ISLAMABAD: Pakistan on Thursday said it had suspended the Samjhauta Express train service with India, a day after Islamabad downgraded diplomatic ties with New Delhi and suspended bilateral trade. Indian Railway officials, however, said the train service would be maintained.
"We have decided to suspend the Samjhauta train service," Pakistan Railways Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed announced, adding, “Till I am Railways minister, this train service will not operate.”
Ahmed’s announcement came even as passengers were waiting at the Lahore station to board the train to travel to India.
Pakistan Railways Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed: In a decision by the Railways Ministry, Samjhauta Express services have been permanently stopped. It used to ply twice a week. The people who had already purchased their tickets can get their money reimbursed from Lahore DS office. pic.twitter.com/ZVNOTEsQRZ— ANI (@ANI) August 8, 2019
"The next three to four months are very important. We do not want war with India, but it can happen. If war is waged on us, it will be the last one," Ahmed said.
The Samjhauta Express train service was suspended post terror attack on the CRPF at Pulwama in South Kashmir on February 14, which claimed lives of 40 personnel and resulted in a standoff between the two-nuclear armed countries, especially following the IAF strike on terror camps at Balakot, deep inside Pakistan.
Ahmed’s statement came a day after it expelled Indian envoy to Islamabad on Wednesday over what it called New Delhi's "unilateral and illegal" move to revoke Article 370, Monday, scrapping the special status of J&K. Ambassador designate to New Delhi, Moin-Ul Haq’s posting was also revoked.
The decision to cut diplomatic ties with India was taken during a National Security Committee meeting chaired by Prime Minister Imran Khan and top civil and military leadership on Wednesday.
Meanwhile, Indian Railway authorities 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 that the situation is normal on this side," said Northern Railway spokesperson Deepak Kumar.
He said, “Our engine with our crew and guard have escorted the train to Attari," adding, “On the Indian side, 70 passengers are waiting to cross over to Pakistan.”
Kumar said the Samjhauta Express from both Lahore and Delhi come 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. “There is no cross border traffic by the same train,” he said.
On Thursday, the Samjhauta Express from Lahore did not reach Attari, but remained at Wagah on the Pakistan side.
The Samjhauta Express, named after the Hindi word for "agreement" was started on July 22, 1976 under the Shimla Agreement between then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi and Pakistan premier Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto.
Meanwhile, Pakistan has also decided to ban Indian movies' screenings in their theatres, said, Dr Firdous Ashiq Awan, Special Assistant to Pakistan Prime Minister on I&B, according to ANI.