LAHORE: The India-bound Samjhota Express had to return to Lahore on Thursday after the Indian authorities communicated to the Pakistan Railways to postpone the train service due to an ongoing protest by farmers in Indian Punjab.
The protesting farmers did not allow train operations for the second consecutive day on Thursday with 39 trains, including the Lahore-Delhi Samjhota Express, getting cancelled, causing inconvenience to thousands of passengers.
Pakistan Railways Chief Executive Javed Bubak said the Samjhota Express had left Pakistan as per schedule; however, when it reached the border crossing, the Indian authorities said it would not be safe to operate the train due to the ‘Rail Roko’ agitation.
A railways spokesman said the train service would resume on schedule if the agitation ends.
According to a report, 57 Pakistani passengers were offloaded at the Wagah border after the Indian authorities stopped the train at the Wagah border.
Indian railway officials told their Pakistani counterparts over a special hotline that farmers were protesting in the Punjab and that there were fears of an attack on the train. However, no written document was handed over to the Pakistani authorities in this regard.
According to the Indian media, several trains were either cancelled or diverted after protesting farmers blocked railway tracks at different places on Wednesday, the first day of their demonstrations to seek higher compensation for crops from the state government.
The Pakistan Railway will issue certificates to allow the Indian nationals, whose visas to visit Pakistan are set to expire, to extend their stay in the country till Monday.
The certificates are being issued as part of special arrangements to facilitate the Indian visitors who have had to stay back due to the suspension of the train service.
Earlier, Pakistan Railways spokesman Rauf Tahir said the train carrying 193 passengers, both Indian and Pakistani nationals, was stopped upon reaching the Wagah border and 57 Pakistani passengers were asked to offload from the train.