A day after it decided to downgrade diplomatic ties with India, Pakistan today (Thursday, Aug 8) further escalated tension by deciding to suspend the bi-weekly Samjhauta train service connecting Lahore and Delhi and impose a ban on Indian films.
Pakistan’s minister for railways, Sheikh Rashid Ahmad, said the service will remain suspended indefinitely. Addressing a press conference in Islambad, 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.
Pakistan will not remain silent regarding the ‘Indian atrocities’ in Jammu and Kashmir, said Sheikh Rasheed Ahmad.
“The Indian government has changed all laws in Jammu and Kashmir. The entire history has been changed. They have also revoked the Articles that provided special rights and status to the people in that region. But we won’t remain silent. Our Muslim brethren in Jammu and Kashmir are suffering,” he said, according to media reports.
“Following the tension between India and Pakistan, all services of Samjhauta Express will be suspended forever,” he added.
Meanwhile, speaking to the media outside Parliament House, Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Information and Broadcasting, Firdous Ashiq Awan, said no Indian movie will be screened in Pakistani cinema.
She said a policy is being formulated to ban every sort of Indian cultural content in Pakistan, Dunya News reported.
Awan said that there is a complete ban on media and other sources of information in Kashmir.
According to reports, the Samjhauta Express was stopped by Pakistan at Wagah border, briefly leaving passengers stranded. 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.
“When we received the information from the Pakistani authorities at around 2:14 pm, we assured them that there are no security concerns and the train should come here. However, we also told them that if necessary an Indian crew and guard will escort the train to Attari,” a senior railway official told PTI.
As per the latest information, the Indian crew had moved the train from Wagah and it is expected to arrive at Attari shortly, said media reports.
There are about 110 passengers coming to India from Pakistan, a Northern Railway official said.
The Samjhauta Express, commonly called the Friendship Express, is a bi-weekly train–Thursday and Monday–that runs between Delhi and Attari in India and Lahore in Pakistan since 1976 after the Shimla Accord between the two countries. The word Samjhauta means “agreement”, “accord” and “compromise” in both Hindi and Urdu.
Last time, the operations of Samjhauta Express were suspended on February 28, following the Pulwama terror attack that was carried out by Pakistan-based terror group Jaish-e-Mohammed or JeM that killed more than 40 CRPF jawans on February 14. But it was resumed shortly later.
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.