LAHORE - India yesterday announced cancellation of Samjhauta Express service between the two countries but minutes later allowed its journey according to schedule.

The reasons behind the cancellation and resuming of service were not described clearly by Indian authorities, Pakistan Railways (PR) officials told The Nation.

With 75 passengers, mostly Indian, on board, the train is due to leave Lahore Railways Station today. Samjhauta Express makes two journeys in a week (On Monday and Thursday) between the two countries.

The officials said the department received fax from Ferozepur division of Rail India at around 8pm requesting PR not to send train to India on Monday. But, PR was asked to send the train through another fax within half an hour.

According to the officials, Rail India had described farmers’ protest in Amritsar behind the suspension of the service in its first communication.

“We feel Indians are much confused. If train has been suspended due to protests then why they allowed it later when the protests still continue on Indian side,” said officials requesting anonymity.

It was the fourth time that New Delhi cancelled the bi-weekly train service within a year. Earlier, it halted train operation twice in October last year following another cancellation in February 2016.

On the other side, an hour after playing hide and seek with Samjhauta Express passengers, New Delhi also changed the route of Lahore-Delhi bus service (Sada-e-Sarhad). Dosti bus is due to leave for Indian capital on Monday at 6am but its route from Lahore to Indian capital via Amritsar has been changed. Sources said the bus would go to New Delhi via other Indian cities instead of Amritsar extending travelling duration by at least four hours. Protests of farmers in Indian Punjab city were described reason behind the change of route of the bus service too. Bus makes three journeys in a week. It leaves for India on every Monday, Wednesday and Friday from Lahore and makes journey to Lahore from Indian capital on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday.

A senior official at the foreign ministry in Islamabad said the suspension scare was only for security reasons and India had later assured of complete security. “The suspension was not any addition to the prevailing tension. It was only a time-being decision and would have been solved in a couple of days. Security was the only reason. The Indian side has requested to continue with the schedule as the security part is solved,” he said.

Reports said security on the Samjhauta Express, which connects Lahore to New Delhi, had been stepped up after a high alert was issued following the attack on an army base in Uri.

Normally, 27 personnel of the Indian Railway Police are deployed at the Attari railway station in the Amritsar district but now at least 20 more policemen have been posted there. There was no effect on the number of passengers who travelled by the bi-weekly Samjhauta Express.

Official at the foreign ministry said Pakistan had sought security for the passengers travelling in the Samjhauta Express. “We have received the assurances of security so there is no change in schedule. The train will leave on time,” said an official.

 

 

IFTIKHAR ALAM & Shafqat Ali