New Delhi:Authorities in Islamabad have indefinitely suspended the Samjhauta Express, a decades-old train service between India and Pakistan. A statement by Pakistan’s foreign office said that the train service with India has been suspended “till further notice”. The move by Islamabad comes amid heightened tension between India and Pakistan in the aftermath of the Pulwama terror attack.
Bilateral ties between the two countries have taken a severe beating after Pakistan-based terror group Jaish-e-Mohammed or JeM carried out its latest terror attack in Jammu and Kashmir’s Pulwama, in which more than 40 paramilitary soldiers were killed. While India has revoked the ‘most favoured nation’ status to Pakistan, raised tariffs on Pakistani goods by 200 per cent and stopped India’s share of river water from flowing into Pakistan, authorities in Islamabad today suspended the Samjhauta Express train service.
“The operation of Samjhauta Express has been suspended today (Thursday) in view of the prevailing tensions between Pakistan and India,” Pakistan’s foreign office spokesperson said in a statement.
“Samjhauta Express will resume its operations as soon as the security situation improves between India and Pakistan,” Pakistan’s foreign office said, without giving any specific date for resuming the train service. The statement came after a spokesperson of the Pakistan Railways said early in the morning that the train service scheduled to depart for India at 8:00 am (local time) was cancelled.
The Samjahuta Express departs from Lahore on Mondays and Thursdays. The bi-weekly train was scheduled to leave Lahore with 16 passengers when the suspension took effect. The train had already embarked on its journey from Karachi but the passengers are stuck at Lahore railway station, the report said.
Railway Minister Piyush Goyal had said on Wednesday that the Samjhauta Express that runs between Delhi and Attari will run as per schedule. He said this amidst reports that Pakistan had already halted the service of the train. The minister said that India has not been informed of such a decision by Pakistan.
“We have not yet received any instructions from authorities so far as running of Samjhauta Express is concerned. So, it will run as planned and as per the schedule,” he said.
From the India side, the Samjhauta Express runs on Wednesdays and Sundays. The train departs from the Old Delhi Railway Station at 11:10 pm. Latest reports from Attari in Punjab suggests that passengers are stranded without any information or update from the Indian Railways. Reports from Pakistan also suggest that many Indians, returning home, are stranded at Lahore station awaiting further updates.
The Samjhauta Express, named after the Hindi word for “agreement”, comprises six sleeper coaches and an AC 3-tier coach. The train service was started on July 22, 1976 under the Shimla Agreement that settled the 1971 war between the two nations.
In the wake of the Pulwama terror attack by the Pakistan-based terror group Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM), tensions have escalated between India and Pakistan.
India carried out air strikes against the biggest terror camp of JeM in Pakistan’s Balakot. In the operation, a “very large number of JeM terrorists, trainers, senior commanders and groups of jihadis who were being trained for suicide attacks were eliminated.” The facility at Balakot was headed by Yousuf Azhar, the brother-in-law of the JeM chief.