In a move that is likely to further inflame tensions between India and Pakistan, Islamabad on Thursday announced it was suspending the bi-weekly Samjhauta train service connecting Lahore and Delhi.
Pakistan’s minister for railways, Sheikh Rashid Ahmad, said the service will remain suspended indefinitely. Addressing a press conference in Islamabad, Rasheed said the bogies of the Samjhauta Express will now be used for passengers travelling on the occasion of Eid. “Till I am Railways minister, Samjhauta Express train service will not operate,” he said.
News reports from Pakistan also said Indian films will not be allowed to screen in cinemas. Geo English quoted Dr Firdous Ashiq Awan, Special Assistant to Pakistan Prime Minister on I&B, as saying: “No Indian movie to be screened in Pakistani cinemas.”
Meanwhile, the Samjhauta Express which was stopped by Pakistan at Wagah border, briefly leaving passengers stranded, has departed from Attari for Lahore, PTI reports. Pakistan authorities stopped the train from entering into India citing security concerns to its crew. Around 110 passengers were travelling from Lahore to Delhi, a spokesperson of the Northern Railways said.
“Pakistan authorities raised some concerns with regards to security for crew of the samjhauta exp. We have told them that there is normal situation this side . However we are sending our own engine with our crew quard to bring train from Wagah to attari,” the spokesperson said.
The suspension of the train service comes shortly after New Delhi urged Pakistan to review its decision to downgrade diplomatic relations with the country. On Wednesday, Pakistan expelled the Indian envoy in Islamabad and suspended bilateral trade in response to India’s decision to scrap the special status to Jammu-Kashmir. Pakistan also said it would not be sending its High Commissioner-designate to India.
The same day it also announced partial closure of its airspace citing “operation reasons”. An Air India official pointed out that the closure was a routine one and did not have any significant impact — particularly given that alternate routes have been made available and the busiest sector for transit that passes above Karachi is still open. “One air corridor has been closed (in Pakistani airspace), requiring a maximum of 12 minutes diversion. It will not affect us (much),” an Air India spokesperson was quoted as saying by news agency PTI.