Samjhota Express to resume service today

Pakistan railways host, provide security to stranded Indian passengers

BILAL GHORI March 04, 2019
File photo of Karachi Circular Railways. PHOTO: REUTERS

LAHORE: Passengers stranded at the railway station for the past four days – owing to the closure of the Samjhota Express train service in the aftermath of tension between Pakistan and India – will leave for India today (Monday) from the Lahore station via the Wagah-Attari border.

The Samjhota Express has been booked by 29 passengers, of which 15 are women, 9 men and 5 children. The railway operation staff along with railway police officials will leave with the train in the morning and return by evening.

According to details, the general manager for operation of North Indian Railways has issued a letter to Pakistan Railways’ officials regarding the restoration of Samjhota Express train, which states that the Samjhota Express will run along with five other good trains according to their schedule.

The Samjhota Express could not depart on Thursday, February 28, and passengers due to leave for India have been staying at the Lahore Railway Station after its departure was halted due to tension at the border. Passengers were given a refund on their tickets due to the suspension of the service.

The railway department administration hosted the Indian passengers under strict security at the station’s waiting room.

Similar arrangements have been made to ensure security prior to the train’s departure, including a bomb disposal staff. Furthermore, the platform from which Samjhota Express will depart will not be used by any other passengers except for the Indians.

Sources say that the general manager of North Indian Railways issued the letter seeking resumption of service on March 2.

How the Indo-Pak tensions escalated

Tensions escalated dramatically between Pakistan and India on February 14 when a young man – a native of Indian occupied Kashmir (IoK) – rammed an explosives-laden car into an Indian military convoy, killing at least 44 soldiers.

India was quick to blame the state of Pakistan for the suicide bombing.PM Imran offered every possible help in the investigation, but India turned down the offer and whipped up war hysteria.

On February 26, the Indian Air Force violated Pakistani airspace. The country’s top civil and military leadership declared the violation of airspace by Indian fighter jets “uncalled for aggression” and decided that the country would respond at a “time and place of its choosing”.

On February 27, Pakistan announced it had shot down two Indian fighter jets that attempted to violate its airspace and captured an Indian pilot. The military’s media wing later released a video of the pilot, who introduced himself as Wing Commander Abhinandan bearing service number 27981.

Director-General Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) Major General Asif Ghafoor said in a press conference that the armed forces had responsibly retaliated to Indian incursion by strucking a target few miles from an Indian military’s administrative unit to ensure there were no human life or collateral damage.“We decided to not hit a military target or endanger human life. We did not want to retaliate at the cost of regional peace. We do not want escalation,” he told reporters.

India asks Pakistan to ‘do more’

A few hours later, Prime Minister Imran Khan took the nation into confidence over the armed forces’ response. As escalating tensions fuelled concerns of all-out war between nuclear-tipped Pakistan, Imran warned of catastrophic consequences should “better sense” not prevail.The premier ended his speech with another peace talks offer and cooperation in Pulwama attack investigation to India.

On February 28, the Foreign Office said it received a dossier on the Pulwama attack from the Indian government. It added that the government was deliberating whether to treat Abhinandan as a prisoner of war (POW) or apply any international convention.

In the evening, PM Imran addressed a joint session of the parliament and announced that Pakistan would release the captured pilot as a goodwill gesture to de-escalate tensions.

On March 1, Pakistan ‘as a goodwill gesture’ handed over to Indian authorities the captured IAF Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman as the nuclear-armed neighbours scaled back a confrontation that has prompted world powers to urge restraint.

It may be mentioned here that the United States, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates (UAE), UK and European Union (EU) were involved in both overt and covert diplomacy to find a way out of the impasse between the two countries.


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