Samjhauta Express: Pakistan permanently stops Samjhauta Express services
Samjhauta Express: Pakistan has permanently stopped the Samjhauta Express train services that linked India and Pakistan. The decision was announced by Pakistan’s Railways Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed on August 8, 2019.
Pakistan’s Railway Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed said that in a decision by the Railways Ministry, the services of the Samjhauta Express have been permanently suspended. The Railways Minister announced that those who had already bought the tickets to the train can get their money back from the DS office in Lahore. He also announced that the train’s bogies will now be used for passengers travelling on the occasion of Eid.
The sudden suspension has left the Samjhauta Express stranded at Wagah. The train was scheduled to reach India today but Pakistan refused to send its crew and driver to India, citing security threats and asked India to send its own staff to take the train further.
Deepak Kumar, CPRO, Northern Railways confirmed that the train with around 110 passengers is standing in the Wagah side. He said that an engine from the Indian side has left to bring the train from Wagah to Attari. He further said that around 70 passengers are waiting on the Indian side to travel to Pakistan and thus, saying that the train is cancelled is not right.
Kumar further reiterated that Pakistan had raised security issues concerning the train’s driver and crew but India has assured them that the situation is normal this side.
Meanwhile, on the official Indian Railways site, the services of Samjhauta Express have been displayed as cancelled.
The announcement follows the decision of the Indian government to scrap Article 35 A and Article 370 thus, withdrawing the special status given to the state of Jammu & Kashmir and bifurcating the state into two Union Territories- Jammu & Kashmir and Ladakh.
Narendra Modi-led NDA government on August 5 revoked the special status of Jammu & Kashmir and split the state into two union territories. The government announced that while Jammu & Kashmir will have a legislature, Ladakh will not have a legislature.
Samjhauta Express train services
Samjhauta Express is a bi-weekly train, which linked Attari in India to Lahore in Pakistan. The train used to run two days a week- Monday and Thursday.
Initially, when the train services had begun in 1976 following the Shimla Agreement, it was a daily train but it was changed to bi-weekly in 1994.
Earlier the train ran between Lahore and Amritsar, covering a distance of about 52 km but in late 80s, Indian Railways decided to limit the service till Attari border. In an agreement between the Indian Railways and the Pakistan Railways in 2000, the distance covered by the train was reduced to just under three km.
The train entered Pakistan through the Wagah border and India through Attari. The passengers could change from Attari and take a connecting train to reach Delhi.
Samjhauta Express train services suspended
The Samjhauta Express train services were suspended for the first time in January 2002 after the terrorist attack on the Indian Parliament in December 2001. The suspension was lifted in January 2004.
The services of the Samjhauta Express was again discontinued as a preventive measure in December 2007 following the assassination of Benazir Bhutto on December 27.
The Samjhauta Express train services were suspended yet again in February 2019, following the increased tensions between India and Pakistan after the Pulwama attack and the Balakot strike. The services were renewed later.
In August 2019, Pakistan announced the permanent suspension of the Samjhauta Express train services following the Indian Government’s controversial decision of revoking Article 370 in Jammu & Kashmir.