 pm and was expected to reach Delhi at 3:30 am on Friday, but arrived at around 8:00 am.
Leading the charge of downgrading ties with India over New Delhi's decision to end special status to Jammu and Kashmir, the Pakistani crew at the Wagah border suspended services of Samjhauta Express and refused to go any further. They demanded that the Indian crew drive it on Indian territory. After nearly three hours, an Indian team took over and the train started on its way to Attari.
Hundreds of passengers from both sides of the border were stuck for several hours, waiting for security clearances to be completed, after the disruption in the service that connects Delhi and Lahore. Railway officials said that after several hours of waiting, the train headed to Lahore departed from Attari at 6:41 pm on Thursday. It had 103 passengers on board, including 10 Pakistanis.
"We have decided to suspend the Samjhauta train service," Railways Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed said at a press conference in Islamabad. "Till I am Railways minister, Samjhauta Express train service will not operate."
Ahmed added that the train’s bogies will now be used for passengers travelling on the occasion of Eid. "The next three to four months are very important. War can happen, but we do not want a war. If war is waged on us, it will be the last one," he said.
The minister’s announcement came even as passengers were waiting at the Lahore station to board the train to travel to India.
But railway officials in Delhi said the train has not been suspended.
"It will run. Pakistan authorities have raised some concerns with regards to security for crew and guard of the Samjhauta Express. We have told them the situation is normal on this side," Northern Railway spokesperson Deepak Kumar said. "Our engine with our crew and guard escorted the train to Attari at 5:15 pm."
Sources in the Ministry of External Affairs in Delhi also told CNN-News18 there would be no suspension of the train services from the Indian side. "India will not take any hasty decisions," they added.
Explaining the procedure, Kumar said the Samjhauta Express from both Lahore and Delhi comes to Attari. At Attari, Delhi-bound passengers coming from Lahore get on to an Indian train. And Lahore-bound passengers board the Pakistani train that retraces its steps back to Wagah and then on to Lahore. On Thursday, the Samjhauta Express from Lahore did not reach Attari, but remained at Wagah on the Pakistan side.
Pakistan's latest move comes a day after it expelled Indian High Commissioner Ajay Bisaria and decided to downgrade the diplomatic ties with India over what it called New Delhi's "unilateral and illegal" move to revoke the special status of Jammu and Kashmir.
The decision was taken during a National Security Committee meeting chaired by Prime Minister Imran Khan and top civil and military leadership.
India on Monday had revoked Article 370 of the Constitution withdrawing the special status given to Jammu and Kashmir and bifurcated the state into two Union Territories -- Jammu and Kashmir, and Ladakh.
The Samjhauta Express train service was suspended earlier this year after escalating tensions between the two neighbouring countries. The service was later resumed.
The Samjhauta Express, named after the Hindi word for "agreement", comprises six sleeper coaches and an AC three-tier coach. The service was started on July 22, 1976, under the Simla Agreement that settled the 1971 war between the two nations. On the Indian side, the train runs from Delhi to Attari and from Lahore to Wagah on the Pakistan side.
(With inputs from agencies)
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