Samjhauta Express arrives in Delhi after Pakistan announces suspension (Lead)

By Advitya Bahl

New Delhi, Aug 9 (IANS) The Samjhauta Express arrived at in the national capital on Friday, in what is likely to be its last run for a while after the cross-border peace train was permanently suspended by Pakistan over the revocation of Article 370 in Jammu and Kashmir.

The train was late by over four and a half hours. It was earlier scheduled to arrive at the Old Delhi Railway Station at 3.30 a.m., but arrived only at 8.05 a.m.

Over 110 passengers travelling to India from Lahore alighted from the train at the station also known as the Delhi Junction.

Asra, a resident of Karachi, told IANS that she has been travelling by the train to India since the past two decades, but this was the first time that she faced such problems. She was worried about returning home in Karachi amid the escalating bilateral tensions.

"My family was really tense. When I spoke to them at around 7 p.m. (Thursday) after reaching Attari, they felt relaxed. Now we are worried as to how we will go back as well. Both the countries should maintain peace," said Asra.

On Thursday, Pakistan had stopped the Samjhauta Express at the Wagah border, citing security concerns, following which an Indian crew and guard escorted the train to Attari on the Indian side.

An Islamabad resident, in his 60s, who was on the train along with five members of his family, including their specially-abled child, told IANS that the situation in Pakistan was really tense since Monday after India scrapped Article 370 and 35A in Jammu and Kashmir.

Pakistan on Wednesday announced its decision to downgrade diplomatic ties with India over New Delhi's move to bifurcate Jammu and Kashmir and revoke Article 370. Islamabad also expelled the Indian High Commissioner and suspended bilateral trade with New Delhi.

Kamal Vohra, 18, was eagerly waiting at the station since Thursday night for his mother and sister to arrive. They had gone to Pakistan to meet his maternal grandparents)who live in Islamabad, about two and a half months ago.

Vohra was worried ever since Pakistan announced suspension of the train, and more so as he was unable to contact them since Thursday morning. He was finally able to speak to his mother on Thursday evening after they reached Attari.

Earlier when the peace train from Lahore reached the Wagah border (on the Pakistani side) on Thursday evening, the passengers were unaware that the service had been suspended.

Most of the passengers who arrived in Delhi said they were stranded for hours at Wagah, and did not know what was happening. They did not know whether they would be sent back, and were unable to contact their families.

They had to walk to the Attari border, on the Indian side, to board the train to Delhi, they said.

The "Samjhauta" Express train, named after the Hindi word for "agreement", comprises six sleeper coaches and an AC 3-tier coach.

On July 22, 1976, the Samjhauta Express train service was started under the Simla Agreement that settled the 1971 war between the two nations. The train runs from Delhi to Attari on the Indian side and from Lahore to Wagah on the Pakistan side.

--IANS

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