'Don't cancel Indo-Pak trains and hamper peoples' ties'

Among the Pakistani nationals, who dared to take the train to India amid lingering uncertainty over the fate of its return, included Saifuddin, who came from Karachi. (AFP Photo)

Amid uncertainty over the continuance of the Indo-Pak train services after Pakistan downgraded its ties with India, 103 Pakistanis reached here on Sunday on Thar Express while 81 Indians left for the neighbouring country a day earlier, testifying to the strength of the people-to-people links between the two hostile neighbours.

Both Indians and Pakistani boarding off the Thar Express here at Bhagat ki Kothi railway station voiced in unison the need to continue the international train service irrespective of the Indo-Pak ties, which, they said, must not be allowed to hamper the people-to-people links between the two neighbours.

“The tension between these two countries is not new, but the train service must be allowed to continue. If this train stops, the relation between people would stop flourishing,” said Kusum, who married a man from Pakistan and moved there.

Among the Pakistani nationals, who dared to take the train to India amid lingering uncertainty over the fate of its return, included Saifuddin, who came from Karachi.

"When I was leaving for India some of my friends expressed fear that I might not be able to return, but I had to come here to meet my relatives and I came," he said.

"I said I would definitely go and if the train services are scrapped, I would come back on foot," said a determined Saifuddin, repeating what he told his friends in Karachi.

Saifuddin's co-passengers included Devji Bhai, who had come with his family from Pakistan's Mirpur Khas to visit his relatives in Gujarat.

"If we could come here, we would also go back,” said Devji Bhai.

"People on both sides want peace and this train must not fall victim to the tension between the two nations. This is nothing but politics of ego which triggers tension," he added.

The Thar Express which carries 165 passengers per trip, brought 103 Pakistani to India on Sunday, days after Pakistan's Railway Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed on August 9 announced in Islamabad that the day's train would be the last one to Jodhpur.

Even as the people of the two countries dared to take the international train to reach out to their relatives in the neighbouring country, the uncertainty over its fate bothered quite a few of them, prompting some of the Indians to cut short their stays and return to their respective countries.

“I had gone to Pakistan to see my relatives on a two-month visa but decided to return considering the uncertainty over the fate of the Thar Express,” said Gautam from Jodhpur.

Gautam came back with one month left in the expiry of his visa.

Similarly, Chetan also came back 15 days before his visa to Pakistan was to expire. He returned fearing that the international train service might be hit in the troubled times between the two countries.

None of them, however, complained about any force or pressure on them to leave Pakistan.

"Everything was normal there," they said.

While talking to the media, Indian septuagenarian Farookh, who had gone to Lahore to celebrate Eid with his sister on a 45-day visa but returned in just 15 days, said there was no turbulence in Pakistan after revocation of Jammu and Kashmir's special status by India, but prices of essential commodities have gone up a bit there, apparently in anticipation of some trouble in the country.

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